Although Hooke's "True Method" was not published until after his death, we may safely attribute it to an early stage of his career. He was a man whose ideas did not change, but were superseded. They retained their original form, but were crowded out of sight by the multitude of new arrivals. Now we have evidence to show that, without wholly abandoning his early faith in the efficacy of his "Philosophical Algebra," his confidence in an approaching renovation of science was replaced, later in life, by a conviction of its infinite complexity and extent. In the preface to a volume of "Lectures," published in 1674, he says:
Thus we see that discovery, which speculation had proclaimed to be the infallible result of system, was by experience declared to be the lucky outcome of chance. Investigators had previously been commanded to march in a compact army along the highway of method toward the metropolis of knowledge; they were now warned to disperse in all possible directions into the wilderness of phenomena, and beat the bushes of nature for what game they might contain. That one view was equally misleading with the other is obvious; that one should form the reaction from the other was inevitable. Hooke's reasons for discursiveness were not so much the guide of his conduct as its apology. His position as Curator of Experiments to a body inordinately greedy of scientific novelty suggested a wide range of subjects for inquiry, which his native versatility induced him to embrace to its fullest extent. The journals and registers of the Royal Society alone convey, by their records, an adequate idea of his prodigious activity of mind, fertility of resource, and experimental skill. Astronomy, optics, acoustics, thermotics, pneumatics, hydrostatics, magnetism, and chemistry; geology, physiology, meteorology, and psychology—all in turn engaged his attention, and all in turn received illustrations from
- "Posthumous Works," p. 29.
- "An Attempt to prove the Motion of the Earth," London, 1674.