School of Computing

University of Dundee

Isambard K. Brunel (1806-1859)

Isambard K. Brunel (1806-1859)

(© Iain Murray 2007 - last update 5th January 2007)

Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859)

As well as having one of the most unusual middle names of all time, Brunel is famous for his technological achievements in the field of engineering. However, as well as having very broad interests, his most outstanding feature was his all round ability within each of the endeavours he undertook. If we consider his Great Western Railway, he designed the track layout, the track itself, the rolling stock, the tunnels, the bridges, and the ship to take passengers to the United States from Bristol at the end of the line (the Great Western). He even designed the lamp-posts for the stations, was a director of the station hotel at Paddington, and when the going got tough, was not above getting down to doing some actual digging on the line himself. He was truly a great all-round engineer.

Many of his greatest creations still exist (Clifton Suspension Bridge, Tamar Bridge, Great Britain, etc.), and are aesthetically pleasing as well as practical and long lasting. The Great Eastern is perhaps his greatest work which no longer exists, probably as it was too far ahead of its time.

"And the extraordinary thing is that a modern propeller, designed by a computer, in the 21st century, is only 5% more efficient than this propeller [ on the Great Britain ], which was designed by a Victorian bloke, in a tall hat ... guy was a genius!" - Jeremy Clarkson, during his eulogy on Brunel for the BBC "Great Britons" series (Brunel came 2nd overall to Winston Churchill)

The photo shows Brunel surrounded by the chains of the Great Eastern, shortly before his death.

Brunel's most famous achievement is the Great Britain, preserved in Bristol and launched in 1843, 100 years before the most famous achievement of my other personal hero, Sir Barnes Wallis.

Read more about Brunel on Wikipedia.

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