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Who was Isambard Kingdom Brunel?

Isambard Kingdom Brunel standing against the launching chains of the Great Eastern in 1857Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806–1859) was an English engineer. He is famous for building tunnels, bridges and steamships, including the Great Britain, the world's first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship. He also built the Great Western Railway, connecting the west of England with London. Some of Brunel's tunnels and bridges were the longest in the world at the time. His ships were the largest and speediest.


Construction of the Royal Albert Bridge across the River Tamar near Plymouth. Brunel designed this railway bridge in 1855. It was...Read More >>Construction of the Royal Albert Bridge across the River Tamar near Plymouth. Brunel designed this railway bridge in 1855. It was opened in 1859.
Building the Thames Tunnel. In 1818, Brunel's father, the French-born engineer Marc Isambard Brunel, invented the tunnelling...Read More >>Building the Thames Tunnel. In 1818, Brunel's father, the French-born engineer Marc Isambard Brunel, invented the tunnelling shield to build a tunnel under the River Thames in London, England. It was a huge iron structure that had space for 36 workers to stand and dig out the tunnel at the front of the shield. It was a slow and dangerous process, because parts of the tunnel often collapsed. There were also leakages of water and sewer gas.

Early life

Isambard's father, Sir Marc Isambard Brunel (1769–1849), was himself a famous engineer. French by birth, he settled in Britain after the French Revolution and married Englishwoman Sophia Kingdom. Isambard was born on 9th April 1806 in Portsea, Portsmouth, Hampshire. He was sent to school in France. He was 16 when he returned to England to work with his father on a tunnel under the River Thames. It was eventually completed in 1843. 
 

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Severe flooding in the Thames Tunnel while under construction in 1828 almost killed the young Brunel. He was seriously injured and spent six months recovering.

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