Tag Archives: Wren

Pythagoras in Temple Bar Moument

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The Temple Bar Memorial (1880) stands in the middle of the road opposite Street’s Law Courts marking the place where Wren’s Temple Bar used to stand as the entrance to London from Westminster.

The monument has two standing statues dedicated to Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales because both were the last royals to pass through the old gate in 1872.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The reliefs round Queen Victoria contains some allegories which includes the first picture about the Euclidean demonstration of the theorem of Pythagoras. We also find a ruler and a globe with the ecliptic.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Location: Temple Bar (map)

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The National Portrait Gallery in London

Photography by Carlos Dorce (alloed by the guards)

Photography by Carlos Dorce (allowed by the guards)

This was one of the great moment in my last holidays in England! Newton and me together in the same picture! (I must thank the guard because he allowed me to take this picture) Today is 25 December and this is the reason because I am publishing today this picture: Newton was born on December 25, 1642 (Julian Calendar) so… Happy Birthday Great Mind! 

Photography by Carlos Dorce (alloed by the guards)

Photography by Carlos Dorce (allowed by the guards)

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) [by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723)]

An immensely influential mathematical scientist, in one year (1665-6), when driven from Cambridge by plague, Newton formulated a series of important theories concerning light, colour, calculus and the ‘universal law of gravitation’. According to tradition, he developed the latter theory after seeing an apple fall from a tree. He published Principia (1687) and the Optiks (1704), and was knighted in 1705. Newton was President of the Royal Society from 1703 until his death.

Newton is not alone and he is accompanied by other great English scientist like Edmund Halley. The portrait of Halley is attributed to Isaac Whood (1688-1752) from 1720. Halley has a chart showing his predicted path accross Southern England of the total solar eclipse of 22 April 1715.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce (allowed by the guards)

Edmond Halley (1656-1742)

Astronomer. At the age of twenty-two in 1678 he published his catalogue of the stars of the southern hemisphere, and in 1705 his celebrated work on comets. Halley published Newton’s Principia at his own expense, 1687; he was appointed Astronomer Royal in 1721. He successfully predicted the reappearance of the great comet in 1758 (‘Halley’s Comet’).

Sir Christopher Wren (showing a plan of St. Paul’s Cathedral) is also in the Gallery:

Photography by Carlos Dorce (allowed by the guards)

Photography by Carlos Dorce (allowed by the guards)

Wren was an architect and scientist. After the Great Fire of 1666, he rebuilt St. Paul’s Cathedral and many of the London City Churches; his work includes the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford (1664-9), Trinity College Library in Cambridge (1674-84), Chelsea Hospital and Greenwich Hospital (from 1696). He was professor of Astronomy at Oxford and later President of the Royal Society.

Herschel and Boyle are also exhibited in the Gallery but it was almost impossible to take a picture of them so it’s better if you go to the National Portrait Gallery web and you’ll see better pictures of them. 

Before ending this post, we must look at this anamorphic picture of King Edward VI:

Edward VI 1537-53 by William Scrots (active 1537-53). Oil on panel, 1546.

This unusual portrait of Edward was painted in 1546 the year before he became king. He is shown in distorted perspective (anamorphosis), a technique to display the virtuosity of the painter and amaze the spectator. Anamorphic portraits were relatively popular in mainland Europe at this time, but this painting was considered particularly remarkable […].

The anamorphosis is a very interesting mathematical technique which must be explained in detail but I am not going to do it now.

MERRY CHRISTMAS… or ….

HAPPY NEWTON’S BIRTHDAY!

Location: National Portrait Gallery in London (map)

The Royal Observatory in Greenwich (and III)

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The third step in the visit to the Royal Observatory of Greenwich is Flamsteed House.

The Royal Observatory of Greenwich was founded in 1675 when Charles II ordered that a small observatory be built in Greenwich Park and appointed John Flamsteed as his ‘astronomical observator’. Flamsteed’s task was to make observations that would improve astronomical navigation, in particular providing a means of finding longitude at sea.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The ceiling of the first room is painted with a map of the night sky and there are portraits of the ten Astronomers Royal who lived here between 1676 and 1948:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Christopher Wren was responsible for building the Observatory. He later said that it was designed ‘for the Observator’s habitation & a little for Pompe’. The following four rooms were Flamsteed’s living quarters. They were incorporated into the enlarged home of the Astronomer’s Royal over the next two and a half centuries. Beyond these, upstairs, is the magnificient Great Star Room, or Octagon Room.

ROG14

The Octagon Room by Francis Place (c. 1760)

The Octagon Room is one of the few surviving interiors designed by Wren and it was used mainly for observing eclipses, comets and other unusual celestial events.

