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'Cosmos,' Cannabis and Robert Hooke

British scientist and inventor Robert Hooke reportedly "experimented with cannabis" as early as 1682.

In a discussion of 17th Century scientists on the latest episode of Cosmos, host Neil deGrasse Tyson says Robert Hooke "experimented with cannabis" as early as 1682.

The story goes that Hooke's friend, sea captain Robert Knox, bought back "a strange intoxicating herb like hemp," a.k.a. "Indian hemp" or "bangue," from one of his trips and gave it to Hooke. Speaking at the British Royal Society in 1689, Hooke said Knox "has so often experimented it himself, that there is No Cause of Fear, tho' possibly there may be Laughter." This is considered to be "the first detailed description of cannabis in English."

Cannabis was known as Indian hemp and bangue.

In the Hooke section on Cosmos, deGrasse explains: "He was possibly the most inventive person who ever lived… Hooke's insatiable curiosity encompassed absolutely everything. Hooke discovered a little cosmos, and we still call it by the name he gave it - the cell. Hooke discovered the cell by looking at a piece of cork with one of his own inventions - the compound microscope. He anticipated aspects of Darwin's theory of evolution by almost 200 years. Hooke also improved the telescope. The drawings he made of the astronomical bodies he observed attest to his uncanny precision. After the great fire destroyed Central London in 1666, Hooke partnered with the architect Christopher Wren to redesign and rebuild the city. Hooke was the foremost experimentalist of his age. Using coiled springs, he derived the Law of Elasticity, known today as Hooke's Law. He perfected the air pump, the height of technology in its time, and used it to experiment on respiration and sound. And he experimented with cannabis. He reported to a meeting of the Royal Society that a sea captain friend of his 'had so often experimented with it that there is no cause of fear though possibly there may be of laughter."

It should be noted that Cosmos executive producer Ann Druyan, who co-wrote the original show with her then husband Carl Sagan, is on the NORML Advisory Board. In 1969, Sagan wrote: "The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world."

Watch Cosmos Sundays at 9 pm ET on Fox and Mondays at 10 pm on National Geographic.

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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, editor-in-chief of Freedom Leaf, co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness, and the former editor of High Times.