See the Original, 17th Century Drawings of the Microscopic World Robert Hooke Discovered

Before photo and video, illustrations were the best way for scientists to share what they saw

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In the 17th century, microscopes were custom creations, and Robert Hooke’s gave him a view into a world that few people had seen. A scientific polymath, Hooke had worked on the wave theory of light and had helped Robert Boyle with his famous gas experiments. But one of Hooke’s most famous efforts was his discovery of plant cells, which he first saw through his microscope.

With microscopes themselves a rarity, the best way for Hooke to share his discoveries was through illustrations. In 1665, Hooke published a book, Micrographia, full of drawings depicting the tiny world he saw under his microscope.  And in the video above, from the American Museum of Natural History, you can see some of those original drawings.

The museum has an exhibit going right now showcasing the history of scientific illustrations. It includes everything from a 16th century depiction of a rhino, to sketches of life seen during the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle, the ship that bore Charles Darwin to the Galapagos.

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