The mystery of the missing portrait of Robert Hooke, 17th-century scientist extraordinaire

<span class="caption">Known as Mary Beale's 'Portrait of a Mathematician,' could the circa 1680 painting depict Hooke?</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="https://research.tamu.edu/2019/10/02/has-an-am-biologist-found-one-of-the-holy-grails-of-science-history/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Mary Beale">Mary Beale</a>, <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:CC BY">CC BY</a></span>
Known as Mary Beale’s ‘Portrait of a Mathematician,’ could the circa 1680 painting depict Hooke? Mary Beale, CC BY

Groundbreaking discoveries in science often come with two iconic images, one representing the breakthrough and the other, the discoverer. For example, the page from Darwin’s notebook sketching the branching pattern of evolution often accompanies a portrait of Darwin in his early years when the notebook was written. Likewise the drawing of the orbits of the moons of Jupiter often accompanies a portrait of Galileo.

Original etching of cells from a piece of cork
Original etching of cells from a piece of cork

Another groundbreaking discovery in science was the discovery of the cell by Robert Hooke (1635-1703). The iconic image of the breakthrough, published in the first scientific bestseller, 1665’s “Micrographia,” is an etching of the cells that make up a piece of cork. It’s sliced two ways – across the grain and along the grain, showing not only the

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