Wren, Christopher

, a learned and illustrious English architect and mathematician, was nephew to bishop Wren, and the son of Dr. Christopher Wren, who was fellow of St. John’s college, Oxford, afterwards chaplain to Charles I. and rector of Knoyle in Wiltshire; made dean of Windsor in 1635, and presented to the rectory of Hasely in Oxfordshire in 1638; and died at Blechindon, in the same county, 1658, at the house of Mr. William Holder, rector of that parish, who had married his daughter. He was a man well skilled in all the branches of the mathematics, and had a great hand in forming the genius of his only son Christopher.‘ In the state papers of Edward, earl of Clarendon, vol.1, p. 270, is an estimate of a building to be erected for her majesty by dean Wren. He did another important service to his country. After the chapel of St. George and the treasury belonging to it had been plundered by the republicans, he sedulously exerted himself in recovering as many of the records as could be procured, and was so successful as to redeem the three registers distinguished by the names of the Black, Blue, and lied, which were carefully preserved by him till his death. | They were afterwards committed to the custody of his son, who, soon after the restoration, delivered them to Dr. Bruno Ryves, dean of Windsor.

His son Christopher, who is the subject of this article, was born at Knoyle Oct. 20, 1632 and, while very young, discovered a surprising turn for learning, especially for the mathematics. He was sent to Oxford, and admitted a gentleman-commoner at Wadham college, at about fourteen years of age: and the advancements he made there in mathematical knowledge, before he was sixteen, were, as we learn from Oughtred, very extraordinary, and even astonishing. His uncommon abilities excited the admiration of Dr. Wilkins, then warden of his college, and of Dr. Seth Ward, Savilian professor of astronomy, who then resided in Wadham. By Dr. Wilkins he was introduced to Charles, elector palatine, to whom he presented several mechanical instruments of his- own invention. In 16*7 he became acquainted with sir Charle* Scarborough, at whose request he undertook the translation of Oughtred’s geometrical dialling into Latin. He took a bachelor of arts degree in 1650; and in 1651 published a short algebraical tract relating to the Julian period. In 1652 betook his master’s degree, having been chosen fellow of All Souls’ college. Soon after, he became*one of that ingenious and learned society, who then met at Oxford for the improvement of natural and experimental philosophy.

Aug; 1657, he waschosen professor of astronomy in Gresham college; and his lectures, which were much frequented, tended greatly to the promotion of real knowledge. In his inaugural oration, among other things, he proposed several methods, by which to account for the shadows returning backward ten degrees on the dial of king Ahaz, by the laws of nature. One subject of his lectures was upon telescopes, to the improvement of which he had greatly contributed; another was on certain properties of the.air and the barometer. In 1658, he read a description of the body and different phases of the planet Saturn, which subject he proposed to pursue; and the same year communicated some demonstrations concerning cycloids to Dr. Wallis, which were afterwards published by the doctor at the end of his treatise upon that subject. About that time also, he solved the problem proposed by Pascal, under the feigned name of John de Montfort, to all the English mathematicians; and returned another to the | mathematicians in France, formerly proposed by Kepler, and then solved likewise by himself, of which they never gave any solution. He did not continue long at Gresham college; for, Feb. 5, 1660-1, he was chosen Savilian professor of astronomy at Oxford, in the room of Dr. Seth Ward. He entered upon it in May; and in September was created doctor of civil law.

