According to the detailed history and description of the building in The Survey of London, the university senate chose the twenty-figures represented by statues on the façade after Lord John manners suggested to the architect, Sir James Pennethorne (1801-1871), that they should decide this feature.
The Times of 9 May 1870 recorded the authorship of the statues. Above the portico, Newton, Bentham, Milton and Harvey — representing Science, Law, Arts and Medicine, are carved by Joseph Durham. On the central balustrade are the representatives of 'ancient culture' Galen, Cicero, and Aristotle by J. S. Westmacott, and Plato, Archimedes, and Justinian (replacing the Senate's first choice of Tribonian) by W. F. Woodington. On the east wing are six 'illustrious foreigners'— Leibnitz, Cuvier, and Linnaeus in the ground-storey niches by P. Macdowell, and Galileo, Goethe and Laplace on the balustrade by E. W. Wyon. These are balanced on the west wing by 'English worthies'— Adam Smith, Locke, and Bacon in the niches by W. Theed, junior, and Hunter, Hume (replacing the original choice of Shakespeare), and Davy (replacing Dalton) on the balustrade by M. Noble. In consideration that 'the genius of Shakespeare was independent of academic influence' he was to be distinguished by a place inside, on the staircase.
“The University of London at No. 6 Burlington Gardens.” Web. 10 October 2011. From St James Westminster, Part 2 — volumes 31 and 32 of The Survey of London, ed. F. H. W. Sheppard (General Editor). London: 1963.
Last modified 10 October 2011