Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Mini History Blog: Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

On this day in 1859 Isambard Kingdom Brunel Died.

 If you have ever travelled to Cornwall via the Great Western railway then you will know of Brunel's network of tunnels, bridges and viaducts. I've never forgotten the twice yearly trips my family and I made to my grandparents, one minute it was light, then it was dark, then it was light again. The highlight of the trip would be crossing over his bridge over the Tamar.

I used to be apprehensive, stating that the bridge was so old that it might collapse under our weight. My dad always reassured me, stating that it was built by a talented engineer and that if it had lasted as long as it had we would get a few more crossings yet!
He was right of course, its still standing over thirty years later.

As well as bridges, tunnels and railways, Brunel was responsible for the design of several famous ships. The Great Western, launched in 1837, was the first steamship to cross from Bristol to New York. His ship the Great Britain, launched in 1843, was the world's first 'iron-hulled, screw propeller-driven, steam-powered passenger liner.'

Brunel was a heavy smoker he suffered a stroke and died, aged 53, in 1859, the year his Great Eastern, the biggest ship ever built at that time, was launched.

He is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in London.

Did you know, that in 1843, while performing a magic trick for his children, Isambard Kingdon Brunel accidentally inhaled a half sovereign coin, which became lodged in his windpipe.
The effort to free the coin seems comical now, but it wasn't then. It involved a machine devised by Brunel ( I'm not too sure that it was designed for this purpose) to shake it loose, eventually it did. The first attempt to free the coin by using as special pair of forceps didn't!
Thank goodness this great man didn't choke to death, or we would not have had that wonderful bridge that spans the banks of the Tamar between Devon Cornwall or all those tunnels on the Great Western Railway.

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