Christopher Wren – Brilliance at Work 1666


Although Christopher Wren is best known for his architectural feats, he was a man of considerable scientific abilities.

At the age of 13, he invented an astronomical instrument as well as a pneumatic engine. While at Oxford, he had plans for an instrument to measure angles, a “weather wheel”, a weather clock, an instrument to write double, a surveying instrument, and a new engine to raise water. He later presented these ideas to the Royal Society, but it’s unknown how many were carried out.

However, we do know that Wren:

  • Developed a micrometer
  • Attached telescopic sights to telescopes
  • Developed a double-hinged telescope for measuring angles
  • Created a device to grind a hyperbolic lens
  • Mapped the burned city of London
  • Invented surveying instruments, including a level
  • Mapped the moon
  • Devised windlasses to raise weights
  • Made a machine to plant grain
  • Built a hothouse to grow tropical plants
  • Developed a way of fumigating sick rooms

Wren also experimented with submarine design and road paving. At the age of 25 he was offered the Chair of Astronomy at Gresham College, London. Wren did not turn to architecture until 1663, when he designed the Pembroke College Chapel at Cambridge University.

In 1666, Wren began his greatest undertaking—the rebuilding of the city of London after the Great Fire. His masterpiece is considered St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Wren died in 1723, at the age of 90. It’s a good bet that your 1666 English ancestor knew all about Wren’s great Cathedral.

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