Hooke vs. Newton.
After being elected to the Royal Society in 1672, Newton found a bitter rival: Robert Hooke. Hooke had belonged to the society since its formation and had a brilliant and cunning mind. He had many interests in science from mechanics, combustion, cells, and music notes, to telegraphs, diving bells, and light. During February, 1672, Newton presented a well-worked and detailed paper on the nature of light; specifically white light. Newton expressed in his work that white light was just a composite of all colors of the spectrum and that light traveled in particles. However, Hooke had his separate ideas about the nature of light. Hooke’s ideas completely contradicted Newton’s ideas since Hooke believed that light traveled in waves while Newton was convinced that light traveled in particles. Hooke quickly seized the opportunity to attack Newton and rained down on Newton with insult. Hooke only praised Newton with condescending phrases and criticism of Newton’s conclusions and theories. Although Hooke played the biggest part in the dispute over light, other scientists laid their objections to Newton’s work, too. The great Danish natural philosopher (the word for “scientist” back then) Huygens, who discovered the true shape of the rings of Saturn, and a fair number of French Jesuits had their own objections to Newton’s work just like Hooke. Hooke and Hooke only, had the most affect on Newton due to Hooke’s importance and simultaneous work on light beside Newton at the Royal Society. This was probably the first time Newton displayed the anger and defensiveness that he later displays much more toward the end of his life (with Leibniz and any other critique of his work). Newton being Newton, he denied Hooke’s objections and theories of light and also made self-praised claims for his own genius and significance. The dispute continued to become filled with acrimonious and bitter feelings that finally, in 1673, Newton threatened to leave the Royal Society. He didn’t end up leaving due to assurance from the other Fellows that Newton was needed there. Many years later, Hooke and Newton began a new, separate dispute about who came up with the Law of Universal Gravitation. Hooke claimed that Newton had plagiarized his work, and as you can guess, Newton rushed to his own defense and threatened to withdraw the third book of the famous Principia from being published. Hooke’s own reputation being to shrink as Newton’s own reputation grew. Hooke grew more and more resentful of Newton and refused to withdraw from his position as the Royal Society’s president (since he didn’t want Newton to take it) until he died in 1703. This was the end of the dispute between Newton and Hooke that lasted for 31 years.