(October 20, 1632-February 25, 1723)
Born in East Knoyle, England, United Kingdom
Designed more than 50 churches in London after the Great Fire of 1666, most famously St. Paul’s Cathedral
Secular buildings that he designed include the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, the Trinity College Library at Cambridge and the façade of the Hampton Court Palace
Appointed King’s Surveyor of Works (1669)
Why he might be annoying
His first architectural commission was the result of nepotism: his uncle, the Bishop of Ely, got him the job designing Pembroke College Chapel at Cambridge University (1653).
His grand plans for rebuilding London after the Great Fire were rejected, largely because of the large number of private property owners whose lots the government would have needed to purchase.
When the government decided that the rebuilding of St. Paul’s was taking too long, it suspended half his salary as King’s Surveyor until the cathedral was completed (1697-1711).
Why he might not be annoying
He was also an astronomer, physicist and mathematician, with his scientific work praised by Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal.
He was one of the founding members of the Royal Society and served as its president (1680-82).
His gravestone in St. Paul’s has a Latin inscription that translates as ‘Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you.’
He was featured on the British £50 note (1981-96).
Credit: C. Fishel
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