Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born in Portsmouth on April 9th 1806. He designed many bridges, tunnels, ships, viaducts and railways. His first major project was on the Thames Tunnel where he worked with his father Mark Brunel.

The Thames Tunnel was nearly his last project as well. One day he was working with the miners at the tunnel face when there was an inundation of water from the river above. He was swept along the tunnel to the Rotherhithe shaft. The force of the water was so great that he was carried up the shaft on a plume of water and was fished out at the top. He was sent to Clifton in Bristol to recover from his serious internal injuries which is where he heard about a competition to build a bridge across the Avon Gorge - what we now know as the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

As well as his work on the Thames Tunnel He went on to design the Great Western Railway, Paddington Station, and three innovative steam ships which changed how we crossed the oceans.

You can see the 'Great Britain', the world's first ocean going screw (propeller) driven ship, in Bristol but his biggest ship was the 'Great Eastern' the largest steam vessel of the time. It would be forty years before anything bigger was built.