Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Isaac's Eye

On the CBS radio I hear a reviewer talking about a new play called Isaac's Eye. He notes that the play is about Sir Isaac Newton and his "obscure rival," who probably "invented the telescope and microscope." ("No," I'm thinking, "please tell me he's not talking about who I think he's talking about...") He goes on to say, "The playwright has the characters talk in anachronistic terms, using words like 'cool' and 'beast.' Pretty funny, huh?"

OK, first of all, the reviewer was not being sarcastic at the end: he actually thinks it is "retty funny" to write a play where Isaac Newton says "cool" a lot.

When I looked up the play, and yes... he was talking about Newton's "obscure rival" Robert Hooke. First of all, Hooke is not that obscure. Sure, he's not as famous as Newton, but we do have things like Hooke's Law around to remind us of him. But what was even worse, the telescope and microscope were both in use decades before Hooke was born. Galileo was identifying Jupiter's moons 25 years before Hooke's birth, and the microscope probably predates him by 45 years. No historian in the world thinks Hooke invented either of these instruments. So here is someone with a nice, paying job and a very big radio station, and he gets on the air and... just makes things up. I just wonder why he doesn't credit Hooke with the wheel and jet engine while he's at it?

1 comment:

  1. "Hooke is not that obscure."

    Well, at least he didn't mean Leibniz.


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