Gresham College

Last updated

Gresham College
Gresham College logo.svg
Established1597;425 years ago (1597) [lower-alpha 1]
Provost Simon Thurley [1]
Director Wendy Piatt [1]
Location, ,
Website Official website OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

Gresham College is an institution of higher learning located at Barnard's Inn Hall off Holborn in Central London, England. It does not enroll students or award degrees. It was founded in 1596 [lower-alpha 1] under the will of Sir Thomas Gresham, and hosts over 140 free public lectures every year. Since 2001, all lectures have also been made available online.



Founding and early years

Sir Thomas Gresham, founder of the Royal Exchange, left his estate jointly to the City of London Corporation and to the Mercers' Company, which today support the college through the Joint Grand Gresham Committee under the presidency of the Lord Mayor of London. Gresham's will provided for the setting up of the college – in Gresham's mansion in Bishopsgate, on the site now occupied by Tower 42, the former NatWest Tower – and endowed it with the rental income from shops sited around the Royal Exchange, which Gresham had established.

The early success of the college led to the incorporation of the Royal Society in 1660, [2] which pursued its activities at the college in Bishopsgate before moving to its own premises in Crane Court in 1710. The college remained in Gresham's mansion in Bishopsgate until 1768, and moved about London thereafter until the construction in 1842 of its own buildings in Gresham Street EC2. Gresham College did not become part of the University of London on the founding of the university in the 19th century, although a close association between the college and the university persisted for many years. Since 1991, the college has operated at Barnard's Inn Hall, Holborn EC1.

Gresham College today

Since 2000, the college regularly welcomes visiting speakers who deliver lectures on topics outside its usual range, and it also hosts occasional seminars and conferences. Today the college provides over 140 lectures a year, all of which are free and open to the public.

Although many of the lectures are held in Barnard's Inn Hall, the majority are now held in the lecture hall at the Museum of London, for reasons of capacity.

Since 2001, the college has been recording its lectures and releasing them online in what is now an archive of over 2,000 lectures. Since 2007, lectures have also been available through YouTube with 30,891,433 views as of February 2021. [3] [4]

Annual lectures series of particular note hosted by the college include: the Gresham Special Lecture, the Annual Lord Mayor's Event, and the Gray's Inn Reading.

The college is a registered charity under English law. [5]


Barnard's Inn Hall, the current home of Gresham College Barnard's Inn Hall (Gresham College).jpg
Barnard's Inn Hall, the current home of Gresham College

The seven original Gresham College professorships that date back to the origins of the college are as follows:

These original endowed chairs reflect the curriculum of the medieval university (the trivium and quadrivium); but as a place for the public and frequent voicing of new ideas, the college played an important role in the Enlightenment and in the formation of the Royal Society. Early distinguished Gresham College professors included Christopher Wren, who lectured on astronomy in the 17th century and Robert Hooke, who was Professor of Geometry from 1665 until 1704. [6]

Gresham College, engraving by George Vertue, 1740 Gresham College, 1740.jpg
Gresham College, engraving by George Vertue, 1740

The professors received £50 a year, and the terms of their position were very precise, for example:

The geometrician is to read as followeth, every Trinity term arithmetique, in Michaelmas and Hilary terms theoretical geometry, in Easter term practical geometry. The astronomy reader is to read in his solemn lectures, first the principles of the sphere, and the theory of the planets, and the use of the astrolabe and the staff, and other common instruments for the capacity of mariners. [7]

Today three further professorships have been added to take account of areas not otherwise covered by the original Professorships:

The professors currently hold their positions for three years, [11] extendable for a fourth year, and give six lectures a year. There are also regular visiting professors appointed to give series of lectures at the College, and a large number of single-lecture speakers.

Gresham Special Lecture series

The Gresham Special Lecture – now called The Sir Thomas Gresham Annual Lecture – originated in 1983 as a free public lecture delivered by a prominent speaker. It was devised as a focus-point among the many free public lectures offered every year.