Among his other eminent accomplishments, he had gained so considerable a skill in architecture, that he was sent for the same year from Oxford, by order of Charles II. to assist sir John Denham, surveyor-general of his majesty’s works. In 1663, he was chosen ’fellow of the Royal Society; being one of those who were first appointed by the council after the grant of their charter. Not long after, it being expected that the king would make the society a visit, the lord Brounker, president, by a letter desired the advice of Dr. Wren, who was then at Oxford, concerning the experiments which might be most proper for his majesty’s entertainment: to whom the doctor recommended principally the Torricellian experiment, and the weatherneedle, as being not bare amusements, but useful, and likewise neat in the operation, and attended with little incumbrance. Dr. Wren did great honour to this illustrious body, by many curious and useful discoveries in astronomy, natural philosophy, and other sciences, related in the “History of the Royal Society” where the author Sprat, who was a member of it, has inserted them from the registers and other books of the society to 1665. Among other of his productions there enumerated is a lunar globe, representing not only the spots and various degrees of whiteness upon the surface, but the hills, eminences, and cavities; and not only so, but it is turned to the light, shewing all the lunar phases, with the various appearances that happen from the shadows of the mountains and valleys; The lunar globe was formed, not merely at the request of the Royal Society, but likewise by the command of Charles II. whose pleasure, for the prosecuting and perfecting of it was signified by a letter under the joint hands of sir Robert Moray and sir Paul Neile, dated from Whitehall, the 17th of May, 1661, and directed to Dr. Wren, Savilian professor at Oxford. His majesty received the globe with satisfaction, and ordered it to be placed among the curiosities of his cabinet. Another of these productions is a tract on the doctrine of motion that arises from the | impact between two bodies, illustrated by experiments. And a third is, the history of the seasons, as to the temperature, weather, productions, diseases, &c. &c. For which purpose he contrived many curious machines, several of which kept their own registers, tracing out the lines of variations, so that a person might know what changes the weather had undergone in his absence: as wind-gages, thermometers, barometers, hygrometers, rain- gages, &c. &c. He made also great additions to the new discoveries on pendulums; and among other things shewed, that there may be produced a natural standard for measure from the pendulum for common use. He invented many ways to make astronomical observations more easy and accurate, He fitted and hung quadrants, sextants, and radii more commodiously than formerly: he made two telescopes to open with a joint like a sector, by which observers may infallibly take a distance to half minutes, &c. He made many sorts of retes, screws, and other devices, for improving telescopes to take small distances, and apparent diameters, to seconds. He made apertures for taking in more or less light, as the observer pleases, by opening and shutting, the better to fit glasses for crepusculine observations. He added much to the theory of dioptrics; much to the manufacture of grinding good glasses. He attempted, and not without success, the making of glasses of other forms than spherical. He exactly measured and delineated the spheres of the hamoura of the eye, the proportions of which to one another were only guessed at before: a discussion shewing the reasons why we see objects erect, and that reflection conduces as much to vision as refraction. He displayed a natural and easy theory of refractions, which exactly answered every experiment. He fully demonstrated all dioptrics in a few propositions, shewing not only, as in Kepler’s Dioptrics, the common properties of glasses, but the proportions by which the individual rays cut the axis, and each other, upon which the charges of the telescopes, or the proportion of the eye-glasses and apertures, are demonstrably discovered. He made constant observations on Saturn, and a true theory of that planet, before the printed discourse by Huygens, on that subject, appeared. He made maps of the Pleiades and other telescopic stars: and proposed methods to determine the great question as to the earth’s motion or rest, by the small stars about the pole to be seen in large telescopes. In navigation he made | many improvements. He framed a magnetical terella, which he placed in the midst of a plane board with a hole, into which the terella is half immersed, till it be like a globe with the poles in the horizon the plane is then dusted over with steel filings from a sieve the dust, by the magnetical virtue, becomes immediately figured intofurrows that. bend like a sort of helix, proceeding as it were out at one pole, and returning in it by the other; the whole plane becoming figured like the circles of a planisphere. It being a question in his time among the problems of navigation, to what mechanical powers sailing against the wind was reducible; he shewed it to be a wedge: and he demonstrated, how a transient force upon an oblique plane would cause the motion of the plane against the first mover: and he made an instrument mechanically producing the same effect, and shewed the reason of sailing on all winds. The geometrical mechanism of rowing, he shewed to be a lever on a moving or cedent fulcrum: for this end, he made instruments and experiments, to find the resistance to motion in a liquid medium; with other things that are the necessary elements for laying down the geometry of sailing, swimming, rowing, flying, and constructing of ships. He invented a very speedy and curious way of etching. He started many things towards the emendation of waterworks. He likewise made some instruments for respiration, and for straining the breath from fuliginous vapours, to try whether the same breath, so purified, will serve again. He was the first inventor of drawing pictures by microscopical glasses. He found out perpetual, or at least long-lived lamps, for keeping a perpetual regular heat, in order to various uses, as hatching of eggs and insects, production of plants, chemical preparations, imitating nature in producing fossils anji minerals, keeping the motion of watches equal, for the longitude and astronomical uses. He was the first author of the anatomical experiment of injecting liquor into the veins of animals. By this operation, divers creatures were immediately purged, vomited, intoxicated, killed, or revived, according to the quality of the liquor injected. Hence arose many other new experiments, particularly that of transfusing blood, which has been prosecuted in sundry curious instances. Such is a short account of the principal discoveries which Dr. Wren presented, or suggested, to the Royal Society, or were | improved by him. We now return to his progress as an architect.

