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**  A second window aside called by the Players page for Robert Hooke, entitled
“The Absent Presence of Robert Hooke”  **

First Published:  March 2012
Revised (substantive):  5 July 2021


Each part of Derham’s printed transcription of Hooke’s December 1696 three-part lecture on the nautilus opened with an introductory note signed by Derham.

[  read to the Royal Society on 23 December 1696  ]
P A R T   T H R E E   O F

Dr. Hook’s Conjectures
about the Odd Phaenomena Observable in the Shell-Fish
Called the Nautilus

“ Some farther Observations relating to the Nautilus, and other Shell-Fish. Read Dec. 23, 1696.

“ W.   D E R H A M.


“ The Account which Dr. Hook gives is thus:

Opening quotation markI Explain’d, the last Day, the Fabrick and Structure of a Creature, which, as Authors inform us, is an Inhabitant of the Abyss or Great Deep, which does often perform a Voyage from thence to this superior Region of the Air; and, after the Dispatch of his Business here, returns again to his own Habitation. I explain’d also, by what Method he perform’d these Voyages, as I conceiv’d, from the Consideration of the Structure of the Shell, and the Effects perform’d by it. I cannot be positive in it, as not having ever had an Opportunity to see the Creature itself: But by considering of the Contrivance of other Fishes, to help them to float in the Water, or at least to buoy them up, or counterpoise them with the Water, by the Help of the Swim, as ’tis call’d, or Bladders blown up by Air, or Vapours, I think there is great Probability in the Conjecture.

“ For the Nautilus is not the only Inhabitant of the Deep, or of the Bottom of the Sea; no, questionless, there are a Multitude of other Sorts of Animals that are there bred, and do there reside; for we do not only find Oisters, Scalops, Cockles, Periwinkles, and most other Kinds of Shell-Fish, but most Sorts of crustaceous Animals, as various Sorts of Lobsters, various Sorts of Crabs, and various Sorts of Prawns or Shrimps, and such like; nay, we find there also several Sorts of Fishes, not furnish’d either with Shells, or Crusts, which the Fisher-men always find and catch, near the Bottom of the Water, where they fish for them: And I myself have proved, that the best Place, to lay the Bait to catch Whitings, Grundells, Place, Flounders, Beards, is, at within a Fathom of the Ground, where the Depth of the Sea was about 25 Fathoms, or 150 Foot; and, from as great a Depth, I have known Lobsters and Crabs to have been taken by the same Fish-hooks, which were baited for the catching those other Sort of Fishes: And, indeed, most Part of the Lobsters, Crabs, and Prawns, are taken, in Fish-Pots, or Fish-Cages, laid at the Bottom of the Sea, when there has been found a Place frequented by them: As also Scates, Thornbacks, Monk-Fish, Dog-Fish, and the like, which are catched by baited Fish-hooks, laid at the Bottom of the Sea, they being all ty’d by strong short Lines, ty’d to a Rope, there extended between two Stones, which there keep it extended. So that most Fish, of all Kinds, do, for the most Part, there reside, and thence it is probable to conjecture, that there they find the greatest Part of their Food and Nourishment, and that there do likewise grow abundance of distinct Sorts of Vegetables, which may be useful for that End; for we find, in Seas that are not very deep, that divers Sorts of Algas, Sea-phans, Sponges, Cotulli, and the like, are there produc’d; and why then may there not be Multitudes of others? Nature, we find, does accommodate every thing it produces with all Conveniencies, necessary for its Support and Well-being, and fit every Thing necessary for the Carrying on and Perfection of its Designs; so that I see no Reason to doubt, that these Sub-marine Regions are as well stock’d with Variety of Animals and Vegetables, as the Surface of the Earth, which is only Sub-aerial, only we are less knowing of them, because they are out of our Element, and we want Nuntii or Messengers, to send thither to bring us back Information, and also the Productions and Commodities that this Terra incognita, or unknown World, does afford. I have heretofore produced some such Nuntii, for this or that particular Design, but when there may be an Opportunity of sending them, I shall be able to produce divers others, for other Purposes, if God spare my Life so long as to see the Seas again free from Rovers, and that the Study of Arts does succeed the Study of Arms. It is now above thirty Years since I try’d many Experiments, for this very End, to know under how great a Pressure a terrestrial or aerial Animal could live, and consequently a Man; and I shew’d a Way also how to supply him with fresh Air from above, to whatever Depth he should be able to descend, without prejudicing his Health or Life: I shew’d also how to accommodate him for seeing with Spectacles, and acting freely in the Water as he could do in the Air, by Means of other Accoutrements, whenever he was able to endure the Pressure. And I have many other Experiments, which would be not only instructive, but useful for these and other Designs, but I want an Apparatus and Assistance to perform them. And, probably, most People will treat me as Columbus was, when he pretended the Discovery of a New World to the Westward: But I have been accustomed to such Kind of Treatments, and so the better fitted to bear them. However, I think, that such Objections as most will be apt to make, that Animals and Vegetables cannot be rationally supposed to live and grow under so great a Pressure, so great a Cold, and at so great a Distance from the Air, as many Parts at the Bottom of very deep Seas are liable and subject to; I say, I think that these Objections may be easily answer’d, by shewing, that they all proceed from wrong Notions that Men have entertain’d, from the small Experience they have had of the Effects, and Powers, and Methods of Nature, and a few Trials will easily convince them of the Erroneousness of them. We have had Instances enough of the Fallaciousness of such immature and hasty Conclusions. The Torrid and Frigid Zones were once concluded uninhabitable; and to assert Antipodes was thought atheistical, heretical, and damnable; but Time has discover’d the Falsity and Narrowness of those hasty Conclusions.Closing quotation mark

SOURCE:  The above lecture text was first transcribed and printed by William Derham in Philosophical Experiments and Observations of the Late Eminent Dr. Robert Hooke ... and Other Eminent Virtuoso’s in his Time (London: Printed by W. and J. Innys, printers to the Royal Society, 1726), 311–314.