Andecdotes Of Sir Christopher Wren (1623-1723)
( Originally Published 1915 )
Sir Christopher Wren was a small and weakly child, but early showed a strong mind. Methematics and astronomy were from the first his chosen pursuits. At the age of thirteen he invented an astronomical instrument which he dedicated to his father in Latin rhyme. At sixteen he could discuss questions of great depth in astronomy and pure mathematics. When twenty-six, he had an international reputation as astronomer, scientist, and inventor, before the source of his permanent reputation had even been guessed. He had, however, been preparing himself as an architect, and his abilities and ambitions were not unknown to King Charles II, who wished to restore St. Paul's Cathedral in London.
Later, Wren lost the favor of the king and was not able to bring the clergy to his ideas about St. Paul's.During this delay Wren traveled in France studying and making many sketches, " bringing home," as one man put it, " the whole of France on paper." But what argument could not do, the hand of fate was to accomplish.
In 1666 a great fire destroyed the old cathedral beyond restoration, and enough more of London to open the way for extensive city-planning. The carelessness of the citizen who set the fire made it possible for Wren to build one of the noblest churches the world has ever known, and to plan a more splendid city than has ever been built before or since. That his splendid plans for the new city were never carried out except in small part was not his fault. The cathedral except for details was carried forward under his sole direction. He received £200 a year for his services. Of the other new churches rebuilt after the fire, he also planned and executed over fifty.
Wren had a large measure of tact, and the ability of impressing a sense of his talents upon all men he met with. He was a scholar in times when many of the rich and great were illiterate. He was a great student and a great worker.
In 1723 his busy life ended and with splendid ceremony he was laid beneath the mighty dome his genius had created. " Non sibi, sed bono publico."