In 1665, he went over to France, where he not onljr surveyed all the buildings of note in Paris, and made excursions to other places, but took particular notice of what was most remarkable in every branch of mechanics, and contracted acquaintance with all the considerable virtuosi*. Upon his return home, he was appointed architect and one of the commissioners for the reparation of St. Paul’s cathedral; as appears from Mr. Evelyn’s dedication to him of “The Account of Architects and Architecture,1706, folio, where we have the following account. “I have named St. Paul’s, and truly not without admiration, as oft as I recall to mind, as I frequently do, the sad and deplorable condition it was in; when, after it had been made a stable of horses, and a den of thieves, you, with other gentlemen and myself, were by the late king Charles named to survey the dilapidations, and to make report to his majesty, in order to a speedy reparation. You will not, as I am sure, forget the struggle we had with some who were for patching it up any how, so the steeple might stand, instead of new building; when, to put an end to the contest, five days after, that dreadful conflagration happened, out of whose ashes this phoenix is risen, and was by providence designed for you.” Within a few days after the fire, which began Sept. 2, 1666, he drew a plan for a new city, of which Oldenburg, the secretary of the Royal Society, gave an account to Mr. Boyle. “Dr. Wren,” says he, “has drawn a model for a new city, and presented it to the king, who produced it himself before his council, and manifested much approbation of it. I was yesterday morning with the doctor, and saw the model, which methiriks does so well provide for security, conveniency, and beauty, that I can see nothing wanting as to these three main articles: but whether it has consulted with the populousness of a great city, and whether reasons of state would, have that consulted with, is a qusere with me,” &c. The execution of this noble design was unhappily prevented by

* "The great number of drawings was sacrificed to the god of fake taste,

he made there from their buildings, Yet I have been assured by a descendhad but too visible influence on some ant of sir Christopher, that he gave

of his own, but it was so far lucky for another design for Hampton court in a

sir.Christopher, that Louis XIV. had better taste, which queen Mary wished

erected palaces only, no churches, to have executed, but was overruled."

St. Paul’s escaped, but Hampton court Walpole. | the disputes which arose about private property, and the haste and hurry of rebuilding; though it is said that the practicability of Wren’s whole plan, without infringement of any property, was at that time demonstrated, and all material objections fully weighed and answered.

