5 Engineers You Should Know About

Gustave Eiffel

 

George Stephenson

 

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

 

Thomas Andrews

 

John Augustus Roebling

 

1. Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923): A renowned French civil engineer and architect, Gustave Eiffel is remembered as “the Magician of Iron.” Can you guess which famous iron structure this magician cast? Indeed, his masterpiece is the Eiffel Tower. During and after its construction, thinkers of the time criticized the tower’s ambitious design. Some even protested the tower, claiming Eiffel was blatantly disregarding the principles of physics to create an artistic form. However, his design for what was then to be the tallest tower in the world accounted for the real-world conditions that it would need to withstand:

Is it not true that the very conditions which give strength also conform to the hidden rules of harmony? … Now to what phenomenon did I have to give primary concern in designing the Tower? It was wind resistance. Well then! I hold that the curvature of the monument's four outer edges, which is as mathematical calculation dictated it should be … will give a great impression of strength and beauty, for it will reveal to the eyes of the observer the boldness of the design as a whole. – Gustave Eiffel

Thanks to both Eiffel’s genius and his boldness, the Eiffel Tower today enjoys a coveted spot on the list of the Seven Wonders of the World, and it remains a veritable global icon.

2. George Stephenson (1781-1848): George Stephenson revolutionized transportation and urban infrastructure by creating the world’s first public inter-city railway line that used steam locomotives. This British Engineer, often referred to as “The Father of Railways,” is also credited with devising the historic measurement of the rail gauge at four feet eight-and-a-half inches, which became the standard railway gauge measurement worldwide.

3. Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859): A celebrated experimenter and risk-taker, Isambard Kingdom Brunel was the man behind the Great Western Railway, the company that connected London to the west part of England. His unconventional thinking led him to many firsts: from being the first engineer to envision building a tunnel under a river to playing a key role in the development of the first propeller-driven iron ship.

4. Thomas Andrews (1873-1912): Thomas Andrews was the principal architect for the infamous RMS Titanic. He was aboard the ship during its maiden—and only—voyage in 1912, and when the ship hit an iceberg, he calculated that it would sink within a few short hours. Survivors’ accounts tell of Andrews bravely alerting passengers of the imminent danger, urging women and children to board the severely limited number of lifeboats. Andrews was also said to have suggested more than twice the number of lifeboats the Titanic was given and a double hull and watertight bulkheads during planning and construction, suggestions which were rejected. He perished in the ship’s sinking, a harsh lesson in the consequences of industrial hubris, prioritizing profit over safety.

5. John Augustus Roebling (1806-1869): A Prussian immigrant renowned for his suspension bridge designs, John Augustus Roebling discovered a method of twisting iron together to create a “wire rope,” which he manufactured and used to construct durable suspension bridges. One of the most famous projects he designed was the Brooklyn Bridge. Unfortunately, he sustained an injury in an on-site accident that resulted in a fatal case of tetanus before the bridge could be completed.

Bonus! – Emily Warren Roebling (1843-1903) and Washington Roebling (1837-1926): Emily Warren Roebling broke down gender barriers while building the Brooklyn Bridge. Hailing from the Hudson Valley, she studied engineering in Europe alongside her husband Washington Roebling, the son of John Augustus Roebling. Washington took over as Chief Engineer following his father’s death, but he soon developed caisson disease and became too ill to work. Emily then stepped in as “the first woman field engineer.” She carried out many of Washington’s duties, overseeing construction until the bridge’s completion in 1883.

5 Famous Civil Engineers You Should Know

Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923): A renowned French civil engineer and architect, Gustave Eiffel is remembered as “the Magician of Iron.” Can you guess which famous iron structure this magician cast? Indeed, his masterpiece is the Eiffel Tower. During and after its construction, thinkers of the time criticized the tower’s ambitious design. Some even protested the tower, claiming Eiffel was blatantly disregarding the principles of physics to create an artistic form. However, his design for what was then to be the tallest tower in the world accounted for the real-world conditions that it would need to withstand:

Is it not true that the very conditions which give strength also conform to the hidden rules of harmony? … Now to what phenomenon did I have to give primary concern in designing the Tower? It was wind resistance. Well then! I hold that the curvature of the monument's four outer edges, which is as mathematical calculation dictated it should be … will give a great impression of strength and beauty, for it will reveal to the eyes of the observer the boldness of the design as a whole. – Gustave Eiffel

Thanks to both Eiffel’s genius and his boldness, the Eiffel Tower today enjoys a coveted spot on the list of the Seven Wonders of the World, and it remains a veritable global icon.

