350 years ago, in 1673 the Royal Mathematical School (RMS) was established at Christ’s Hospital by King Charles II and continued to be shaped by renowned intellectuals such as Isaac Newton and Christopher Wren.

 Christ’s Hospital, which is among England's oldest boarding schools, traces its origins to 1552, when it was founded in the former Grey Friars buildings on Newgate Street, London by the young King Edward VI. Its purpose was to provide care, education, and lodging for orphaned and impoverished children. The school opened its doors to 380 pupils in November 1552, a number which surged to over 500 within the year. Following the devastating fire of 1666, the school relocated to Horsham, West Sussex, where it continues its mission to this day, offering life changing opportunities through generous bursaries and scholarships for children without the means to afford such quality of education.


 The Royal Mathematical School was first created to train young boys as mathematicians navigators at sea. The aim was very much to turn them into trade merchants or naval officers. At the time Britain was rapidly expanding its empire and there was much need for a stronger maritime presence – due to various wars with countries like Spain, France and Holland, as well as the expansion of trade routes to and from Britain. The RMS aimed to fulfill this need.

 The RMS consisted of instruction in mathematics, physics, astronomy, navigation, geography, cartography, technical drawing, and calligraphy to 40 boys each year. This prepared them for the Trinity House exams that they would sit once they turned 16. It was a very strict regime. Before the printer was invented, the boys would have to copy down every page of a large textbook about naval mechanics by hand. It was a two-year project and it was done immaculately. It did not only mean neatly writing out instructions and drawing exact diagrams but also including absurd details – such as the lines bordering pages. However, this book was put to good use. At the end of the RMS programme, the boys were sent out to sea. With them they would take their handwritten textbook. They carried it around with them as if it was sacred - it was a something like a seafarer’s bible.


 Today, the Royal Mathematical School is still running, but it focuses on a more customary style of teaching maths – the usual arithmetic, algebra and so on. It is Christs Hospital’s maths department and is taught to all students who study maths at Christs Hospital. The current head of the RMS is Michaela Weiserova – she is the first ever head of the RMS that is a woman!