Upon the decease of sir John Denham, in March 1688, he succeeded him in the office of surveyor-general of his majesty’s works. The theatre at Oxford will be a lasting monument of his great abilities as an architect; which curious work was finished by him in 1669. As in this structure the admirable contrivance of the flat roof, being eighty feet over one way, and seventy the other, without any arched work or pillars to support it, is particularly remarkable, it has been both largely described, and likewise delineated, by the ingenious Dr. Plott, in his “Natural History of Oxfordshire.” But the conflagration of the city of London gave him many opportunities afterwards of employing his genius in that way; when, besides the works of the crown, which continued under his care, the cathedral of St. Paul, the parochial churches, and other public structures, which had been destroyed by that dreadful calamity, were rebuilt from his designs, and under his direction; in the management of which affair he was assisted in the measurements and laying out of private property by the ingenious Mr. Robert Hooke. The variety of business in which he was by this means engaged requiring his constant attendance and concern, he resigned his Savilian professorship at Oxford in 1673; and the year following he, received from the king the honour of knighthood. He was one of the commissioners who, at the motion of sir Jonas Moore, surveyor-general of the ordnance, had been appointed by his majesty to find a proper place for erecting a royal observatory; and he proposed Greenwich, which was approved of. On Aug. 10, 1675, the foundation of the building was laid; which, when finished under the direction of sir Jonas, with the advice and assistance of sir Christopher, was furnished with the best instruments for making astronomical observations; aud Mr. Flamsted was constituted his majesty’s first professor there.

About this time he married the daughter of sir Thomas Coghill, of Belchington, in Oxfordshire, by whom he had one son of his own name; and, she dying soon after, he married, a daughter of William lord Fitzwilliam, baron of Lifford in Ireland, by whom he had a son and a daughter | In 1680, he was chosen president of the Royal Society; afterwards appointed architect and commissioner of Chelsea-college; and, in 1684, principal officer or comptroller of the works in the castle of Windsor. He sat twice in parliament, as a representative for two different boroughs; first, for Piympton in Devonshire in 1685, and again in 1700 for Melcomb-Regis in Dorsetshire. He was employed in erecting a great variety of churches and public edifices, when the country met with an indelible disgrace in a court intrigue, in consequence of which, in April 1718, his patent for royal works was superseded, when this venerable and illustrious man had reached his eighty- sixth year, after half a century spent in a continued, active, and laborious service to the crown and the public. Walpole has well said that “the length of his life enriched the reigns of several princes, and disgraced the last of them.” Until this time he lived in a house in Scotland-yard, adjoining to Whitehall; but, after his removal from that place in 1718, he dwelt occasionally in St. James’s-street, Westminster. He died Feb. 25, 1723, aged ninety -one, and was interred with great solemnity in St Paul’s cathedral, in the vault under the south wing of the choir, near the east end. Upon a flat stone, covering the single vault, which contains his body, is a plain English inscription and another inscription upon the side of a pillar, in these terms

"Subtus conditur,

Hujus Ecclesiae et Urbis conclitor,

Christqpherus Wren

Qui vixit annos ultra nonaginta,

Non sibi, sed bono publico.

Lector, si monumentum requiris,


Obiit 25 Feb. ann. MDCCXXIII aetat. Xct. W

As to his person, he was of low stature, and thin; but, by temperance and skilful management, for he was not unacquainted with anatomy and physic, he enjoyed a good state of health to a very unusual length of life. He was modest, devout, strictly virtuous, and very communicative of what he knew. Besides his peculiar eminence as an architect, his learning and knowledge were very extensive in all the arts and sciences, and especially in the mathematics. Mr. Hooke, who was intimately acquainted with him, and very able to make a just estimate of his abilities, has comprised his character in these few but | comprehensive words: “I must affirm,” says he, “that since the time of Archimedes, there scarcely ever has met in one man, in so great a perfection, such a mechanical hand, and so philosophical a mind.” And a greater than Hooke, even the illustrious and immortal Newton, whose signet stamps an indelible character, speaks thus of him, with other eminent men: “D. Christophorus Wrennus, Eques Auratus, Johannes Wallisius, S. T. D. et D. Christianus Hugenius, hujus aetatis Geometrarum facile principes.” Mr. Evelyn, in the dedication referred to above, tells him, that “he inscribed his book with his name, partly through an ambition of publickly declaring the great esteem I have ever had,” says he, “of your virtues and accomplishments, not only in the art of building, but through all the learned cycle of the most useful knowledge and abstruser sciences, as well as of the most polite and shining; all which is so justly to be allowed you, that you need no panegyric, or other history, to eternize them, than the greatest city of the universe, which you have rebuilt and beautified, and are still improving: witness the churches, the royal courts, stately halls, magazines, palaces, and other public structures; besides that you have built of great and magnificent in both the universities, at Chelsea, and in the country; and are now advancing of the royal Marine-hospital at Greenwich: all of them so many trophies of your skill and industry, and conducted with that success, that, if the whole art of building were lost, it might be recovered and found again in St. Paul’s, the historical pillar, and those other monuments of your happy talent and extraordinary genius.

