Wren 300 at Gresham College

Christopher Wren portrait imposed on backdrop of St Pauls

25 February 2023 marked the 300th anniversary of the death of Sir Christopher Wren, one of Gresham College’s most remarkable Professors. He was a polymath, architect, mathematician, astronomer, anatomist and courtier. Wren’s extraordinary life is being celebrated by Gresham College in a series of new lectures which explore different aspects of his work.

In 1657, Christopher Wren, then only twenty-five and already a fellow at All Soul's in Oxford, gave his inaugural lecture at Gresham College as Professor of Astronomy. Here he was required to give weekly lectures in both Latin and English. Three years later Wren and the scientific network which centred on Gresham College played a crucial part in the meetings which led to the formation of the Royal Society. 

The records of the Royal Society show Wren’s scientific achievements across a great breadth of subjects. He helped construct and improve telescopes and microscopes, using them to build a better understanding of the cosmos, constructing detailed lunar models. He also experimented in and studied areas ranging from anatomy, mechanics and many more. It was in Wren’s turn to architecture that he became best known, as the designer of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.  

Wren 300 Series

In the first of these lectures, Professor Katherine Blundell OBE explores Wren’s contributions to astronomy and how Wren’s appreciation of and contributions to art and design, and science and engineering, were fully integrated in his life and made him a polymath on a par with Leonardo da Vinci.

In the next lecture in this series, Professor Sarah Hart explores some of Wren’s mathematical work on curves including spirals and ellipses and the mathematics behind his most impressive architectural achievement – the dome of St Paul’s.

Professor Jaideep Pandit will explore how Wren was part of probably the first ‘research team’ assembled in Oxford in the 17th century, dedicated to better understanding the human body.

In the final lecture in this series, Professor Simon Thurley CBE will look at Sir Christopher Wren’s success as underpinned by his consummate skill as a courtier, retaining the confidence of four monarchs through social and economic disasters and political revolution.