Thursday, March 02, 2006

Poly Want a Math?

Friday is the 303rd anniversary of the death day of scientific genius Robert Hooke, often hailed as a polymath, or as the case turned out to be near his death, a rolly-polymath: so busy was Hooke with science that he didn’t exercise at all and ballooned up so much that London Bridge quaked in fear every time he strode along the Thames (you always wondered where that falling down song came from, didn’t you?). Among the many things no one really remembers Hooke for—it turns out that the term “playing hooky” comes from his name, as a massive longitudinal study conducted by the Society of People More Boring Than You Can Imagine, No Really, More Than That Even discovered the most popular day for grammar school students to miss in all their years was the one when Hooke got discussed—is that he was the first person to use the term cell in biology. Many doctors worldwide greatly appreciated his saving them from diagnosing patients with sickle ____ anemia, which not only failed to instill confidence in their patients, but also sounds really silly.

Hooke also had a famous feud with Isaac Newton, and since Newton outlived him, that gave Sir Isaac more time to ruin Hooke’s reputation, or at the least, steal he’s ideas. For instance, it’s unclear which man invented that great gag the reflecting telescope (“Hey, that Martian looks an awful lot like me…why you!”), and it’s possible that Hooke even invented “Newton’s rings,” one of the original dial tones years before AG Bell was even born. Now that’s scientific brilliance. Hooke’s hatred for his rival and his own creativity are summed up in the time he got so fed up he shouted, “I don’t give a fig, Newton,” and Sir Thomas Nabisco immediately ran home to his kitchen to bake. The rest is culinary history.


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