Isambard Kingdom Brunel
born 9th April 1806 at Portsea, near Portsmouth
died 15th September 1859 at 18 Duke Street, London W1
buried Kensal Green cemetary
era Georgian and Victorian
Written and edited by Leonie Gombrich
Isambard Kingdom Brunel is one of the most ambitious designers and energetic practitioners in civil engineering history.
Along with Robert Stephenson
and Joseph Locke, Brunel was instrumental in the development of Britain's railway network the first in the world.
His approach to this transport revolution was comprehensive: where his Great Western Railway ended, he designed ships to take goods and passengers across the seas in greater numbers than ever before and at speeds never previously sustained. His work was thus central to the massive economic and social changes of Victorian Britain.
Remarkably, Brunel is almost as well remembered for his far-sighted failures as for his successes. The requirements of his designs did much to extend contemporary construction techniques but sometimes pushed beyond their limits, often to be vindicated by later generations.
His great strength lay in the range of his interests. From railways and bridges to ships, docks and buildings, he cross-fertilized methods of construction, uses of materials and systems of propulsion with an almost audacious belief in the possibility of improvement.