The note below* contains a catalogue of the churches

* St. Paul’s Cathedral. St. Dioois, Back-church.

Allhallows the Great. St. Edmund the King.

Allhallows, Bread-street. St. George, Botolph-lane.

Allhallows, Lombard-street. St. James, Garlic-hill.

St. Alban, Wood-street. St. James, Westminster.

St. Anne and Agnes. St. Lawrence Jewry.

St. Andrew, Wardrobe, St. Michael, Basing-hall.

St. Andrew, Holborn. St. Michael Royal.

St. Anthoiin. St. Michael, Queenhithe.

St. Austin. St. Michael, Wood-street.

St. Bene’t, Grasschnrcb. St. Michael, Crooked-lane.

St. Bene’t, Paul’s Wharf. St. Martin, Ludgate.

St. Bene’t, Fink. St. Matthew, Friday-street,

St. Bride. St. Michael, Cornhill.

St. Bartholomew. St. Margaret, Lothbury.

Christ-Church. St. Margaret Pattens.

St. Clement, East-cheap. St. Mary Abchurch.

St. Clemeut Danes. St. Mary Aldermanbury. | of the city of London, royal palaces, hospitals, and public edifices, built by sir Christopher Wren, siirveyor-general of the royal works during fifty years, viz. from 1668 to 1718.

Among the many public buildings erected by him in the city of London, the church of St. Stephen in Waibroke, that of St. Mary-le-Bow, the Monument, and the cathedral of St. Paul, have more especially drawn the attention of foreign connoisseurs. “The church of Waibroke,” says the author of the ‘ Critical Review of the public buildings, &c. of London,’ “so little known among us, is famous all over Europe, and is justly reputed the master-piece of the celebrated sir Christopher Wren. Perhaps Italy itself can produce no modern building that can vie with this in taste or proportion. There is not a beauty which the plan would admit of, that is not to be found here In its greatest perfectjon; and foreigners very justly call our judgment in question, for understanding its graces no better, and allowing it. ho higher a degree of fame.” The steeple of St. Mary-le-Bow, which is particularly grand and beautiful, stands upon an old Roman causey, that lies eighteen feet below the level of the present street; and the body of the church on the walls of a Roman temple. The Monument is a pillar of the Doric order, the pedestal of which is forty feet high and twentyone square, the diameter of the column fifteen feet, and the altitude of the whole 202; which is a fourth part higher than that of the emperor Trajan at Rome. It was begun in 167 1, and finished in 1677. But St. Paul’s will probably be considered as the greatest monument of sir Christopher’s genius. He died, says Waipole, at the age of ninety-one, having lived to see the completion of St. Paul’s; a fabric and an event, which one

St. Mary-le-Bow. St. Christopher.

St. Mary Magdalen. St. Dunstan in the East.

St. Mary SoriMset. St. Mary Aldertnary.

St. Mary at Hill. St. Sepulchre’s.

St.N.cholas Cole Abbey. The Monument.

St. Olave Jewry. Custom- House, London.

St. Petfcr, Cornhilt. Winchester-Castle,

St. Swithin, Cannon-street. Hampton-Court.

St. Stephen, Walbrooke. Chelsea- Hospital,

St, Stephen, Colman- street. Greenwich-Hospital.