The 32-inch Astronomical Quadrant is located in this room. It is signed by John Bird but the telescope which was once attached is missing.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The engraving of the Octagon Room by Francis Place shows a similar, earlier quadrant standing on a wheel-tripod platform, which allowed the astronomer to roll it from window to window.

On the wall behind the quadrant we can see three replicas of the clocks which were made in 1676 by Thomas Tompion and sold by Flamsteed’s widow some years later. There is also a replica telescope tube of the kind used here until 1765. Will my daughter be able to discover a new planet?

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

If we go downstairs now we’ll discover an exhibition about the determination of the longitude at sea:

Where am I?

At sea, navigation is a matter of life and death. Out of sight of land, how can you tell where you are?

By 1700, skilled seamen could find their position north or south (their latitude), but still lacked accurated instruments or methods to calculate their east-west position, known as longitude.

With growing international trade, the lives and valuable cargoes lost in shipwrecks made solving this ‘Longitude Problem’ urgent for all sea-going nations.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The exhibition starts with these two 17th-century globes from North Africa (left) and Persia (right) and then you meet the star of the ‘Longitude Problem’:

John Harrison Photography by Carlos Dorce

John Harrison (1693-1776) by Thomas King (c. 1766)
Photography by Carlos Dorce

Finding longitude – the timekeeper method

One solution to the Longitude Problem was an accurate and portable sea-going clock. By 1726, news of the Longitude Prize had reached John Harrison, a carpenter and self-taught clockmaker from Lincolnshire. Harrison was already making highly accurate land-based clocks and had solved major problems to do with temperature change and friction.

Harrison spent the next 45 years of his life developing portable sea-going timekeepers that would accurately, in spite of a ship’s motion and temperature changes. Each timekeeper represented years of obsessive labour.

By 1760, Harrison had solved the Longitude Problem with his fourth marine timekeeper, now known as H4. It is one of the most important machines ever made.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Harrison’s first timekeeper [H1]

This timekeeper took five years to build. In 1736, it was tested on a sea voyage to Lisbon and back. Harrison was very seasick, but the timekeeper worked. It was the most accurate sea-going clock then known, though not quite accurate enough to win the 20.000 pounds prize.

This prize was offered in 1734 by the British government for a ‘practical and useful’ method enabling ships to determine their longitude at sea.

In the exhibition there are also some timekeepers more and the portraits of some of the most important scientific men which lived in the same time as Harrison: Halley succeeded Flamsteed as Astronomer Royale and his major programme was to replace all the astronomical instruments which were sold by Flamsteed’s widow, and to chart the Moon’s 19-year cycle.

Edmund Halley Photography by Carlos Dorce

Edmund Halley by George White after G.Kneller (c.1721)
Photography by Carlos Dorce

Newton advised the Parliamentary committee that established the Longitude Prize and became a member of the Board of Longitude:

Sir Isaac Newton Photography by Carlos Dorce

Sir Isaac Newton by Jacobus Houbraken after G.Kneller (18th century)
Photography by Carlos Dorce

Finally, apart of the camera obscura, we can find outside the Family Tombstone of Halley which was moved to the Observatory from the churchyard of St. Margaret’s in Lee when Halley’s tomb was restored in 1854. The tomb itself is still located at St. Margaret’s with a replica tombstone in place:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

As you have seen, you must visit the Royal Observatory in Greenwich if you visit London: it’s only a few metro stops from the center of the city!

LocationGreenwich Observatory (map)

Temple Bar in London

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Temple Bar is the only surviving gateway into the City of London erected in 1672 at the behest of Charles II to replace a previous timber structure which had survived the Great Fire but was falling into disrepair. The new gateway was designed by Christopher Wren.

Nowadays, you can cross the gateway from St. Paul’s cathedral to a very cool new square…

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

…where you can find an analematic sundial in one of the facades:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Location: Temple Bar (map)

Brook Taylor’s tomb

Church of St. Anne Photography by Carlos Dorce

Church of St. Anne
Photography by Carlos Dorce

I tried to find Brook Taylor’s tomb when I was in London. Taylor (1685-1731) is well known from his famous Taylor series which we can find in all the mathematical texts of our students. He contributed to the development of calculus (he also made some experiments in magnetism) and became one of the most important English mathematicians of the 17th century.

Portrait of Brook Taylor attributed to the studio of Hans Hysing.                            Source: BBC’s web

When I read that Taylor was buried in St. Anne’s churchyard I thought that I had to find a grave in a cemetery but… the churchyard is a public garden nowadays! So the tombs have been replaced by tables, chairs, cold beverages and music. For the moment I was content with the information I read on a bulletin board:

The Church of St. Anne, Soho, built 1677-1685 and probably designed by Sir Christopher Wren or William Talman, possibly both, was consecrated by Henry Compton, Bishop of London, on 21st March 1686. […] The churchyard was included in the original proposals for the establishment of a new parish and church, and for some one hundred and sixty years it served as the last resting place for most of Soho’s cosmopolitan population. It has been stimated that there were over 100.000 interments in this plot of just three-quarters of an acre, with about 14.000 of them in the period 1830-1850.

