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Journal of No. 118

November 19th, 2005

Cheating Death @ 06:57 pm

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As my attentive readers know, I'm currently reading a book about Robert Hooke, specifically The Curious Life of Robert Hooke by Lisa Jardine. Unfortunately, she shoots her wad early by packing the prologue full of meaty things before moving on to Bob mucking about on the Isle of Wight as a lad. I also condemn her endnotes, which run for a several pages per chapter without any means to identify to which chapter the current list of a hundred notes refers.
But now that Hooke (or rather I) has made it to Oxford, things are shaping up. The 17th century was a heady times when wonders and curiosities from around the world were being gathered, examined and or invented. And a fortunate few with the right frame of mind were beginning to piece it all together and figure out how the world worked.
Anyway, this is all to preface a particular experiment in human dissection. Natural Philosophers with connections tended to get bodies from executions. In this case, two contemporaries of Hooke, Willis and Petty, got themselves the body of an unfortunate woman named Anne Greene who had been lately hanged as an infanticide. They readied their steak knives only to discover that she weren't quite dead yet.
They managed to resuscitate her successfully and, what's more, successfully interceded on her behalf for a pardon from the legal authorities. She went on to marry and have three (more) children.
Just one of those curiousities of the era. Hard to say whether anything was learned. Hard to say what the moral of the story is. But the story, spare as the details are, captures the imagination.
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Date:November 20th, 2005 08:32 am (UTC)
I am fascinated by The Royal Society and medical experimentation from that period. Are you saying that you WOULDN'T recommend the book?

I'm always looking for new reads on the subject.

I NEED to get off my butt and buy this Women, Science and Medicine 1500-1700: Mothers and Sisters of the Royal Society
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Date:November 20th, 2005 04:26 pm (UTC)
Hooke himself was not much involved with medicine, so that topic would only come up tangentially. I'm just at the founding and early years of the Royal Society and there's a fair amount of background, and inasmuch as Hooke became the 'Curator of Experiments', the Socieity will probably continue to feature prominently. I certainly can recommend the book. The main problem (if problem it be) was that the Introduction is great and strikes right at the heart of Hooke's long feud with Newton, quoting some characteristically testy bits of Newton. It's hard to go from that to a chapter's worth of material describing how Hooke was a clever boy.
Date:November 22nd, 2005 06:45 pm (UTC)
I had the same problem with the book but didn't have your fortitude. I put it down mid-way through the first chapter. I might try it again since you say that it gets better after that.

I wish that Stephenson had published a bibliography for his Baroque Cycle somewhere.

Journal of No. 118