Born 9 April 1806 in Portsmouth to a French engineer who had fled the French revolution, Isambard Kingdom Brunel was educated in cutting edge engineering practices in both England and in France. Starting work for his father, Brunel rapidly began planning major engineering feats and in 1831 Brunel’s designs won the competition for the Clifton Suspension Bridge across the River Avon.
Perhaps best remembered for the design and construction of the Great Western Railway, Brunel was not only a railway engineer building tunnels, bridges and viaducts, he also designed and built many major docks including Cardiff and Bristol, and co-designed the first screw-propeller driven ocean liner ever built, The Great Eastern, which dwarved even the later Titanic, so large it had almost equally large difficulties at its launch. While never a commercial success in its time, it was later used to lay the first transatlantic cable under the supervision of renowned physicist Lord Kelvin.
Reportedly a cigar chain smoking workaholic who thrived on just four hours sleep a night, Brunel died following a stroke on 15 September 1859.
You can read about Brunel in the Library:
Find books about Brunel and his work at 624.092/BRU (along the far windows of Area 1A on the first floor).
Photo by Père Ubu