The Monument to the Great Fire of London that stands near the northern end of London Bridge is a pretty well known landmark. It’s a tall Doric column decorated with dragons near the base and topped with a golden orb. Its height—202 feet—corresponds to the distance from its base to the bakery in Pudding Lane where the fire started. On the inside of the hollow column is a spiraling staircase that stretches all the way to the top, and out on to a viewing platform.
Completed in 1677, the Monument was designed by the celebrated British architect Christopher Wren, and the famous scientist Robert Hooke. At that time, Wren was the Surveyor of the King’s Works, and as such he was widely involved in rebuilding the city. Wren was personally responsible for the rebuilding of 51 churches including the St Paul’s Cathedral. Naturally, the responsibility for designing the Monument fell upon Wren.
One of Wren’s childhood friend was the brilliant scientist Robert Hooke, best known for coining the term “cell” after observing these minuscule honeycomb structures in plant tissues through a microscope. Hooke was a genius whose name has largely been forgotten, but his contributions have endured. Among countless other things, Hooke also discovered the law of elasticity, predicted the presence of a substance in air that supports combustion—which we all know today as oxygen, was one of the first to suggest that fossils were petrified remains of once living creatures, and laid down many of the theories of gravitation twenty years before Newton published his “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”.
Hooke was also the Surveyor for the City of London.
Wren and Hooke together began to draw out plans for the new city, staking out wide boulevards, homes, churches and business. They also collaborated on the monument, although it was designed largely by Hooke alone. There are documents that testify that Hooke made the drawings of possible designs, while Wren signed them to indicate his approval of the drawings.