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Teach Like You're Brunel

Planning is important, but imagination is what makes the extraordinary possible.

If the Commission is to enquire into the conditions “to be observed,” it is to be presumed that they will give the result of their enquiries; or, in other words, that they will lay down, or at least suggest, “rules” and “conditions to be (hereafter) observed” in the construction of bridges, or, in other words, embarrass and shackle the progress of improvement to-morrow by recording and registering as law the prejudices or errors of to-day.“ - Brunel, from a letter (March 13, 1848) to the Royal Commission on the Application of Iron in Railway Structures. Collected in The Life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Civil Engineer (1870)

Who was Brunel?

sambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859) was a British engineer who made significant contributions to the fields of civil and mechanical engineering during the Industrial Revolution. He is best known for his innovative designs and constructions of bridges, tunnels, railways, and steamships.

Brunel had a unique approach to engineering that balanced planning with imagination. He was known for his attention to detail, meticulous planning, and willingness to take risks. Brunel was always searching for new ways to improve and push the boundaries of engineering, which often led him to take on ambitious projects that others thought were impossible.

One example of Brunel's creative thinking was his design of the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, England. The bridge's design was inspired by the mathematical principles of the catenary curve, which allowed Brunel to create a strong and lightweight structure that could span the Avon Gorge. Brunel passed away in 1859, before the completion of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The bridge was actually completed by William Henry Barlow and John Hawkshaw, two engineers who were brought in to finish the project after Brunel's death. Barlow and Hawkshaw made some modifications to Brunel's original design to improve the stability of the bridge, but they largely followed his plans and were able to complete the project in 1864.

Brunel's ability to respond to apparent failures is also noteworthy. He did not let setbacks discourage him, but rather used them as opportunities to learn and innovate. For example, when the SS Great Eastern, a steamship designed by Brunel, faced multiple technical and financial difficulties during its construction, he adapted his plans and made changes to the ship's design to ensure its success.

Overall, Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a highly influential figure in the history of engineering, whose work demonstrated a unique combination of planning, imagination, and adaptability.


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