(April 9, 1806 – September 15, 1859)
Imperialism gave Britain access to huge markets from 18th to 20th century. Raw materials from Africa, America and Asia came cheaply and abundantly. These fuelled the Industrial Revolution which spanned several decades. Great wealth from merchants and royals financed all kinds of industries. British peasants got jobs as factories sprang-up. This revolution triggered-off projects which were equally matched by great engineering feats. No engineer was more prepared than Isambard Kingdom Brunel for what was to follow. Flamboyant and daring, Brunel (who apprenticed under his father) seized the opportunity to shine. His ingenious ideas coupled with meticulous designs, brought him immediate fame. From tunnels to bridges, and all the way to railways and ship-building, he undertook them all. Nothing seemed impossible: as long as he got financiers. He was well-ahead of his time; and the results were radical reinventions of structural engineering. Among other achievements, several of his inventions (e.g.: the first ship built with a double iron hull) were the firsts of their kinds ever made. As the revolution peaked, Britain led the world in technology. And the name “Brunel” became catch-phrase for audacity and ingenuity. Although some of his projects were economic failures, a proud and inspired Britain remained appreciative of her brilliant son. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was by far the greatest engineer of the Industrial Revolution era. And since then, only Nikola Tesla has surpassed him in overall engineering achievements. He is held in the highest esteem in Britain, and many monuments are dedicated to him.