Why is Brunel famous?
What Brunel did
Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a famous engineer. He built bridges, tunnels, railways, docks and ships.
When did he live?
Brunel was born in 1806. He lived at the time of Britain's Industrial Revolution. Victoria became Britain's queen in 1837. Brunel died in 1859.
Brunel built bridges, railways and the world's biggest ship. Brunel showed the world what engineers could do.
Brunel's work meant that people could travel and trade in a new way.
Brunel's mother was Sophie Kingdom. She met Marc while working in France as a governess. England and France were at war, and Sophie was accused of being a spy! She escaped to England in 1795.
In 1799, Marc Brunel came to England. He and Sophie were married. Their son Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born in Portsmouth on 9 April 1806. He had two older sisters, Sophia and Emma.
Brunel as a child
In 1807, the Brunels moved to London. They lived close to the River Thames. Brunel liked swimming and playing with toy boats.
Brunel was lucky. While he was at school, many poor children had to work in mines and factories.
Brunel was good at maths. His father taught him to draw. He liked dressing up and acting plays.
The family business
Marc Brunel had a factory. It made wooden parts for Navy ships. Marc invented machines to do the work faster.
Things did not always go well. The Brunels' sawmill burned down. They had money problems. In 1821 Mr and Mrs Brunel were sent to prison for 88 days, because they owed money.
The Thames Tunnel
Brunel's first job
In 1822, Brunel went to work for his father. They had a big job: to dig a tunnel under the River Thames.
Marc planned to use his new tunnelling-shield. They needed lots of strong, brave workers too.
Digging the Thames Tunnel was very dangerous. Sometimes the tunnel collapsed. Water rushed in, and everyone ran for their lives!
Once, Brunel slid down a pole to rescue a man. Once he nearly drowned, but was pulled out by a friend. On 12 January 1828 he wrote in his diary: 'I shan't forget that day in a hurry'.
The Tunnel is still there
There were so many accidents that work stopped on the tunnel for 8 years. The Thames Tunnel was opened in 1843.
The Tunnel is still there. It is used by trains. There is a Brunel Museum there too.
Bridges and tunnels
The Clifton Bridge
In 1831 Brunel was chosen to build the Clifton Bridge over the River Avon at Bristol. It was a suspension bridge, and very high so ships could sail under it.
At first, workers crossed the river in a basket! The basket ran along beneath an iron bar 307m (1000 feet) long. One day it got stuck. Brunel climbed up to free the rollers!
The bridge was not finished until 1864. 500 tons of stones were put onto the bridge to test it. It sagged just 7 inches (18cm) in the middle.
The railway age
By 1830, steam railways were being built all over Britain In 1833 Brunel was made chief engineer for the new Great Western Railway.
This railway linked London to Bristol, about 200km across country. Brunel built all the stations, tunnels and bridges too.
Brunel always did things his way. He made his rails 7 ft (2.14 m) apart, when other railways used narrow track 1.43 m wide. The smaller 'narrow-gauge' won in the end.
Stations, bridges and tunnels
Brunel built Paddington Station (1854) in London. Trains still use it.
He built Maidenhead Bridge, across the River Thames, the Wye Bridge at Chepstow, and the Royal Albert Bridge across the River Tamar.
The Box Tunnel in Wiltshire is 2 miles long. It took six years to dig, and 100 men were killed.
Brunel believed steamships were the future, not sailing ships. Steamships had engines that burned coal.
In 1837 Brunel built a wooden paddle-steamer Great Western. It steamed to America in 12 1/2 days. This was faster than a sailing ship.
In 1843 Brunel built the Great Britain. It was the first iron ship with screw propellers. It's now in Bristol.
In 1846 Great Britain got stuck on a sandbank. Brunel was cross. He said it looked 'like a useless saucepan on Brighton beach'.
The giant ship
Brunel wanted to build the world's biggest ship, to go from Britain to Australia. People laughed. They said no ship could carry enough coal.
Brunel's giant ship was the Great Eastern. It was 211 metres long and 19,000 tons. It was so big, it had to be pushed sideways into the River Thames.
Great Eastern had room for 4000 passengers (or 10,000 soldiers).
What happened to Great Eastern?
The Great Eastern went to sea in 1859. But it never sailed to Australia. It was damaged in an explosion. It was too expensive, and too big for most harbours.
In 1890 it was broken up for scrap.
Life and times
In 1836 Brunel married Mary Horsley. They had three children: Isambard, Henry and Florence. Henry became an engineer, like his father.
Brunel enjoyed visits to the pantomime at Christmas. He also liked painting, and dreamed of designing a landscape garden.
Working too hard
Brunel tried to do every job himself. He worked very hard. Some nights he slept in a chair. Often he got up at 3 to catch a stagecoach to drive to work.
In his notebooks, Brunel jotted down ideas, did sums, and made notes about plants by the railway or how long iron rails lasted.
Brunel made himself ill with work and worry. In September 1859, he watched Great Eastern go to sea.
He had his photo taken. Then he collapsed. He died a week later. He was 53.