Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The very name conjures up visions of railways, steam engines, tunnels, bridges, docks and of course, steam-driven ships -all the product of the imagination and engineering acumen of a stockily built man wearing a stove-pipe hat and smoking a fat cigar. The word 'genius' is often over-worked and misapplied but the dictionary definition, "a large endowment of intellectual, imaginative or inventive faculty " fits him exactly. There was not a technical or mechanical problem that he did not meet head-on and overcome - a quality that is illustrated time and again in this book.
Although born within sight and sound of the sea and ships Brunel was not, and never claimed to be, a seaman or a naval architect but when faced with the challenge of producing a steamship capable of making the voyage from Britain to New York, he faced it with the logic and perception of the true engineer he was, resulting in the first practical steam driven Trans-Atlantic passenger liner, the Great Western. It was typical of the man that, although a highly respected engineer in his own right, he did not hesitate to consult specialists in the field of ship design, such as Patterson, Guppy and Claxton - a policy he also adopted for his master-piece, the S.S. Great Britain.
Some of the most interesting reading in this book is contained in the section on H.M.S. Rattler, the first successful screw-driven auxiliary ship in the Royal Navy. The authors follow the career of this vessel from her inception to the end of her thirty-two trials, during which Brunel had developed the design of the screw propeller enormously, which, in turn, helped with the design of the propellers for the S.S. Great Britain.
Then follows more fascinating reading on iron shipbuilding where, again, Brunel applied his genius to improving upon existing methods, resulting in stronger, stiffer and more watertight hulls. . Iron building however brought its own problems, firstly in the creation of galvanic action between copper sheathing and iron plates and also the problem of marine growth below the waterline. Interestingly the authors mention that it became necessary to sheath iron lower hulls with wood which, in turn was copper plated, thus protecting the hull itself from growth but made no mention of the fact that the S.S. Great Britain was so sheathed when she returned to Bristol in 1970.Their chapter on this famous ship is predictably one of the most interesting being, as she is, the only survivor of Brunel's ships.
Finally the book covers his last maritime venture, the Great Eastern and it is sad that he never saw her in service. In common with every other section of the book she is illustrated with superb contemporary engravings, early photographs and excellent line illustrations by Denis Griffiths.
When one ponders on the introduction of steam propulsion and iron hulls into Naval vessels there is a sub-conscious assumption that the 'sailing' Navy died almost immediately but the very interestingly written text of this book shows that there was in fact a long transitional period before the ships of the Royal Navy sent down their yards for the last time.
This splendid book Brunel's Ships is a credit to it's Authors and a tribute to one of the finest engineers this country has ever known. Any triumph of marine engineering and shipbuilding claimed by the United Kingdom can be traced back to Isambard Kingdom Brunel and those who worked with him.
It is worth every penny of the purchase price.
Chatham Publishing, Jan 2000 Hardback, ISBN186 176 1023, price £30
Reviewed by Peter J. Stuckey
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Dave Hills Webmaster
Sorry you were not able to find information on bridges here. However, as this is a Maritime History Society and the review was of a book entitled "Brunel's Ships", this is perhaps not the ideal place to look.
absoultly rubbish no bridges
a picture of the wooden ship that isambard kingdom brunel
Yes - but who is/are the author(s)?