By the middle of the 19th century the insanitary conditions caused by overcrowded burial grounds had given rise to so much public concern that Parliament was obliged to pass a series of Burials Acts. In 1853 churchyards within the Metropolis were closed to further interments which thereafter took place in the new suburban cemeteries. […]

So, Taylor’s tomb is somewhere in this plot of three-quarters of an acre together with 99.999 people more.

Location: St. Anne’s Churchyard (map)

The Museum of the History of Science (II)

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The great scientific names in the History of Science also have their space in the museum as we can see in this medal with the name of Edmund Halley.

Christopher Wren’s name is in one of the windows of the stairs through which you go to the first floor:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The inscription is under a big “coat of arms” dedicated to the Science:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

We must also notice this portrait of Tycho Brahe who is next to portraits of Flamsteed and Hevelius

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Finally, I am going to mention the famous blackboard written by Albert Einstein:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Location: The Museum of the History of Science (map)

The Christ Church College in Oxford

Christ Church College Photography by Carlos Dorce

Christ Church College
Photography by Carlos Dorce

One of the most beautiful colleges in Oxford is the Christ Church. The bell tower was built by sir Christopher Wren (1682) who was former student there and Lewis Carrol was also among its famous students. I couldn’t visit it but Ia m sure that I’ll do in my next visit to Oxford!

Wren's bell tower Photography by Carlos Dorce

Wren’s bell tower
Photography by Carlos Dorce

Location: Christ Church College (map)

The Bodleian Library

The Tower of the Five Orders
Photography by Carlos Dorce

One of the best days in my holidays was my visit to the Bodleian Library in Oxford. This was the first library for Oxford University and it was initially housed in a room above the Old Congregation House (c. 1320). In the XVth century, it was moved to a new building by Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester, younger brother of King Henry V, because of it had to host his collection of more than 281 manuscripts, including several important classical texts. So in 1444 the University decided to erect a new library over the Divinity School although it wasn’t opeded until 1488. After a lot of years of decay, the library was rescued by Sir Thomas Bodley (1545–1613), a Fellow of Merton College who had travelled extensively in Europe and had between 1585 and 1596 carried out several diplomatic missions for Queen Elizabeth I.

Sir Thomas Bodley. Source: Wikimedia Commons

He donate a great amount of money in 1598 and the old library was refurnished to house a new collection of some 2,500 books, some of them given by Bodley himself, some by other donors. So thanks to Bodley, Oxford had its wonderful and famous library which is possible to visit nowadays.

I’ve visited the building and I’ve been very lucky because I’ve been able to book a visit to the library for the afternoon (the last ticket of the day!).

Main entrance Photography by Carlos Dorce

Main entrance
Photography by Carlos Dorce

The forecourt is full of doorways to different schools as the Schoof of Astronomy and Retorics… 

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

or the School of…

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The first room is the Divinity School  and it was used by students to deliver their thesis (no women were allowed to study at Oxford until the XXth century!). Can I deliver my thesis too?

Here I am!

Here I am!

The room is full of “W” which are its architext’s symbol: sir Christopher Wren. Finally, I’ve visited the library and I’ve seen some mathematical books as Cardano’s Ars Magnae.

Can you find Cardano's  Ars Magna? Photography by Carlos Dorce

Can you find Cardano’s Ars Magna?
Photography by Carlos Dorce

It was a very great day in Oxford!

Location: Bodleian Library (map)

Trinity College, Cambridge

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. It was founded by Henry VIII in 1546 and soon became one of the best European colleges. I really wanted to visit it in my holidays in England because a lot of notable fellows studied there, like Barrow, Newton, Babbage, Maxwell, Ramanujan, Hardy, … lord Byron, Galton,… Hence I wanted to walk through the same ways and gardens where Isaac Newton walked once!

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The main door of the college is always full of tourists attracted by the great names who worked here. However I think that the apple tree planted next to this entrance also contributes to the success of the college. The tree was planted here as a ‘son’ of the famous apple tree located in Newton’s Manor House in Woolsthorpe:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

There is a sundial in the courtyard and it’s not difficult to imagine one of this great minds checking his clock with the shadow of the gnomon. Why not?

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

I’ve visited the chapel which was begun in 1554-55 by Queen Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII, although it was completed by her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth I in 1567.

