Rooke, Lawrence (DNB00)

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ROOKE, LAWRENCE (1622–1662), astronomer, born at Deptford on 13 March 1621–2, was eldest son of George Rooke of Monkshorton, Kent, by his wife Mary, daughter of William Burrell of Poplar, Middlesex, and niece of Lancelot Andrewes [q. v.], bishop of Winchester. Sir William Rooke (1624–1691), father of Sir George Rooke [q. v.] the admiral, was Lawrence's younger brother. He was educated at Eton, and admitted scholar of King's College, Cambridge, on 19 June 1640, and fellow 19 June 1643. He must be distinguished from the Laurence Rooke who was admitted scholar of Gonville and Caius College on 11 Feb. 1635–6 (Venn, Admissions, pp. 192, 215). After graduating M.A. in 1647, he retired to his estate in Kent. A student of experimental philosophy, he repaired in 1650, as a fellow-commoner, to Wadham College, Oxford, with two pupils, in order to benefit by intercourse with Dr. Wilkins, warden, and Dr. Seth Ward [q. v.], professor of astronomy (Gardiner, Reg. of Wadham, p. 191). He remained in Oxford several years, assisting Robert Boyle in his ‘chymical operations,’ and attended those meetings of ‘learned and curious gentlemen’ in Dr. Wilkins's rooms which proved the beginnings of the Royal Society. In 1652 Rooke was appointed professor of astronomy at Gresham College, London; he exchanged the chair in 1657 for that of geometry, which he held till his death. He lectured on Oughtred's ‘Clavis’ (ch. vi.), ‘which enables us to form an idea of the extent of mathematics then usually known’ (Ball, History of Mathematics at Cambridge, p. 39). Many of his Oxford associates came to London in 1658 and attended his lectures, afterwards holding discussions in his apartment. Their meetings were interrupted by the quartering of soldiers on the college; but after the Restoration Rooke and his friends inaugurated the Royal Society, to the advancement of which Rooke devoted much zeal and energy as well as more material assistance (Birch, Hist. of Royal Soc. vol. i. passim).

Rooke, who was through life a valetudinarian, died at Gresham College, from a malignant internal fever, on the very night (26–7 June 1662) he had expected to make the last of a series of observations on Jupiter's satellites. He had caught cold by overheating himself while walking home from the seat of his learned patron, the Marquis of Dorchester, at Highgate. He made a nuncupatory will, leaving his possessions and manuscripts to Dr. Ward (lately made bishop of Exeter). He was buried at St. Martin's Outwich, near Gresham College, his funeral being attended by most of the fellows of the Royal Society. Bishop Ward presented to the Royal Society a curious pendulum clock, with an inscription in which Rooke is said to have been ‘vir omni literarum genere instructissimus’ (cf. Pope, Ward, pp. 126, 127). Rooke married Barbara, daughter of Sir Peter Heyman of Somerfield, Kent. By her he had four daughters and five sons, of whom Heyman Rooke, born in February 1653, became a major-general, and died on 9 Jan. 1724–5. His son James married Lady Mary Tudor.

According to Walter Pope, Rooke was ‘the greatest man in England for solid learning,’ and was ‘profoundly skilled in all sorts of learning, not excepting botanics and music, and the abstrusest points of divinity,’ though astronomy was his favourite study. Barrow, in a Latin oration delivered on his succeeding Rooke as Gresham professor of geometry, eulogised his industry and judgment (Collected Works, 1683–7, iv. 93).

His published writings are: 1. ‘Observationes in Cometam qui mense Decembri anno 1652 apparuit,’ published in Dr. Seth Ward's ‘Prælectio de Cometis,’ Oxf. 1653. 2. ‘On the Effect of Radiant Heat on the Height of Oil in a Long Tube’ (‘Registers of Royal Soc.’ i. 157). 3. ‘Directions for Sailors going to the East or West Indies to keep a Journal’ (‘Phil. Trans.’ January 1666); drawn up on the appointment of the Royal Society. 4. ‘A Method for observing the Eclipses of the Moon’ (‘Phil. Trans.’ February 1667). 5. ‘On the Observations of the Eclipses of Jupiter's Satellites’ (4 and 5 are in Thomas Sprat's ‘History of the Royal Society,’ pp. 180, 183, with a short notice of the author). 6. A translation of Archimedes' ‘On Floating Bodies’ (Rigaud, Correspondence of Scientific Men, i. 120).

[Genealogist, iv. 195–208; Hasted's Kent, iii. 317; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. iii. 587; Ward's Gresham Professors; Walter Pope's Life of Seth Ward, pp. 110–28; Sherburne's Sphere of Manilius.]

W. F. S.