Christopher Wren

English architect (1632–1723)

Sir Christopher Wren (20 October 1632 – 25 February 1723) was a 17th century English architect, designer, astronomer and geometer. He designed 51 churches in London after the Great Fire of London, including St. Paul's Cathedral.[1][2]

Sir Christopher Wren
Wren in a portrait by Godfrey Kneller (1711)
Born30 October 1632 [O.S. 20 October]
Died8 March 1723 [O.S. 25 February, 1722]
(aged 90)
St James's, London, England
NationalityEnglish (later British)
Alma materWadham College, Oxford
Known forDesigner of 54 churches including St Paul's Cathedral, as well as many secular buildings of note in London after the Great Fire
Scientific career
FieldsArchitecture, physics, astronomy and mathematics
Academic advisorsWilliam Oughtred

Wren was born on 20 October 1632 in East Knoyle, Wiltshire, England. He was educated at Westminster School and Oxford University. He showed an early talent for mathematics. He invented an instrument for writing in the dark and a pneumatic machine. In 1657, Wren was appointed professor of astronomy at Gresham College in London. Four years later, he was appointed professor of astronomy at Oxford. In 1662, he was one of the founding members of the Royal Society.

Wren developed an interest in architecture following his studies of physics and engineering. In 1664 and 1665, Wren designed the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford and a chapel for Pembroke College, Cambridge. Thereafter, architecture became his main focus. In 1665, Wren visited Paris. He studied French and Italian baroque styles.

In 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the medieval city. Wren produced ambitious plans for rebuilding the whole area. His plans were rejected, partly because property owners insisted on keeping the sites of their destroyed buildings. Wren did design 51 new city churches, including a new St Paul's Cathedral. In 1669, he was appointed surveyor of the royal works. This gave him control of all government building in the country. He was knighted in 1673.

In 1675, Wren was commissioned to design the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. In 1682, he designed a hospital in Chelsea, London for retired soldiers, and in 1696 a hospital for sailors in Greenwich. Other buildings include Trinity College Library in Cambridge (1677 - 1692), and the facade of Hampton Court Palace (1689 - 1694). Wren often worked with the same team of craftsmen, including master plasterer John Groves and wood carver Grinling Gibbons.

Wren died on 25 February 1723. He was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral. His gravestone features a Latin inscription which translates as: 'If you seek his memorial, look about you.'[3]



  1. Tinniswood, Adrian 2001. His Invention so furtile: the Life of Christopher Wren. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514989-0
  2. Vaughan Hart. 1995. St Paul's Cathedral: Sir Christopher Wren. Phaidon, London. ISBN 0714829986
  3. BBC: Christopher Wren