Wren

Wren

[ren]
Wren, Sir Christopher, 1632-1723, English architect. A mathematical prodigy, he studied at Oxford. He was professor of astronomy at Gresham College, London, from 1657 to 1661, when he became Savilian professor of astronomy at Oxford. Though now known as the greatest architect of the English baroque style, in his time Wren was a celebrated astronomer and mathematician who, in 1660, was one of the founders of the Royal Society. His architectural career began in 1661 when Charles II appointed him assistant to the royal architect and in 1665 he spent six months in Paris studying architecture. The distinguished buildings Wren created in the years thereafter owe much of their cerebral rigor to his mathematical training. After the great fire of 1666 Wren prepared a master plan for the reconstruction of London, which was never executed. He designed, however, many new buildings that were built, the greatest of which was Saint Paul's Cathedral.

In 1669 Wren was named royal architect, a post he retained for more than 45 years. From 1670 to 1711 he designed 52 London churches, most of which still stand, notable for their varied and original designs and for their fine spires. They include St. Stephen, Walbrook; St. Martin, Ludgate; St. Bride, Fleet Street; and St. Mary-le-Bow, the latter manifesting the type of spire in receding stages generally associated with Wren's name. Among his numerous secular works are the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford; the elegant library of Trinity College, Cambridge; the garden facade of Hampton Court Palace; Chelsea Hospital; portions of Greenwich Hospital; and the buildings of the Temple, London. Wren also built residences in London and in the country, and these, as well as his public works, received the stamp of his distinctive style. His buildings exhibit a remarkable elegance, order, clarity, and dignity. His influence was considerable on church architecture in England and abroad. Wren was knighted in 1675, and is buried in the crypt of St. Paul's.

See biographies by A. Tinniswood (2001) and L. Jardine (2003); studies by G. Webb (1937), E. F. Sekler (1956), V. Fürst (1956), J. N. Summerson (new ed. 1965), and M. Whinney (1972).

wren, small, plump perching songbird of the family Troglodytidae. There are about 60 wren species, and all except one are restricted to the New World. The plumage is usually brown or reddish above and white, gray, or buff, often streaked, below. Wrens are similar to sparrows but have longer, slender bills and usually perch with their tails cocked straight up. They are valuable insect destroyers. Among the best singers are the canyon, Carolina, and winter wrens. Most wrens nest in natural holes and cavities; house wrens, which range over most of the United States and S Canada, will nest in boxes built for them and in crannies about dwellings. Also found in North America are the cactus, rock, and marsh wrens. The common European wren is a winter wren. Wrens are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes.

Any of 59 species (family Troglodytidae) of chunky songbirds, found in the Western Hemisphere. One species, Troglodytes troglodytes, has spread to the Old World; typical of the family, it is about 4 in. (10 cm) long and dark-barred brown, with a short, slightly downcurved bill, short rounded wings, and short cocked tail. Common throughout the Western Hemisphere is the house wren. The largest U.S. species (8 in., or 20 cm, long) is the cactus wren of southwestern deserts. Wrens hunt insects in marshes, rocky wastes, or shrubbery, revealing their presence by chatter and loud song. They nest in holes, in thickets, or on ledges.

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Sir Christopher Wren, detail of an oil painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1711; in the National elipsis

(born Oct. 20, 1632, East Knoyle, Wiltshire, Eng.—died Feb. 25, 1723, London) British architect, astronomer, and geometrician. He taught astronomy at Gresham College, London (1657–61) and Oxford (1661–73), and did not turn to architecture until 1662, when he was engaged to design the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford. Though Classical in form, the theatre was roofed with novel wood trusses that were the product of Wren's scholarly and empirical approach. As King's Surveyor of Works (1669–1718), he had a hand in the rebuilding of more than 50 churches destroyed in the Great Fire of London. Meanwhile, he was evolving designs for Saint Paul's Cathedral, a work that occupied him until its completion in 1710. Other works, generally in the English Baroque style, include the classical Trinity College library, Cambridge (1676–84), additions to Hampton Court (begun 1689), and Greenwich Hospital (begun 1696). Wren was buried in Saint Paul's; nearby is the famous inscription: “Reader, if you seek a monument, look around.”

