His parents were John Hooke and Cecily Gyles. He was the youngest of four children. For a large part of his childhood, Hooke’s health was delicate. He spent much of his school time at home. As a child he was a quick learner and he impressed his father who then believed he was destined to be a clock maker or an artist.
At first he was the apprentice of a painter called Peter Lely. When that didn't turn out well he went instead to study at London’s Westminster School. In 1653, Hooke enrolled at Oxford's Christ Church College, to pay for the school he worked as the assistant of the scientist Robert Boyle.