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The Brunels: Father and Son (Kindle)

British History Transport P&S History Social History Photographic eBooks Trains and Railways Biographies 18th Century 19th Century

By Anthony Burton
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
File Size: 32.2 MB (.mobi)
ISBN: 9781526787019
eBook Released: 30th June 2022

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Isambard Kingdom Brunel has always been regarded as one of Britain’s great heroes and an engineering genius. His father Marc Brunel has not received the same degree of adulation, but this book will show just how important a part Marc played in his son’s works and will also look at his own great achievements. Marc Brunel arrived in Britain as a refugee from revolutionary France, after a short time working in America. He was a pioneer of mass production technology, when he invented machines for making blocks for sailing ships. He had other inventions to his name, but his greatest achievement was in constructing the very first tunnel under the Thames. Isambard spent his early years working for and with is father, who not only encouraged him but throughout his career he was also able to offer practical help. The famous viaduct that carried the Great Western Railway over the Thames at Maidenhead, for example was based on an earlier design of Marc’s. Isambard’s greatest achievements were in revolutionising the shipping industry, where hew as able to draw on his father’s experience when he served n the navy. The book not only looks at the successes of two great engineers, but also their failures. Primarily, however, it is a celebration of two extraordinary mean and their amazing achievements.

Anthony Burton is well-known and respected by transport nerds like me. His works, The Canal Builders and The Railway Builders sit on many bookshelves, well thumbed. He has now written a book about the astonishingly creative father and son duo, Marc and Isambard Brunel.

Although many people will know of at least one of Isambard’s achievements: building the Great Western railway; designing the Clifton Suspension Bridge; the Great Eastern steamship, fewer will be able to cite one of Marc’s – maybe the Thames Tunnel, still in use every day by the London Overground; but probably not the automation of cutting blocks for sailing ships or machinery for making boots for the British Army that lasted longer than a day’s march. The book presents a stream of projects that Marc and Isambard worked upon, mostly separately but sometimes jointly. The sheer breadth of their ability is awe-inspiring: railways, ships, bridges, boots. I loved the throwaway line “Among Brunel’s friends at this time was Alexander Hamilton…” It was a dinner-party conversation with another of Hamilton’s guests that inspired Brunel to design the blockmaking machine. You may wonder why a machine to make blocks for sailing ships was a big deal? A frigate required 1,500 of them. The British Navy needed 100,000 a year – and they were all being carved by hand until Marc Brunel made his machine.

Burton’s work is highly readable. It offers 200+ pages of information, presented with Burton’s lightly worn in-depth expertise. Although I thought there would be episodes that dragged, there weren’t. This is the closest any non-fiction book has come to being a page-turner, in my several years’ experience of reviewing books!

NetGalley, Colin Edwards

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Such an insightful and knowledgeable read. Isambard Kingdom Brunel has always been regarded as one of Britain’s great heroes and an engineering genius. His father Marc Brunel has not received the same degree of adulation, but this book will show just how important a part Marc played in his son’s works and will also look at his own great achievements. Marc Brunel arrived in Britain as a refugee from revolutionary France, after a short time working in America. He was a pioneer of mass production technology, when he invented machines for making blocks for sailing ships. He had other inventions to his name, but his greatest achievement was in constructing the very first tunnel under the Thames. Isambard spent his early years working for and with is father, who not only encouraged him but throughout his career he was also able to offer practical help. The famous viaduct that carried the Great Western Railway over the Thames at Maidenhead, for example was based on an earlier design of Marc’s. Isambard’s greatest achievements were in revolutionising the shipping industry, where hew as able to draw on his father’s experience when he served in the navy. The book not only looks at the successes of two great engineers, but also their failures. Primarily, however, it is a celebration of two extraordinary mean and their amazing achievements. Absolutely well researched and definitely recommend ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

NetGalley, Michelle Coates
 Anthony Burton

About Anthony Burton

Anthony Burton has been writing about the history of transport and technology for fifty years. His books include Remains of a Revolution, The Railway Builders, The Locomotive Pioneers and biographies of Thomas Telford, George and Robert Stephenson and a biography of Marc and Isambard Brunel (due to be published in 2022). He has worked extensively in TV and most recently as historical adviser to the Discovery Channel series Industrial Revelations, More Industrial Revelations and On the Rails.

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