St. Mildred, Bread-street. Theatre at Oxford.

St. Magnus, London- bridge. Trinity-college Library, Cambridge,

St. Foster’s Church. Emanuel-college Chapel, Cambridge,

St. M.Ufrtd, Poultry, &c. &c.

Westminster Abbey, repaired. | cannot wonder left such an impression of content on the mind of the good old man, that, being carried to see it once a year, it seemed to recall a memory that was almost deadened to every other use.“The same writer observes, that” so many great architects as were employed on St. Peter’s (at Rome) have not left it,* upon the whole, a more perfect edifice than this work of a single mind."

Sir Christopher Wren never printed any thing himself; but several of his works have been published by others: some in the “Philosophical Transactions,” and some by Dr. Wallis and other friends; while some are still remaining in manuscript, and several volumes of his designs are in the library of All Souls college. The title of one of them is, “Delineationes novae fabricae templi Paulinijuxta tertiam propositionem et ex sententia regis Caroli II. sub private sigillo expresses 14 Maii, ann. 1678.” By this it appears that he floated very much in his designs for St. Paul’s. One of them is very much like that of San Gallo for St. Peter’s at Rome. In another, the dome is crowned with a pine-apple, and it is curious to observe how every design for the present beautiful dome excels the other. The favourite design, however, of the great architect himself was not taken.

Sir Christopher was succeeded in his estate by his son and only surviving child, Christopher Wren, esq. This gentleman was born Feb. 16, 1675 (the year St. Paul’s was founded), and was educated at Eton school and Pembroke hall, Cambridge. In 1694, sir Christopher procured him the office of deputy-clerk engrosser; but this preferment did not prevent him from making a tour through Holland, France, and Italy. On his return from the continent he was elected member of parliament for Windsor in 1712 and 1714. He died Aug. 24, 1747, aged seventy-two, and was buried in the church of Wroxhall, adjoining to his seat at Wroxhall in Warwickshire. He was a man very much esteemed, and was equally pious, learned, and amiable. He had made antiquity his particular study, well understood it, and was extremely communicative. He wrote and published in 1708, in 4to, a work entitled “Numismatum antiquorum sylloge, populis Graecis, municipiis et coloniis Romanis cusorum, ex chimeliarcho editoris.” This, which he dedicated to the Royal Society, contains representations of many curious Greek medallions in four plates, and two others of ancient inscriptions; these are followed by | the legends of imperial coins in the large and middle size, from Julius Caesar to Aurelian, with their interpretations: and subjoined is an appendix of Syrian and Egyptian kings, and coins of cities, all collected by himself. He also collected with so much care and attention, as to leave scarcely any curiosity ungratifiecl, memoirs of the life of bishop Wren, Dr. Christopher Wren, dean of Windsor, and his illustrious father; with collections of records and original papers. These were published in fol. under the title of “Parentalia,” by his son Stephen, a physician, assisted by Mr. Ames, in 1750, and are illustrated by portraits and plates. Mr. Wren married twice; in May 1706 to Mary, daughter of Mr. Musard, jeweller to queen Anne, who died in 1712; he afterwards married in 1715 dame Constance, widow of sir Roger Burgoyne, bart. and daughter of sir Thomas Middleton, of Stansted Montfitchet, Essex, who died in 1734. By each marriage he had one sbn, Christopher, and Stephen. Christopher, the eldest, an eccentric humourist, was the poetical friend of lady Luxborough and Shenstone. Displeasing his father, all the unentailed estates were given from him to sir Roger Burgoyne, bart. son of sir Roger. Wroxall is still in the family, and owned by Christopher Wren, esq. now (1806) in the East Indies, who is the sixth Christopher Wren in succession from the father of sir Christopher. 1

1 Parentalia.Biog. Brit. Walpole’s Anecdotes.Seward’s Anecdotes. Noble’s Continuation of Grader. Ward’s Gresharn^ Professors. —Hutton’s Dictionary.