On Hooke’s Rule of Nature

Keywords: theory of Universal Gravitation, Hooke’s law, spring, rule of nature


Lectures de Potentia Restitutiva or Of Spring: Explaining the Power of Springing Bodies (1678) is an important book for the history of science. This book is better known for Hooke’s presentation of the law that bears his name. This law, or “Rule of Nature” as the author states, is commonly taught within the context of the analysis of elastic bodies and their deformations. However, the framework in which this law was introduced goes beyond the context in which it is currently taught. Alongside the presentation of Hooke’s experiments with springs, the author established his vibratory theory of matter, in which the concepts of congruence and incongruence, initially presented in his Micrographia (1665), would be defined in greater detail. These concepts aimed to theoretically justify the movements of attraction and repulsion in nature. This paper seeks to study the Lectures de Potentia Restitutiva once again to better understand Hooke’s thoughts about the rule which bears his name and his conception of gravity, which the author considered a force. Here Hooke’s definitions of body and motion will be presented, as well as his actual objective when he formulated the so-called Hooke’s Law. As we will see, Hooke intended to create a “philosophical scale” to measure the gravitational attraction between bodies. By considering his previous publications, such as An attempt to prove the motion of the Earth from Observations or Micrographia: or some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies, or even unpublished works such as On the inflection of a direct motion into a curve by supervening Attractive principle, it becomes clear that Hooke was already opening a path toward an understanding of gravity before Newton’s Principia (1687) were published. By taking into account the controversy between Isaac Newton and Robert Hooke, we also intend to strengthen the idea that Hooke was an indispensable contributor to the elaboration of a law of universal gravitation. In addition to all this, it will also be argued that the conclusions achieved by Hooke in Of Spring may have also anticipated Newton’s third law of motion.


Download data is not yet available.


Centore, F. F. (1970). Robert Hooke´s contributions to mechanics : A Study in Seventeenth Century Natural Philosophy. The Hague, Netherlands : Springer Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-011-9413-6.

Gal, O. (2005). The invention of celestial mechanics. Early Science and Medicine, 10(4), 529‒534. https://doi.org/10.1163/157338205774661834.

Hecht, E. (2021). The true story of Newtonian gravity. American Journal of Physics, 89, 683‒692. https://doi.org/10.1119/10.0003535.

Hooke, R. (1664). Micrographia: or some physiological descriptions of minute bodies. London, United Kingdom : Jo. Martyn e Ja. Allestry, printers to the Royal Society.

Hooke, R. (1666). On the inflection of a direct motion into a curve by supervening Attractive principle. London, United Kingdom : Royal Society Library.

Hooke, R. (1674). An attempt to prove the motion of the Earth from Observations. London, United Kingdom : Printed by T. R. for John Martyn Printer to the Royal Society at the Bell in St. Pauls Church yard.

Hooke, R. (1678). Lectures de Potentia Restitutiva or Of Spring: Explaining the Power of Springing Bodies. London, United Kingdom : Jonh Martyn, printer to the Royal Society in St. Pauls Church Yard.

Hooke, R. (1705). The Posthumous Works of Robert Hooke: containing his Cutlerian Lectures and other Discourses. London, United Kingdom : Sam Smith and Benj. Walford, printers to the Royal Society at the Princes Arms in St. Pauls Church Yard.

Huygens, Ch. (1977). The motion of Colliding Bodies. Isis, 68(4), 574‒597. https://doi.org/10.1086/351876.

Jardine, L. (2004). The curious life of Robert Hooke: The man who measured London. London, United Kingdom : Harper Perennial.

Koyré, A. (1952). An unpublished letter of Robert Hooke to Isaac Newton. Isis, 43(4), 312‒337. https://doi.org/10.1086/348155.

Meli, D. B. (2006). Thinking with Objects: The Transformation of Mechanics in the Seventeenth Century. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. https://doi.org/10.1353/book.3275.

Newton, I. [1687] (1999). The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Translated by Bernard Cohen; Anne Whitman. California : University of California Press.

Ricoeur, P. (2004). Memory, History, Forgetting. Translation by Kathleen Blamey; & David Pellauer. Chicago : University of Chicago Press.

Sacco, F.. (2020). Real, Mechanical, Experimental: Robert Hooke's Natural Philosophy. Switzerlandb: Springer Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44451-8.

Shapin, S. (1989). “Who was Robert Hooke?”. In M. Hunter & S. Schaffer (Eds.), Robert Hooke: New studies (pp. 253‒285). Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: The Boydell Press. Retrieved from https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3415435/Shapin_Robert_Hooke.pdf.

Tan Drake, E. (1966). Restless Genius – Robert Hooke and His Earthly Thoughts. New York : Oxford University Press.

Tinniswood, A. (2019). The Royal Society & The Invention of Modern Science. New York: Basic Books.

Turnbull, H. W. (1960). The correspondence of Isaac Newton: Volume II, 1676‒1687. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.

Westfall, R. (2007). The life of Isaac Newton. Cambridge [England]; New York, USA : Cambridge University Press.

Abstract views: 770
PDF Downloads: 638
How to Cite
Monteiro , I. (2022). On Hooke’s Rule of Nature. History of Science and Technology, 12(2), 249-261. https://doi.org/10.32703/2415-7422-2022-12-2-249-261