A celebration of the life and engineering achievements of Isambard Kingdom Brunel by two of the world's foremost authorities.
In his lifetime, Isambard Kingdom Brunel towered over his profession. Today, he remains the most famous engineer in history, the epitome of the volcanic creative forces which brought about the Industrial Revolution - and brought modern society into being.
Brunel's extraordinary talents were drawn out by some remarkable opportunities - above all his appointment as engineer to the new Great Western Railway at the age of 26 - but it was his nature to take nothing for granted, and to look at every project, whether it was the longest railway yet planned, or the largest ship ever imagined, from first principles. A hard taskmaster to those who served him, he ultimately sacrificed his own life to his work in his tragically early death at the age of 53. His legacy, though, is all around us, in the railways and bridges that he personally designed, and in his wider influence.
This fascinating new book draws on Brunel's own diaries, letters and sketchbooks to understand his life, times, and work.
The title, at first, seems impossibly hyperbolic, because it is: Isambard Kingdom Brunel did not, in fact, build the world. However, the things he did build-steamships, bridges, tunnels, train stations-are staggering feats that continue to influence civil engineering today. This book's strength lies in its well thought-out organization: rather than a play-by-play recount of Brunel's life and times, the author organizes chapters according to different genres of his work, separating, for instance, railways from bridges and "The Three Great Ships." Exquisite historical photos, including elegantly rendered fold-out illustrations depicting the plan Brunel drew for the Thames Tunnel, give remarkable insight into the mind of the engineer and his preparation for the project. But, as evidenced by the book's overblown subtitle, the writing suffers lapses into hyperbole: "Brunel's genius had conceived her, his charisma had foisted this vision onto his dazzled contemporaries, including Scott Russell, and lured the money out of their pockets," Brindle writes of the steamship Great Eastern. Brindle, ever the steadfastly enthusiastic guide, in loading this book with illustrations and reproductions, has given engineers and history buffs much to appreciate. 100 color illustrations, 50 b/w photos.