Excerpts from the Last Will of Sir Thomas Gresham (1575)

Frontage of Barnard's Inn Buildings Barnards inn.jpg
Frontage of Barnard's Inn Buildings

THIS IS THE LASTE WILL WRITTEN and disposition of me Sir Thomas Gresham of the cittye of London knighte, concerninge all my mannors, landes, tenementes, and hereditamentes, mentioned and conteyned in one quadripartite indenture, made betweene me the said Sir Thomas Gresham and dame Anne my wife on the one partye, and Phillippe Scudamore gent. and Thomas Celey on thother partie, dated the 20 day of May, in the seaventeenth yere of the raigne of our soveraigne lady queene Elizabeth....

AND I will and dispose, that ... the said maior and corporation of the said cittye [London] ... shall give and distribute to and for the sustentation, mayntenaunce, and findinge foure persons from tyme to tyme to be chosen, nominated, and appointed by the said maior and cominalty and cittezens and theire successors, mete to read the lectures of divynitye, astronomy, musicke, and geometry, within myne owne dwellinge house in the parishe of St. Hellynes in Bishopsgate streete and St. Peeters the pore in the cittye of London ... the somme of two hundred pounds of lawfull money of England, in manner and forme followinge, viz. to every of the said readers for the tyme beinge the somme of fifty pounds of lawfull money of England yerely, for theire sallaries and stipendes, mete for foure sufficiently learned to read the said lectures; the same stipendes and sallaries, and every of them, to be paid at two usuall tearmes in the yere yerely, that is to say, at the feastes of thannunciation of St. Mary the Virgin and of St. Mighell tharchangell, by even portions to be paid....

AND ... that they and theire successors every yere yerely shall give, and pay, and distribute to and for the findinge, sustentation and maynetenaunce of three persons, by them the said wardeins and cominalty and theire successors from tyme to tyme to be chossen and appointed, meete to reade the lectures of law, phissicke, and rethoricke, within myne nowe dwellinge house in the parrishe of St. Hellyns in Bishopesgate streete and St. Peters the pore, in the said cittye of London ... the somme of one hundred and fifty poundes of lawfull money of England, in manner and forme followinge, viz. to every of the said readers for the tyme beinge the somme of fiftye poundes, for theire sallaries and stipendes, mete for three sufficiently learned to reade the said lectures, at two usuall tearmes in the yere, that is to say, at the feast of thannunciation of the blessed Virgin Marye and of St. Mighell the Archangell, by even portions to be paid....

AND ... shall permitte and suffer seaven persons, by them from tyme to tyme to be elected and appointed in manner and forme aforesaid, meete and sufficiently learned to reade the said seaven lectures, to have the occupation of all my said mansion house, gardeins, and of all other thappurtenaunces, for them and every of them there to inhabite, study, and daylie to reade the said severall lectures. And my will is, that none shall be chossen to reade any of the said lectures, so longe as he shall be married, nor be suffered to reade any of the said lectures after that he shalbe married, neither shall receave any fee or stipend appointed for the readinge of the said lectures....

Sir Thomas Gresham's grasshopper crest, used as a symbol of the College Grasshopper-crest.GIF
Sir Thomas Gresham's grasshopper crest, used as a symbol of the College

IN WITNES whereof I the said Sir Thomas Gresham have written this will all with myne owne hand, and to each of the eight leaves have subscribed my name ; and to a labell fixed there unto all the eight leaves have setto my seal with the grasshopper, the 5 day of July, in the seventeenth yere of the raigne of our soveraigne lady queene Elizabeth, and in the yere of our Lord God, ann. 1575.


Witnesses to this last will and testament of the said Sir Thomas Gresham the persons whose names be subscribed,


See also


  1. 1 2 1596 Old Style in the Julian calendar used at the time, 1597 in the Gregorian calendar currently used.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Isaac Barrow</span> English Christian theologian, and mathematician

Isaac Barrow was an English Christian theologian and mathematician who is generally given credit for his early role in the development of infinitesimal calculus; in particular, for proof of the fundamental theorem of calculus. His work centered on the properties of the tangent; Barrow was the first to calculate the tangents of the kappa curve. He is also notable for being the inaugural holder of the prestigious Lucasian Professorship of Mathematics, a post later held by his student, Isaac Newton.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wadham College, Oxford</span> College of the University of Oxford

Wadham College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. It is located in the centre of Oxford, at the intersection of Broad Street and Parks Road.

