'By the help of microscopes, there is nothing so small, as to escape our inquiry.'
Using a microscope of his own construction, English scientist Robert Hooke (1635-1703) discovered a virtually unexplored world. Through Micrographia, he shared his observations of previously unknown tiny organisms and new details of larger life usually beyond the reach of the naked eye.
Published in 1665, the book contains 66 observations on a wide range of topics, from fossils to fungi, accompanied by detailed text and accurate illustrations engraved by Hooke himself.
Many of his observations of everyday organisms led to a new understanding of their mechanisms. For example, he examined the leaves of stinging nettles and found sharp, silica needles that can pierce skin. Experimenting on himself, Hooke saw a fluid being forced up through these needles and into the skin, which explained how the plants deliver their painful sting.
Micrographia also included the first use of the word 'cell' in the context of a living thing. By examining thin sections of cork with his microscope, Hooke saw a series of little chambers (or 'cells'). These, we now know, are the non-living cell walls that remain after cells die off.