Robert Hooke’s Flying Machine Powered by Artificial Muscle 


London’s Leonardo, the first professional scientist, founder of the Royal Society, inventor of the universal joint, telescopes, thermometers, microscopes. The first person to see a cell, recognize the wave nature of light, explain respiration and the function of lungs, architectural partner to Sir Christopher Wren. A prolific, twisted, incestuous genius – loved and hated both. Like so many geniuses, Hooke was obsessed with the problem of human flight. He had several designs, which were described over his lifetime in his diary, in letters to the Society, and in notes found posthumously in his bachelor bedsit. But Hooke was paranoid about his best ideas being stolen, and he never fully described his models and experiments. The snippets that do survive are analyzed here for the first time in history. They reveal the tantalizing possibility that Hooke’s name deserves a prominent place in the annals of flight. Endless screws, helicopter-style blades, spring and gunpowder, and even a primitive internal combustion engine are among his plans. These designs have never been brought to life – until now. How well they will work is anyone’s guess. We guess they will work in small scale, but look mighty strange, and will crash dramatically at full size. For Hooke, genius and all, is not to be trusted; among his flying plans was also a flying chariot, led by a team of flying horses.

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