Monday, September 20, 2010

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Unless you're a student of the history of technology and engineering, you probably haven't heard of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.  Brunel is well known in the rapidly diminishing engineering circles in the UK.  He also has  contemporary following among fans of the science fiction genre known as "steampunk", because of the cutting edge nature of his activities within his century.

Brunel was perhaps the greatest civil engineer of the 19th century.  He planned many bridges and dockyards which are still in use, supervised the building of the first major British railway, and most importantly in my opinion, designed the first propeller driven ship.

Since Brunel's time the UK reputation for engineering has been degraded to the point of Lucas jokes, and the United States has become the world's capital of consuming everything, producing a great deal less.

Here's the link to the wikipedia article on Brunel.  As the UK attempts to redesign itself as the place where physical things are designed and built, and the United States seeks to establish itself as a place built on something besides financial vaporware, it might be good to reflect on Brunel's accomplishments.