Gresham College

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Gresham College is an unusual institution of higher learning in London which enrols no students and grants no degrees. The Collège de France offers perhaps a Parisian equivalent. Gresham College has provided lectures free and open to the public since its foundation under the will of Sir Thomas Gresham in 1597.

Gresham left his estate jointly to the Corporation of London and to the Mercers' Company, which operate 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 1663, which pursued its activities at the College in Bishopsgate before moved 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's seven original endowed chairs of Divinity, Music, Astronomy, Geometry, Physic (meaning Medicine), Law and Rhetoric hearkened back to 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. Its famous professors have included Christopher Wren, who lectured on astronomy in the 17th century, and Robert Hooke.

Today, the professors hold their positions for three years, and an eighth chair, of Commerce, joined the original seven in 1985. Since 2000, the college has regularly hosted visiting professors to lecture on topics outside its usual range, and it also hosts occasional seminars and conferences.

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