Isambard Kingdom Brunel

April 9 1806 - September 15 1859

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was the son of Marc Brunel and Sophia Brunel (née Kingdom).  He was born in Portsea where his father was engaged in marking blocks (pulleys) for the Royal Navy by mechanical means rather by hand. A famous engineer in his own right, Marc's pulley making invention was probably one of the first examples of mechanised production anywhere in the world. His inventive nature obviously rubbed off on his son who went on to become the most celebrated engineer of his age - and regarded by many as the greatest engineer of all time.

Marc went on to create a boot making business, equipping the British Army and for a while this business too prospered.  Sadly it came to an abrupt end in 1815, when Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo and the need for vast numbers of army boots came to an abrupt end.  The government refused to take or pay for the boots it had ordered. Marc Brunel was left with hundreds of pairs of unwanted boots and his finances were plunged into dire straits to the point where Marc Brunel was jailed for debt in London.

The young Isambard meanwhile was sent off to boarding school, first in Hove and then in 1820 to France, which was now judged safe enough.  Isambard did well in his studies and Marc took advantage of contact he had had previously with Tsar Alexander of Russia who had shown interest in his block making machinery. Writing to him from jail he offered his services and also let it be know in England that he had done so.  The Duke of Wellington, fearful of losing what he regarded as a great talent to another nation put pressure on the government who agreed to pay Marc for the thousands of boots he had made and so cleared his debts. 

For the next major episode in Isambard's life, fast forward to 1824


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