Breathtaking Bridges, Terrific Tunnels and Riveting Railways
The phenomenal work of visionary Isambard Kingdom Brunel is still inspiring modern-day engineering over two hundred years after his birth.
Ever wondered what the world was like before trains and ships, before bridges, piers and docks? In our modern world that is saturated by technology, it is difficult to imagine what life was like before smart phones, tablets and laptops consumed our everyday lives, but back in 1831, completely unaided by such technology, civil engineer Isambard Brunel had a vision – a vision that resulted in the extraordinary 700ft long Clifton Suspension Bridge. Located 200ft above the River Avon in Bristol, the Clifton Suspension Bridge still stands today and carries over 40 million vehicles each year.
So who exactly was Brunel? Well, Brunel born was in Portsmouth, England in 1806, and during his 53 short years, he revolutionised public transport and modern engineering, leaving a lasting impression on the world as we now know it. Brunel is described as one of the 19th century engineering giants, whose achievements are still part of our everyday lives and landscape.
In addition to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Brilliant Brunel went on to design the magnificent Great Western Railway, linking London to Bristol. At the relatively young age of 27, he was appointed Great Western Railway’s Chief Engineer, proving that age is no barrier to achieving ones ambitions. It seemed that there was no end to Brunel’s talents, with further achievements including viaducts at Hanwell and Chippenham, the Maidenhead Bridge, the Box Tunnel and Bristol’s Temple Meads Station.
Unfulfilled by his railway constructions, visionary Brunel dreamed of trans-Atlantic travel and so began building the stunning 236ft long Great Western steamship – the largest steamship of its time. The Great Western sailed from Bristol to New York and made over 60 crossing over 8 years. Next came the SS Great Britain, the largest ship in the world at the time. Brunel’s final maritime project came in 1853 and was named the Great Eastern. The huge ship was designed to carry 4,000 passengers and was particularly technologically advanced for its time.
During his somewhat short life, Isambard Brunel designed twenty five railways lines, over a hundred bridges, including five suspension bridges, eight pier and dock systems, three ships and a pre-fabricated army field hospital, demonstrating that anyone can fulfil their dream, no matter how huge it may seem.
“But what does all this have to do with me?” I hear you ask. Well, renowned engineers like Brunel, Thomas Edison, inventor of the lightbulb, and Herbert Hoover, who began life as a simple Iowa farm boy, and went on to become an engineer and then the 31st President of the United States, have shaped the world we live in, impacting massively upon our everyday lives. The piece of technology you have at your finger tips right now, enabling you to move your eyes across the screen, absorbing each line of this blog, the train you took this morning, and the shoes you’re wearing on your feet – engineering is behind it all. Whether it’s gigabytes, gigs, or giggles that you’re into, engineering is at the heart of it.
If you’ve never considered engineering as a career option, now is the time to do so, as it is predicted that engineering companies will have 2.74 million job openings between 2010 and 2020, which means that the number of engineering qualifications available will double to meet the demand. Not only are engineers in the UK currently in high demand, but they usually have very high salaries, with engineering graduates staring salaries coming in at between £25,000 and £35,000!
Engineers have a dream – to create, to innovate, and to make the world a better place for all of us – now who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
“I take the vision which comes from dreams and apply the magic of science and mathematics, adding the heritage of my profession and my knowledge of nature’s materials to create a design.
I organise the efforts and skills of my fellow workers employing the capital of the thrifty and the products of many industries, and together we work toward our goal undaunted by hazards and obstacles.
And when we have completed our task all can see that the dreams and plans have materialised for the comfort and welfare of all.
I am an Engineer, I serve mankind, by making dreams come true.” – Anon
By Steff Stenhouse 496389