Learn more about Wren, Sir Christopher with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Sir Christopher Wren, detail of an oil painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1711; in the National elipsis

(born Oct. 20, 1632, East Knoyle, Wiltshire, Eng.—died Feb. 25, 1723, London) British architect, astronomer, and geometrician. He taught astronomy at Gresham College, London (1657–61) and Oxford (1661–73), and did not turn to architecture until 1662, when he was engaged to design the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford. Though Classical in form, the theatre was roofed with novel wood trusses that were the product of Wren's scholarly and empirical approach. As King's Surveyor of Works (1669–1718), he had a hand in the rebuilding of more than 50 churches destroyed in the Great Fire of London. Meanwhile, he was evolving designs for Saint Paul's Cathedral, a work that occupied him until its completion in 1710. Other works, generally in the English Baroque style, include the classical Trinity College library, Cambridge (1676–84), additions to Hampton Court (begun 1689), and Greenwich Hospital (begun 1696). Wren was buried in Saint Paul's; nearby is the famous inscription: “Reader, if you seek a monument, look around.”

Learn more about Wren, Sir Christopher with a free trial on Britannica.com.

The wrens are passerine birds in the mainly New World family Troglodytidae. There are about 80 species of true wrens in about 20 genera, though the name is also ascribed to other unrelated birds throughout the world. Only one species occurs in the Old World, where it is commonly known simply as the "Wren"; it is called Winter Wren in North America.

The 27 Australasian "wren" species in the family Maluridae are unrelated, as are the New Zealand wrens in the family Acanthisittidae, the antwrens in the family Thamnophilidae, and the wren-babblers of the family Timaliidae.

Description

Troglodyte means "cave-dweller", and the wrens get their scientific name from the tendency of some species to forage in dark crevices. They are mainly small and inconspicuous, except for their loud and often complex songs. These birds have short wings and a thin down-turned bill. Several species often hold their tails upright. All are insectivorous, though some also feed on vegetable matter, and the larger—sometimes notably bold—species in of the genus Campylorhynchus will take small vertebrates (e.g. lizards).

They range in size from the White-bellied Wren, which averages under 10 centimetres (4 in) and , to the Giant Wren, which averages about 22 cm (9 in) and 50 g (2 oz). The dominating colours are grey, brown, black and white, and most species show some barring, especially to tail and/or wings.

The various species occur in a wide range of habitats, ranging from dry, sparsely wooded country to rainforest. The vast majority are found at low levels, but some members of the genus Campylorhynchus and both members of the genus Odontorchilus are commonly found at canopy height. A few species, notably the Winter Wren and the House Wren, are often associated with humans. Most species are non-migratory, remaining in Central and South America all year round, but the few temperate species typically migrate to warmer climes in winter. Wrens build dome-shaped nests, and may be either monogamous or polygamous, depending on species.

Genus list in taxonomic order

Revised following Martínez Gómez et al. (2005) and Mann et al. (2006). The taxonomy of some groups is highly complex, and future species-level splits are likely. Additionally, undescribed taxa are known to exist. The Black-capped Donacobius is an enigmatic species traditionally placed with the wrens more for lack of a more apparent alternative and/or thorough study. It was more recently determined to be most likely closer to certain "warblers", possibly the newly-established Megaluridae, and might constitute a monotypic family (Alström et al. 2006).

FAMILY: TROGLODYTIDAE

References

  • Alström, Per; Ericson, Per G.P.; Olsson, Urban & Sundberg, Per (2006): Phylogeny and classification of the avian superfamily Sylvioidea. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 38(2): 381–397.
  • Mann, Nigel I.; Barker, F. Keith; Graves, Jeff A.; Dingess-Mann, Kimberly A. & Slater, Peter J. B. (2006): Molecular data delineate four genera of "Thryothorus" wrens. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 40: 750–759. (HTML abstract)
  • Martínez Gómez, Juan E.; Barber, Bruian R. & Peterson, A. Townsend (2005): Phylogenetic position and generic placement of the Socorro Wren (Thryomanes sissonii). Auk 122(1): 50–56. [English with Spanish abstract] DOI:10.1642/0004-8038(2005)122[0050:PPAGPO]2.0.CO;2 PDF fulltext

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