Between Observation and Image: Representations of Insects in Robert Hooke's Micrographia

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



The English polymath Robert Hooke (1635-1703) can be credited with a number of mathematical and mechanical inventions, including the equation describing elasticity known as Hooke's Law, and with originating the term "cell" in biology. But it is Hooke's Micrographia, published in London in 1665, that is considered a landmark in the history of scientific illustration.1 His spectacular illustrations of plants, insects, astronomical bodies, and mechanical objects have long been praised for their artistic merit, scrupulous accuracy, and careful attention to detail. Containing thirty-eight copperplate engravings, Micrographia stands as a testament to Hooke's talents as an observer and illustrator. Little attention has been paid, however, to the visual techniques and traditions Hooke used to translate what he saw through the lens of the microscope into two-dimensional images.


The Art of Natural History: Illustrated Treatises and Botanical Paintings, 1400-1850 is volume 69 of the Studies in the History of Art series which is the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts Symposium Papers XLVI.

This document is currently not available here.