Youth

Robert Hooke was born on 18th July 1635 (old style) in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight to John Hooke and Cecilie Gyles. He was the youngest of four children, two boys and two girls, the others being Anne ( 1661), Katherine (* 1628) and John (16301678).

Their father John was the curate of Freshwater's Church of All Saints, and his two brothers (Robert's uncles) were also ministers. Originally Robert would have probably expected to have joined the Church himself.

Rector of Freshwater 1641 Cardell Goodman.

It is generally believed that Robert was a very frail child, and was therefore taught at home by his father, who was qualified to do so as he was also in charge of a local school.

As a youth, Robert Hooke was fascinated by observation, mechanical works, and drawing, interests that he would pursue in various ways throughout his life. He dismantled a brass clock and built a wooden replica that, by all accounts, worked "well enough", and he learned to draw, making his own materials from coal, chalk and ruddle (iron ore).

John Hoskyns, a portrait painter, was working at Freshwater for a time (around 1647, presumably accompanying the King) and Robert used to watch him at work. Soon he was imitating the way that Hoskyns used pen and chalk, and he was making copies of Hoskyns' portraits.

On his father's death in 1648, Robert was left a sum of forty pounds (plus his best chest and all his books), a sum that enabled him to buy an apprenticeship (he also received 10 pounds from the will of his grandmother).

Charles 1

On 11th. November 1647, Charles I escaped from his parliamentary captors in London and escaped to the island. He ensconced himself at Carisbrooke Castle. He capitulated on 8th. October 1648, shortly before Hooke's father died.

Carisbrooke had originally been held by the Earl of Portland until 1642. He was replaced by Philip Herbert, Earl of pembroke until 1647, when he was replaced by Colonel Robert Hammond.

London and Westminster School

Originally he went to London to take up an apprenticeship, with Samuel Cowper and Peter Lely, but he was soon able to enter Westminster School in London, under Dr. Richard Busby (in 1649).

It appears that Hooke was one of a group of students whom Busby educated in parallel to the main work of the school. Contemporary accounts say Hooke was "not much seen" in the school, i.e. implying he was educated privately by Busby.

Busby, an ardent and outspoken Royalist (he had the school observe a fast-day on the anniversary of the King's beheading), was by all accounts trying to preserve the nascent spirit of scientific inquiry that had begun to flourish in Carolean England but which was at odds with the literal Biblical teachings of the Protectorate. To Busby and his select students the Anglican Church was a framework to support the spirit of inquiry into God's work, those who were able were destined by God to explore and study His creation, and the priesthood functioned as teachers to explain it to those who were less able. This was exemplified in the person of George Hooper, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, whom Busby described as "the best scholar, the finest gentleman and will make the completest bishop that ever was educated at Westminster School".

Among other things, Hooke learned Mathematics, Greek and Latin. Likewise he learnt to work with a lathe and to play the organ.