Thomas Gresham 16th century English merchant, founded the Royal Exchange

Sir Thomas Gresham the Elder, was an English merchant and financier who acted on behalf of King Edward VI (1547–1553) and Edward's half-sisters, queens Mary I (1553–1558) and Elizabeth I (1558–1603). In 1565 Gresham founded the Royal Exchange in the City of London.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tower 42</span> Skyscraper in the City of London

Tower 42, commonly known as the NatWest Tower, is a 183-metre-tall (600 ft) skyscraper in the City of London. It is the fifth-tallest tower in the City of London, having been overtaken as the tallest in 2010 by the 230-metre (750 ft) Heron Tower. It is the fifteenth-tallest in London overall. Its original name was the National Westminster Tower, having been built to house NatWest's international headquarters. Seen from above, the shape of the tower resembles that of the NatWest logo.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry Briggs (mathematician)</span> British mathematician (1561 –1630), inventor of common logarithms

Henry Briggs was an English mathematician notable for changing the original logarithms invented by John Napier into common logarithms, which are sometimes known as Briggsian logarithms in his honour. The specific algorithm for long division in modern use was introduced by Briggs c. 1600 AD.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard Chartres</span>

Richard John Carew Chartres, Baron Chartres, FBS is a retired bishop of the Church of England. He was area Bishop of Stepney from 1992 to 1995 and Bishop of London from 1995 to 2017. He was sworn of the Privy Council in the same year he became Bishop of London. He was also Gresham Professor of Divinity from 1987 to 1992. In October 2017, Chartres was made a life peer, and now sits in the House of Lords as a crossbencher; he had previously sat in the House as one of the Lords Spiritual.

John Greaves

John Greaves was an English mathematician, astronomer and antiquarian.

St Helens Church, Bishopsgate Church in London, England

St Helen's Bishopsgate is an Anglican church in London. It is located in Great St Helen's, off Bishopsgate.

Honorary titles in academia may be conferred on persons in recognition of contributions by a non-employee or by an employee beyond regular duties. This practice primarily exists in the UK and Germany, as well as in many of the universities and colleges of the United States, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, New Zealand, Japan, Denmark, and Canada.

The Professor of Rhetoric at Gresham College, London, gives free educational lectures to the general public. The college was founded for this purpose in 1597, when it appointed seven professors; this has since increased to nine and in addition the college now has visiting professors.

John Gresham

Sir John Gresham was an English merchant, courtier and financier who worked for King Henry VIII of England, Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell. He was Lord Mayor of London and founded Gresham's School. He was the brother of Sir Richard Gresham.

Roderick Floud

Sir Roderick Castle Floud FBA is a British economic historian and a leader in the field of anthropometric history. He has been provost of the London Guildhall University, vice-chancellor and president of the London Metropolitan University, acting dean of the School of Advanced Study at the University of London, and provost of Gresham College (2008–2014). He is the son of Bernard Floud MP.

William Rugge was an English Benedictine theologian, and bishop of Norwich from 1536 to 1549.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">City Remembrancer</span>

The Remembrancer is one of the City of London Corporation’s Chief Officers; the role dates back to 1571. His traditional role is as the channel of communications between the Lord Mayor and the City of London on the one hand and the Sovereign, Royal Household and Parliament on the other. The Remembrancer is also the City's Ceremonial Officer and Chief of Protocol.

Matthew Gwinne was an English physician.

Andrew Tooke (1673–1732) was an English scholar, headmaster of Charterhouse School, Gresham Professor of Geometry, Fellow of the Royal Society and translator of Tooke's Pantheon, a standard textbook for a century on Greek mythology.

