Biography

  • 1806 Birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel in Portsea.
  • 1822 Returns to London after studying in Paris and joins the drawing office of his father, the eminent engineer, Marc Brunel.
  • 1827 Appointed resident engineer of the Thames Tunnel only to be seriously injured by flood damage in January 1828.
  • 1829 While convalescing in Bristol, enters a competition to design the Clifton Bridge across the Avon Gorge, which he wins.
  • 1831 Completes work on an astronomical observatory for James South in London. Appointed engineer of dock at Monkwearmouth, Sunderland.
  • 1833 Submits proposal for the Great Western Railway from Bristol to London.
  • 1835 Proposes broader 7ft gauge for the GWR track and begins a battle for acceptance with GWR board. Designs the Maidenhead Bridge, Wharncliffe Viaduct and Hungerford Suspension Bridge.
  • 1836 Marries Mary Horsley and they move in to the floors above his office on Duke Street in Mayfair.
  • 1837 Launch of SS Great Western in Bristol.
  • 1839 Battle with the GWR board culminates in trials proving that Brunel’s broad gauge will enable locomotives to attain higher speeds.
  • 1843 Launch of SS Great Britain in Bristol. Appointed surveyor and engineer of five regional railways including Monmouth & Hereford and Oxford & Rugby.
  • 1845 Proposes a high bridge over the River Tamar – to be completed in 1852 – and is appointed engineer of the Cornish Railway.
  • 1849 Starts work on the design of a new Paddington Station as the London terminus of the GWR.
  • 1853 Signs the contract for the design of the ‘Great Ship’ or SS Great Eastern.
  • 1855 Commissioned by the War Office to design a pre-fabricated 1,000-bed hospital for use in the Crimean War.
  • 1857 Begins work on the East Bengal Railway in India.
  • 1858 Work nearing completion on both the Royal Albert Bridge and SS Great Eastern but Brunel becomes ill and is ordered to travel – to the Alps and then Egypt – by his doctor.
  • 1859 Opening of the Royal Albert Bridge, while Brunel is still abroad. He collapses of a heart attack on the deck of the SS Great Eastern two days before its launch and dies ten days later.

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