Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hooke Manuscript To Stay In Britian

Britain's Royal Society has won a last-ditch battle to regain possession of one of its most valuable treasures, a seventeenth-century manuscript handwritten by the physicist Robert Hooke, which the society claims was taken from its archives some 300 years ago.

The document, which contains Hooke's minutes of Royal Society meetings from 1661 to 1682, was discovered in a private house last year and was due to be sold at Bonhams auction house in London today. It was expected to fetch as much as £1.5 million (US$2.6 million).

With minutes to go before the lot was called, however, Bonhams chairman Robert Brooks announced that the Royal Society had closed a behind-the-scenes deal.

The Society paid about £1 million for the manuscript, it said in a press statement. It is unclear how it raised the funds; when the documents were discovered last year, Royal Society president Martin Rees said that the society could not meet the asking price.

Rees says they intend to provide digitized versions of the manuscript on their website as soon as possible, and will put the originals on display during their summer science exhibition between 3 and 6 July. Among its 520 pages are notes concerning Hooke's confirmation of the first sightings of microbes by Antoni van Leewenhoek, discussions with Isaac Newton about gravity, and smatterings of personal comments.

"Robert Hooke was a colossal figure in the founding of modern science, and these documents represent an irreplaceable record of his contribution. They provide an insight into one of the great minds of early modern science," says Rees.