Gresham College and the formation of the Royal Society Precursor to the Royal Society

The Gresham College group was a loose collection of scientists in England of the 1640s and 1650s, a precursor to the Royal Society of London. Within a few years of the granting of a charter to the Royal Society in 1662, its earlier history was being written and its roots contested. There is still some debate about the effect of other groups on the way the Royal Society came into being. The composition of those other groups is unclear in parts; and the overall historiography of the early Royal Society is still often regarded as problematic. But this group has always been seen as fundamental to the course of events.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Raymond Flood (mathematician)</span>

Raymond Flood is Emeritus Fellow and a member of the Continuing Education Department at Kellogg College, Oxford, and has been a Professor of Geometry at Gresham College.

The Professor of the Environment at Gresham College in London, England, gives free educational lectures to the general public. The college was founded for this purpose in 1597, when it appointed seven professors; this has since increased to nine and in addition the college now has visiting professors.

The IT Livery Company Professor of Information Technology at Gresham College in London, gives free educational lectures to the general public. The college was founded for this purpose in 1597, when it appointed seven professors; this has since increased to ten. The Gresham Professor of Information Technology is the newest professorship, having been founded in 2014 and is sponsored by the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists.


  1. 1 2 "Governance". Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  2. "Gresham College and Arundel House - Royal Society".
  3. "Gresham College". YouTube.
  4. "GreshamCollege#s YouTube Stats" . Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  5. "Gresham College, registered charity no. 1039962". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  6. "Gresham Professor of Geometry".
  7. "Who invented the calculus? – and other 17th century topics" Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine Gresham lecture by Robin Wilson, 16 November 2005. Retrieved 16 February 2006.
  8. "Gresham College".
  9. "Gresham Professor of the Environment: Carolyn Roberts appointed to only the second new Professorship in 400 years" Archived 25 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine , Gresham College press release, 25 June 2014 (accessed 27/07/15)
  10. "Elizabethan "University" Appoints Professor of IT" Archived 25 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine , Gresham College press release, 26 June 2015 (accessed 27/07/15)
  11. "Profile of Gresham College".
  12. "The Barbican Centre at 40 – Past, Present and Future".
  13. "Sir Thomas Gresham 1519–2019".
  14. "Climate Change: A Defining Challenge for the 21st Century".
  15. "A World Without News?".
  16. "Universities: Some Policy Dilemmas".
  17. "Women's Careers: From Oxfam to a Cambridge College".
  18. "Continuity and Development in Architecture".
  19. "The UK and the New Face of Europe".
  20. "Parliament and the Public: Strangers or Friends?".
  21. "Reinventing the Wheel: The cost of neglecting international history".
  22. "The Challenges of the New Supreme Court".
  23. "The Ascent of Money: An evolutionary approach to financial history". Archived from the original on 2 July 2011.
  24. "Early Christianity & Today: some shared questions".
  25. "The Beauty of Holiness and its Perils (or what is to happen to 10,000 parish churches?)".
  26. "Walking the Line: Preserving liberty in times of insecurity".
  27. "Should We Trust The Scientists?".
  28. "Science in a Complex World: Wonders, Prospects and Threats".
  29. "Towards Freedom from Hunger".
  30. "Commerce and Culture in the Late Twentieth Century".
  31. "A Global Ethic – A Challenge for the New Millennium".
  32. "The Future for Governance: The Rules of the Game".
  33. "Sir Thomas Gresham's London".
  34. "Banking Today".
  35. "VE Day: Fifty Years After".
  36. "Science and Theology: Traffic Across the Frontier".
  37. "The Decline of Socialism".
  38. "Russian Orthodox Church Life Today: The Second Millennium".
  39. "Popular and Unpopular Science".
  40. "The Rise and Fall of the Entrepreneur".
  41. "Monarchy".
  42. "Human Rights and the Democratic Process".

Coordinates: 51°31′03″N0°06′35″W / 51.5175°N 0.1098°W / 51.5175; -0.1098