There are six statues in the Ante-Chapel dedicated to Thomas Babington, Lord Tennyson, William Whewell, Sir Francis Bacon and, of course, sir Isaac Newton…

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

…and Isaac Barrow, “master of Trinity, mathematician and preacher, Newton’s tutor”:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

We can read in web of the Trinity College:

Isaac Barrow (1630-77) distinguished himself in Classics, Mathematics and Divinity. He was appointed Regius Professor of Greek three years before becoming the first Lucasian professor of Mathematics -an illustration of the way of the elements of the quadrivium were closely connected in the 17th century. Best known for his discovery of the fundamental theorem of calculus, Barrow resigned the Lucasian chair in favour of his pupil Isaac Newton, and devoted the rest of his life to theology -writing and preaching- and to being the Master of Trinity (1672-77) who commisioned the Wren Library.

The statue of Barrow was commissioned in preference to one of Richard Bentley, who was a more influential but also highly controversial Master. “The foremost scholar and textual critic of his day”, Bentley was regarded, together with Newton, as one of the ‘intellectual founders’ of Trinity, but as Master he ‘ruled like an irresponsible despot’. The statues of Bacon and Barrow were given by William Whewell. Sculptor: Matthew Noble, 1858.

And what about Newton?

Louis-Frabçois Roubiliac’s 1755 statue of Isaac Newton, presented to the Ante-Chapel by the Master Robert Smith, “is the finest work of art in the College, as well as the most moving and significant. The lips parted and the eyes turned up in though give life to marble. The inscription, Qui genus humanum ingenio superavit, is a pun ennobled by its truth”. This inscription is a quotation from the third book of Lucretius’s De rerum natura, meaning ‘in intellect he surprassed/survived the human race’.

Newton (1642-1727) was the greatest English mathematician of his generation. Developing his teacher Isaac Barrow’s work he laid the foundation of differential and integral calculus. His work on optics and gravitation make him one of the greatest scientists the world has known. His 1687 book Philosophiae Naturalis Prinicipia Mathematica lays the foundations for most of classical mechanics. He also excelled in the realms of astronomy, natural philosophy, alchemy, and somewhat unorthodox theology. Newton is buried in Westmisnter Abbey.

The stained glass windows of the chapel are mid-Victorian (1871-5) although the original ones were glazed in 1567 with white glass bearing inscriptions, heraldic badgets and coats of arms.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The present designs were elaborated on a scheme of religious and historical allegories and we can distinguish the portrait of Isaac Newton (the second on the left)…

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

…and also the portrait of Isaac Barrow in the same window:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

There also are portraits of the Venerable Bede and Alcuin.

We can also find Newton’s coat of arms…

… Ramanujan’s brass located on the north wall of the Ante-Chapel with an inscription text by F. H. Sandbach:

Srinivasa Ramanujan discovered many extraordinary facts in Number Theory. G.H. Hardy recognised his exceptional talent, brought him to England, and encouraged his work. Ramanujan was the first Indian to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society; later he was made a Fellow of the College After a long illness he returned to India for the sake of his health and died at an early age in 1920.

Then… where is Hardy? Hardy’s brass is located in the same north wall and his inscription says:

Godfrey Harold Hardy was Professor of Mathematics at Oxford and then at Cambridge, and was famous for reforming methods of teaching in both places. In his own field he was universally recognised as pre-eminent among the world’s best mathemati-cians.  He had little time for the views of others, and he defended his own with energy and humour.  He was a Fellow of the College for nineteen years, and for a further sixteen years after his return to Cambridge.  He was much loved by his friends.  He died on 1st December 1947

The last step in our visit to the Trinity College is the Wren Library. The library was designed by Christopher Wren and completed in 1695. Wren filled it with light comming through the rows of tall windows lining the east and west walls:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The positions of the windows are above the book shelves in order to optimizate the available wall space for storing books.

Source. Wikimedia Commons

There are some marble busts by Louis-François Roubiliac and Isaac Barrow is looking after everything from his position in one of the paintings on the walls:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The portrait was painted by Valentine Ritz (c. 1695 – 1745).

Location: Trinity College in Cambridge (map)

Christopher Wren’s tomb in St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral Photography by Carlos Dorce

St. Paul’s Cathedral
Photography by Carlos Dorce

St. Paul’s Cathedral is the masterpiece of Sir Christopher Wren. It was built between 1675 and 1710 after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, and services began in 1697.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

A lot of very important English men like Lord Nelson or the Duke of Wellington are buried here but among all these names we notice that the great Christopher Wren was also buried here under the crypt:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

On the wall next to the grave there is this plaque written in Latin:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Christopher Wren is buried under the founder of this church and of the city. He lived beyond the age of ninety, not to himself but for the public good reader. If you seek his monument, look around you.

Died February 25, 1723, s. 91.

There is also a memorial plaque for “one of the most ingenious men who ever lived”: Robert Hooke.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

It’s forbidden to take pictures in the cathedral but it’s always possible to find a guard who allows you to take a pair of them. Thank you very much anonymous guard!

Location: St. Paul’s Cathedral in London (map)