with Thomas Telford, George and Robert Stephenson, Daniel Gooch, Joseph
Paxton and others, Brunel’s work helped transform the world economically,
politically, physically and socially. Britain was able to become the leader
in manufacturing and trade, and to develop from a traditional, rural, agrarian
economy to a modern, urban, industrial one because it possessed in abundance
six crucial elements for change: visionary minds, manpower, materials, money,
markets and transport. Each new advance required the invention and production
of an assortment of new support machinery, equipment and tools, thereby
further expanding knowledge and skills and increasing Britain’s competitive
In his book on the trans-Atlantic steamships, author Stephen Fox wrote:
Brunel became a celebrity, an engineering superstar at a time when the public works of engineers were remaking everyday life in large, visible ways and sparking the popular imagination as never before.
Suggestions for further reading and links to related websites can be found on the Resources and Links page.
For a detailed time line showing the key events in Brunel’s life in relation to other events in Bristol, Britain, science and engineering, arts and letters, and elsewhere, download the Word file from the downloads on the right.