A joyous little piece of news this one. A 17th century manuscript which charts the birth of modern science has been discovered at a house in Hampshire by Bonhams auctioneers during a routine evaluation. The manuscript was written by Robert Hooke between 1661 and 1682 and provides a unique window into the very origins of our modern world.
‘The notes describe in detail some of the most astounding and outlandish scientific thinking from meetings of the society between 1661 to 1682. There is the very earliest work with microscopes, confirming the first sightings of sperm and micro-organisms. There is correspondence with Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Christopher Wren over the nature of gravity, with the latter’s proposal to fire bullets into the air to see where they might drop. And there is a page that lays to rest the bitter controversy over who designed the watch that would eventually lead to the first measurements of longitude.
The discovery was made by chance during a routine evaluation at the house by Bonhams, the auctioneers. The manuscript had been kept in a cupboard for 50 years and was only shown to the valuer as he was leaving. “I thought it must be too good to be true. The first page I saw was headed: ‘President Sir Christopher Wren in the chair’ and I knew I was looking at the vanished minutes of the Royal Society,” said Felix Pryor, manuscript consultant for Bonhams. “Then there were all these names: Wren, Leibniz, Aubrey, Evelyn, Newton. Then I began to recognise the handwriting of Robert Hooke. It was a magical moment.”‘
However, the discovery is casuing the greybeards to do some flapping as they worry that the auction asking-price of Â£1 million will be beyond the reach of any academic institution that might want to secure the manuscript for posterity. So, here’s hoping for a benevolent Russian oil billionaire.
Original Guardian story
A brief history of Robert Hooke from Wikipedia