Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In The Man Who Built a City: A Life of Sir Christopher Wren, Rosemary Weir has written a biography that is also a social history, an intellectual history, and a history of science. Part of the reason for this combination is her choice of subject, as Wren was a brilliant individual who was by turns an astronomer, an inventor, a scientist, and an architect. The rest of the reason for the combination is the age in which her subject happened to live: an age of political intrigue and the assassination of kings, of dictatorship and the restoration of monarchy, of urban destruction and plague and glorious rebuilding, and of the creation of a new science. Remarkably, Wren wit-nessed all these events and participated in most of them.

The biography focuses specifically on a chronological account of the life of its subject, opening with the birth of young Christopher and ending with his death more than ninety years later. Wren was part of the great events of his age. Born into a family of Royalist officials in the Anglican church, young Wren suffered personal and familial hardships with the coming of a civil war in 1642 that ended with the death of King Charles I in 1649. During the Puritan Commonwealth, Wren’s uncle was imprisoned in the Tower of London, not to be released until Charles II was restored to his throne in 1660.

The new king, who was very interested in science, granted a charter to the Royal Society in 1662. Wren became a...

(The entire section is 526 words.)