Robert Hooke’s Fire Monument: Architecture as a Scientific Instrument

  • Maria Zack


After the Great London Fire of 1666, Robert Hooke was appointed along with Christopher Wren to lead the massive effort to rebuild the City of London. Hooke was involved extensively in all aspects of the rebuilding of London, both the mundane (widening streets and establishing property boundaries) and the creative (designing churches and civic buildings). Although very little of Hooke’s architectural work has survived the passage of time, the Monument to the Great Fire is a shining example of his creativity. As a monument, it is fairly conventional—a column resting on a prism, but as a scientific instrument it is ingenious. At the time of the monument’s design, Hooke was conducting experiments on both the motion of the earth and the measurement of gravity. To further this research, the monument was constructed to contain a zenith telescope as well as a gravitational “lab.” This paper will discuss how the scientific uses of the Monument were integrated into its design.


Royal Society Widening Street Great Fire Gravitational Experiment Stellar Parallax 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Aubrey, John, 1957. Aubrey’s Brief Lives. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  2. Batten, M.I. 1937. The Architecture of Dr. Robert Hooke F.R.S. Walpole Society 25 (1936–37). London: Walpole Society.Google Scholar
  3. Chapman, Allan. 2005. England’s Leonardo: Robert Hooke and the Seventeenth-Century Scientific Revolution. Bristol: Institute of Physics Publishing.Google Scholar
  4. Cooper, Michael. 2003. A More Beautiful City: Robert Hooke and the Rebuilding of London After the Great Fire. Stroud: Sutton Publishing.Google Scholar
  5. Espinasse, Margaret. 1956. Robert Hooke. London: William Heineman Ltd.Google Scholar
  6. Hooke, Robert. 1665. Micrographia. Rpt. 1961, New York: Dover Publications.Google Scholar
  7. ———. 1674. An Attempt to Prove the Motion of the Earth from Observations. London: Royal Society.Google Scholar
  8. ———. 1705. Posthumous Works. Richard Waller, ed. Rpt. 1968, New York: Johnson Reprint Corporation.Google Scholar
  9. Hoskin, Michael. 1997. The Cambridge Illustrated History of Astronomy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Jardine, Lisa. 2001. Monuments and Microscopes: Scientific Thinking on a Grand Scale in the Early Royal Society. Notes and Records of the Royal Society 55, 2 (May 2001): 289–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. ———. 2002. On a Grander Scale: The Outstanding Life of Sir Christopher Wren. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  12. ———. 2004. The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man who Measured London. London: Harper Perennial.Google Scholar
  13. Robinson, H.W. 1948. Robert Hooke as Surveyor and Architect. Notes and Records of the Royal Society 6, 1 (Dec 1948): 48–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Wilson, Robert. 1997. Astronomy through the Ages: The Story of the Human Attempt to Understand the Universe. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mathematical, Information and Computer SciencesPoint Loma Nazarene UniversitySan DiegoUSA

Personalised recommendations