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On a Grander Scale: The Outstanding Career of Sir Christopher Wren [Paperback]

Lisa Jardine
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

2 Jun 2003

A biography of Sir Christopher Wren from one of Britain’s best writers and historians

The figure of Sir Christopher Wren looms large in English national consciousness. The imposing beauty of St Paul's Cathedral stands forever for the nation's achievement – its undamaged dome towering above the rubble of the Blitz in the Second World War a symbol of the London's indomitable fighting spirit.
The man behind the work was as remarkable as the monuments he has left us. Lisa Jardine takes us deep into Wren's imagination and discovers the unique, exacting nature of his mind and the emerging new world of late-seventeenth-century science and ideas.
Wren was a versatile genius who could have pursued a number of brilliant careers with equal virtuosity. A mathematical prodigy, an accomplished astronomer, a skilful anatomist, and a founder of The Royal Society, he eventually made a career in what he described in later life as 'Rubbish' – architecture, and the design and construction of public buildings. But he remained committed to science. The Monument to the Great Fire was built with a subterranean laboratory; the south-west tower of St Paul's was used as a vertical telescope during construction – both were designed to function as public monuments and as oversized scientific instruments.
Wren was a major figure at a turning point in English history. He mapped moons and the trajectories of comets for kings; lived and worked under six monarchs; pursued astronomy and medicine through two civil wars, the English Commonwealth, the Great Fire, the Restoration, and the eventual extinction of the Stuart dynasty.
Jardine explores also Wren's personal motivations and passions. A sincere man with a remarkable capacity for friendship, his career was shaped by lasting associations forged during a turbulent boyhood, and a lifelong loyalty to the memory of his father's master and benefactor, the 'martyred' king, Charles I. Everything Wren undertook he envisaged on a grander scale – bigger, better, more enduring than anything that had gone before.

Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; New edition edition (2 Jun 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007107765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007107766
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.4 x 5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 895,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Of Ingenious Pursuits (1999):

‘LJ has the knack of making science easy to understand. Her book brilliantly recaptures the excitement of the seventeenth-century scientists and the new word of objects they were finding and theorizing’ Roy Porter

Of Wordly Goods:

‘A pleasure to read, as well as a pleasure to hold’

About the Author

Lisa Jardine CBE is Director of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters, and Centenary Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and an Honorary Fellow of King's College, Cambridge and Jesus College, Cambridge. She writes and reviews for all the major UK national newspapers and magazines and for the 'Washington Post', and has presented and appears regularly on arts, history and current affairs programmes for TV and radio. She is a regular writer and presenter of 'A Point of View', on BBC Radio 4. She judged many important literary prizes including the 2000 Orwell Prize and the 2002 Man Booker Prize. She is the author of a number of best-selling general books, including 'Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance', 'Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution', and biographies of Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke. Lisa Jardine is married to the architect John Hare and has three children.

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14 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hm 20 July 2004
Is this book value for money? Guess so if you work on the grounds of Euro/gms but just. A good read? Yes and so is the NY telephone directory. Scholarly work? Well yes if you don't care about cross referencing and inclusion of inconsequential texts.
But as a biography of one of England's greatest men it fails totally. Boring, long winded and rambling. Wren and his fellows would have dismissed it has been of little consequence.
Its time line/ chronology is totally confusing. The reader has to retrace several pages to regain the plot. What a shame that Wren and a golden age should be documented so!
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