 

George Stephenson (1781-1848): George Stephenson revolutionized transportation and urban infrastructure by creating the world’s first public inter-city railway line that used steam locomotives. This British Engineer, often referred to as “The Father of Railways,” is also credited with devising the historic measurement of the rail gauge at four feet eight-and-a-half inches, which became the standard railway gauge measurement worldwide.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859): A celebrated experimenter and risk-taker, Isambard Kingdom Brunel was the man behind the Great Western Railway, the company that connected London to the west part of England. His unconventional thinking led him to many firsts: from being the first engineer to envision building a tunnel under a river to playing a key role in the development of the first propeller-driven iron ship.

 

Thomas Andrews (1873-1912): Thomas Andrews was the principal architect for the infamous RMS Titanic. He was aboard the ship during its maiden—and only—voyage in 1912, and when the ship hit an iceberg, he calculated that it would sink within a few short hours. Survivors’ accounts tell of Andrews bravely alerting passengers of the imminent danger, urging women and children to board the severely limited number of lifeboats. Andrews was also said to have suggested more than twice the number of lifeboats the Titanic was given and a double hull and watertight bulkheads during planning and construction, suggestions that were rejected. He perished in the ship’s sinking, a harsh lesson in the consequences of industrial hubris, prioritizing profit over safety.

 

John Augustus Roebling (1806-1869): A Prussian immigrant renowned for his suspension bridge designs, John Augustus Roebling discovered a method of twisting iron together to create a “wire rope,” which he manufactured and used to construct durable suspension bridges. One of the most famous projects he designed was the Brooklyn Bridge. Unfortunately, he sustained an injury in an on-site accident that resulted in a fatal case of tetanus before the bridge could be completed.

Interesting Facts about New York’s Most Innovative Engineering Projects of the Past 200 Years

The Erie Canal: The Erie Canal, which this month celebrates 200 years since its groundbreaking, connects Albany and Buffalo and ultimately links New York to the agriculture of the Midwest. This project enabled the Empire State to become a frontrunner in transportation and business services. However, in the early days of the canal, it was known as “Clinton’s Big Ditch," so named after then New York Governor DeWitt Clinton. The canal was built by hand.

The Brooklyn Bridge: John Augustus Roebling, chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, pioneered the design of the steel suspension bridge. Right before the bridge construction commenced in 1869, Roebling was injured when a boat crushed one of his toes. Soon after, he died of tetanus. His son, Washington A. Roebling, took over as chief engineer but eventually became bedridden with “caisson disease” or “the bends." In the wake of his illness, Washington Roebling’s wife Emily took charge as head of the bridge project.

Grand Central Terminal: A fatal train crash in the Park Avenue Tunnel in 1902 convinced state officials to ban steam locomotives. It was decided to make the switch to electric-run trains. In order to make the transition, the station needed a complete overhaul. The result was a perfect marriage of beauty and ingenious functionality. “Behind Grand Central’s decorative flourishes are ingenious solutions. Looping tracks let arriving trains drop off passengers, continue ahead to pick up new passengers, and depart without having to turn around. Layered levels of train and subway lines pack enormous capacity into a relatively small footprint.”

Ashokan Reservoir: Construction on the reservoir began in 1910. It was constructed with what was then known as the world’s strongest cement, which could be found in Rosendale, NY. This water source is still one of the major suppliers of New York City’s water. “In addition to being the oldest reservoir to serve NYC area, the Ashokan Reservoir is also the largest at over 8,000 sq. acres, and also the deepest at 190 feet at the reservoir's center. At its capacity the reservoir can hold up to 122.9 billion gallons of water!”

Radio City Music Hall Hydraulically Actuated Stage: Radio City Music Hall was completed in 1932. Its stage was designed by Peter Clark, and is one of the world’s largest moveable stages. The stage’s intricate elevator system was so advanced that it was a forerunner for the U.S. military’s aircraft carrier systems built during World War II.