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Rooke, Lawerence

1. Dates
Born: Deptford, near London, 13 March 1622
Died: London, 27 June 1662
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 40
2. Father
Occupation: Gentry
George Rooke, of Monkshorton, Kent, was a member of the gentry.
Although there is no explicit word on his financial status, Lawrence Rooke was able to "retire" to his estate for three years (1647-50) because of ill health and then to stay in Wadham College, Oxford, as a fellow commoner for two further years (1650-2). I do not see how to deny that the family was at least affluent.
3. Nationality
Birth: English
Career: English
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: Cambridge, M.A.
At Eton.
Cambridge, King's College, 1639-47; B.A.,1643; M.A.,1647.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Anglican
Anglican by assumption.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Astronomy, Navigation
Subordinate: Physics
Rooke observed the comet of 1652. There were other astronomical activities, especially in connection with navigation--systematic observations of the satellites of Jupiter as a means to determine longitude, and arguments for similar telescopic observations of lunar eclipses for that purpose. For the Royal Society he drew up a list of systematic observations for seamen to make in order to improve navigation.
With Wren he experimented on the impact of elastic bodies and with Goddard on the effect of radiant heat on a crude thermometer.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Academia, Personal Means
Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, 1643-7.
Professor of astronomy at Gresham College, 1652-7.
Professor of geometry at Gresham College, 1657-62.
He inherited the paternal estate in Kent.
8. Patronage
Types: Aristrocrat, Unknown
Someone stood behind those appointments at Gresham College. Rooke was very close to Seth Ward, who could have been responsible. I hardly know how to describe their relationship. Ward took care to create a memorial to Rooke after Rooke's death; that sounds more like friendship pure and simple. Interestingly, Wallis dedicated De sectionibus conicis to Ward and Rooke. Note that Rooke really was a country squire himself.
The Marquis of Dorchester is described as Rooke's patron. Rooke frequently visited his country seat at Highgate.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Navigation, Cartography
In his discussion of the satellites of Jupiter and how to observe them, Rooke is explicit in saying that this method will not work at sea because of the difficulty of observing. However, for establishing the longitude of cities and harbors, i.e., for cartography, where different people can be observing at different places, the satellites of Jupiter would be ideal. Rooke added that a good lunar theory might provide an astronomical means to determine longitude at sea.
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Royal Society
Informal Connections: Connection with John Wilkins, Seth Ward and the Oxford group, beginning in 1650.
He occasionally assisted Boyle in his experiments, 1650-2.
Collaboration with Jonathan Goddard.
It was in Rooke's chambers at Gresham College that the group of interested men would gather in the late 50s, and there the Royal Society (though it was not yet so named while he was alive) was organized in 1660.
  1. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-50), 17, 209-10. John Ward, Lives of the Professors of Gresham College, (London 1740), pp. 90-5. Colin A. Ronan, "Lawerence Rooke (1622-1662)," Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 15 (1960), 113-18.
  2. Anthony Wood, Athenae oxonienses (Fasti oxonienses is attached, with separate pagination, to the Athenae), 4 vols. (London, 1813-20), 3, 587-9.
  3. Thomas Sprat, The History of the Royal Society, (London, 1667), pp.183-9.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

1995 Al Van Helden
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