Kingdom of Isambard Brunel has won the BSRIA’s ‘vote for your favourite and most influential engineer’ competition.
To commemorate last year’s 60th anniversary, BSRIA published INSPIRE, a commemorative publication that looks at 120 engineers from the past and present to highlight their accomplishments and the significant impact they’ve had on the industry and the world. The engineers were reduced to a list of 15 by BSRIA.
Brunel was the clear winner, receiving 35% of the vote. Leonardo Da Vinci came in second with just under 17%, and Tim Berners-Lee, Bill Gates, and Alan Turing tied for third. The polls were closed on New Year’s Eve.
Kingdom of Isambard Brunel (1806–1859) was a British civil and mechanical engineer who is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures of the Industrial Revolution. He worked on a variety of projects, including dockyards, a fleet of steamships, numerous tunnels and bridges, including the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and, of course, the Great Western Railway.
“We are delighted Brunel received the most votes,” said Julia Evans, chief executive of the BSRIA. He is clearly one of the most inventive and prolific figures in engineering history, a 19th century engineering giant and one of the most important figures of the Industrial Revolution who changed the face of the English landscape with his groundbreaking designs and ingenious constructions. His designs transformed public transportation and modern engineering.
“While Brunel’s projects were not always successful, they frequently contained novel solutions to long-standing engineering problems.” During his career, Brunel accomplished many engineering “firsts,” including assisting in the construction of the first tunnel under a navigable river and the development of the SS Great Britain, the first propeller-driven ocean-going iron ship, which was also the largest ship ever built at the time (1843).
“Brunel established the standard for a well-built railway by conducting careful surveys to minimise grades and curves.” This necessitated costly construction techniques, as well as new bridges and viaducts, as well as the two-mile-long Box Tunnel between Chippenham and Bath. Brunel is an excellent advocate for engineering and the nature of STEM, which is all about pushing boundaries and making the impossible possible. STEM has altered the way we work, travel, heal, and live. The advancement of the human race has always relied on bright minds willing to devote their energy to engineering concepts.
“Engineering and scientific experimentation are valuable skills to have, as is the tenacity of an investigative style that accepts and builds on both success and failure.” Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding on the twentieth. Brunel is a great example of this mindset.
“In this regard, BSRIA acknowledges and supports the work of the ECITB (Engineering Construction Industry Training Board), which recognises the difficult times ahead: a skills shortage with an ageing workforce, ageing energy infrastructure, and the need to reduce carbon emissions.” According to the board, demand for industry workers is expected to rise by at least 5% per year over the next few years, and in some cases by as much as 15%. To meet demand and replace retirees, the industry will need to hire, train, and upskill approximately 45,000 people. ECITB will invest £100 million in training over the next five years, with additional government funding of more than £70 million.”
Leonardo da Vinci is best known for his paintings, but he was also an inventor and engineer. While many of his inventions were outlandish, many of them were capable of performing their intended function. Hydraulic pumps, reversible crank systems, and finned mortar shells were among his more practical designs.
INSPIRE posed the question, “Why is STEM important?” What exactly does engineering entail for you? What is the significance of technology? There is only one answer to those three questions, and it is simply ‘everything.’ History has shown that those who pursue science have the greatest impact on the world; incredible minds provide us with incredible ideas that we once thought were unbelievable but are now ingrained in our society.
The BSRIA INSPIRE project collaborates with local schools, national and local politicians, and the media to promote STEM and change people’s perceptions of it.