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Short profile of Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Started by freddyhayward, August 08, 2022, 06:13:41 AM

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Hi all, I'm still not going to be active for quite a while, even though this community (Simutrans-Extended in particular) still holds a special place in my heart. I just wanted to share a highly abridged profile of Isambard Kingdom Brunel I wrote for my university's history society, though keep in mind it had to be very concise and simplified for a general audience:

QuoteIsambard Kingdom Brunel was a French-English engineer who designed railways, tunnels, bridges, and ships during the Industrial Revolution.

He was born in 1806 in Portsmouth to an émigré engineer Frenchman, Marc Brunel, and an Englishwoman, Sophia Kingdom. The two had met in Revolutionary France during the Great Terror, where they each narrowly escaped execution before reuniting in London in 1799 to marry.

Brunel's father taught him fluent French, geometry and engineering principles from a young age. He went to university in France from age 14-16, graduating in 1822 and returned to London. From age 19 (1825), he supervised workers in the Thames Tunnel project led by his father. In 1828, the project was cut short by a disastrous leak killing six workers and injuring Brunel.

His second taste of failure was the Clifton Suspension Bridge near Bristol, this time cut short in 1831 by the Bristol Riots. His role in policing the riots put him in good standing with Bristol's business elite, who offered him the position of Engineer for the construction of the Great Western Railway (GWR) from Bristol to London in 1833.

Here, Brunel developed his signature reputation as a visionary and perfectionist. He chose routes with smooth curves and slopes for faster speeds, even if this meant bypassing important destinations, or building expensive tunnels and bridges. Most controversially, he used tracks about 2.1 metres wide, compared to the usual 1.4 metres, which allowed for faster trains in theory, but were more expensive to build and incompatible with other railways. Despite its problems, the GWR was successfully completed between London and Bristol by 1841 and made Brunel world-famous.

To complement the railways, Brunel also designed huge steamships to travel to destinations such as New York. One of these ships, the SS Great Britain, carried thousands of immigrants from Liverpool to Melbourne during the Victorian Gold Rush in the 1850s. Brunel's other contribution to early Melbourne was his advisory role in the construction of the new Williamstown and Geelong railway lines, led by a former worker at the GWR.

Today in Britain, many of Brunel's designs are still in use, including some completed after his death in 1859, aged just 53. In 2002, the BBC crowned him the second greatest Briton after Winston Churchill.