Overshadowed by Wren and Newton, Robert Hooke (1635 – 1703), the Restoration architect and scientist, had one of the most enquiring minds in an age of enquiring minds. Appointed the first curator of experiments of the Royal Society, he gave us Hooke’s Law of Elasticity and our first understanding of capillary action of liquids. A pioneering user of the microscope, he wrote the famous and beautifully illustrated Micrographia, possibly the most famous scientific book ever published.
Like his contemporaries, he was interested in “the Physik” and the effects of various treatments and cures. This included cannabis, or hemp, which he tried for himself. This is what he wrote:
It is a certain plant which grows very common in India, and the Vertues or Quality thereof, are there very well known; and the Use thereof (tho’ the Effects are very strange, and, at first hearing, frightful enough) is very general and frequent; and the Person, from whom I receiv’d it, hath made very many Trials of it, on himself, with very good Effect. ‘Tis call’d, by the Moors, Gange; by the Chingalese Comsa; and by the Portugals, Bangue. The Dose of it is about as much as may fill a common Tobacco-Pipe, the Leaves and Seeds being dried first, and pretty finely powdered. This Powder being chewed and swallowed, or washed down, by a small Cup of Water, doth, in a short Time, quite take away the Memory and Understanding; so that the Patient understands not, nor remembereth any Thing that he seeth, heareth, or doth, in that Extasie, but becomes, as it were, a mere Natural, being unable to speak a Word of Sense; yet is he very merry, and laughs, and sings, and speaks Words without Coherence, not knowing what he saith or doth; yet is he not giddy, or drunk, but walks and dances and sheweth many odd Tricks; after a little Time he falls asleep, and sleepeth very soundly and quietly; and when he wakes he finds himself mightily refresh’d, and exceeding hungry. And that which troubled his Stomach, or Head, before he took it, is perfectly carried off without leaving any ill Symptom, as Giddiness, Pain in the Head or Stomach, or Defect of Memory of any Thing (besides of what happened) during the Time of its Operation.
Pretty accurate, I’m sure you’ll agree. And written at a time when scientists like Hooke were more dedicated to observation and enquiry than to scaremongering.
Source: Quoted in Bedlam. London and its Mad, by Catharine Arnold