student profile: Ms Cindy Eric


Thesis work

Thesis title: The Capture of Spring: Hooke's "Vibrative Pulse Communicated".

Supervisors: Ofer GAL , John SCHUSTER

Thesis abstract:

In 1678, Robert Hooke (1635–1703) published a treatise on his metaphysics of vibration. Lectures de Potentia Restitutiva or Of Spring contains not only experimental and geometrical demonstrations of the spring law (which mutated into Hooke’s law after his time), but also a principle at the very heart of his dynamic matter theory – Congruity and Incongruity. Namely, that congruous, harmonious and discordant forces unify, shape and separate vibrating matter. This thesis reconstructs Hooke’s production of congruity and incongruity, and the spring law, analysing the reversals, compromises and paradoxes shaping his knowledge-making practices. I argue that artificial instruments and apparatuses capable of magnifying and measuring never-before-seen minute bodies, their pores and motions, also made it necessary for the creation of a new geometry, capable of handling the new objects created by the New Science, and I attempt to show how Hooke addressed these challenges by reassessing and reconfiguring the role of traditional Euclidean geometry and, more importantly, reformulating practical-geometrical definitions in order to create a geometry that could demonstrate the spring law. Specifically, I focus on Hooke’s studies of vibrating bodies and vibrations, and his practical geometry. By investigating Hooke’s studies of stretched musical strings and other elastic bodies within the context of his matter theory, I attempt to show that, in an epistemological inversion, Hooke used optical instruments to shift frames of reference from the microscopic to the celestial and vice versa for his knowledge production. Further, Hooke’s work, which is more often than not misrepresented as haphazard, is a cohesive whole centred around his studies of the similitudes between vibrating phenomena. Finally, Hooke was both the Curator of Experiments for the Royal Society and the Gresham Geometry Professor, and his knowledge-making practices are a conflation of his predominant careers as an experimentalist and geometer. Consequently, to elucidate the relations between the practical and theoretical aspects of Hooke’s way of working a problem, this thesis has two inter-related parts: Part I, ‘Congruity and Incongruity’, focuses on his experimental procedures, and serves as a necessary foundation for the longer Part II, on Hooke’s novel ‘Practical Geometry’. By constructing natural laws from physical reality, thereby implying that nature, artificial instruments, and laws such as the spring law are related, Hooke legitimised the application of instruments and mathematics to the study of nature. This process was far from straightforward or self-evident.

Note: This profile is for a student at the University of Sydney. Views presented here are not necessarily those of the University.