The National Library of Medicine has released scans of serious old-school medical and scientific books.
The illustrations are simply wonderful, and you can even read parts of Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, with the beautiful hand-cut prints of cork cells, sparse but elegant representations of his microscope, and so much more.
Hooke remains one of my favorite English scientists (in no small part due to his role in Neal Stephensons’ Baroque Cycle novels) and this is a chance to sit back and get a feel for the mind-blowing capability those images and ideas must have had in their day.
I’m also immensely enjoying Hieronymus Brunschwig’s Liber de Arte Distillandi. I had heard reference to the Strasbourgian surgeon in brewing lore, but now I know why – there are a lot of pictures of stills in there.
I feel like I should digress about what a badass Robert Hooke was. He was Curator of Experiments for the Royal Society, chief surveyor after the Great Fire of London in 1666, and he built the friggin vacuum pumps for Robert Boyle when he was doing those silly little experiments with gases that would earn him the discovery of a certain gas law you may remember from high school.
Then, he almost discovered the inverse square law of attraction and the laws of optics. This did nothing to make him the friend of the ever-quarrelous Issac Newton, who in his post as President of the Royal Society, did a lot to obscure Hooke’s contributions.
Not to say that Hooke wasn’t a bit rambunctious about his detractors, himself. This didn’t help when dealing with a guy like Newton. (Warning, link contains gratuitous nerd humor).
And here’s your random ass Wikipedia page for the day: