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His Invention So Fertile: A Life of…

His Invention So Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren

by Adrian Tinniswood

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0195149890, Hardcover)

"If you seek his monument, look around," commands Adrian Tinniswood in his scholarly but elegantly entertaining biography of Christopher Wren (1632-1723). "As an architect, he changed the face of England and the course of architectural history." Tinniswood describes with appreciation and discernment Wren's greatest buildings: "the bubble of unexampled lightness that is St. Stephen Walbrook" church, the additions to Hampton Court, and of course London's majestic St. Paul's Cathedral, a symbol of British faith and courage throughout the centuries. These structures were political as well as architectural achievements, and Tinniswood nicely captures the discretion, ruthlessness, and carefully cultivated connections that enabled Wren to survive the Civil War, get himself named Royal Surveyor, hang on to the job under five monarchs, and get designs approved and money wheedled out of a reluctant parliament. Tinniswood pays equally intelligent attention to Wren's early career as an esteemed Oxford astronomy professor and charter member of the Royal Society (and its president from 1681-3). He writes wittily about the quirks of Wren and such peers as Newton and Bernini, capturing the intensely personal nature of 17th-century public culture, and he (sparingly) offers his opinions in a way that enhances our understanding of the period. "I want my heroes to be people, not ideas," Tinniswood writes, after describing a squabble at the Royal Society. This sparkling biography reveals Wren as a human being without detracting from the heroic nature of his accomplishments. --Wendy Smith

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:50 -0400)

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