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Brunel: The Man Who Built the World (Phoenix Press) [Kindle Edition]

Steven Brindle , Dan Cruickshank
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A celebration of the life and engineering achievements of Isambard Kingdom Brunel by two of the world's foremost authorities.

In his lifetime, Isambard Kingdom Brunel towered over his profession. Today, he remains the most famous engineer in history, the epitome of the volcanic creative forces which brought about the Industrial Revolution - and brought modern society into being.

Brunel's extraordinary talents were drawn out by some remarkable opportunities - above all his appointment as engineer to the new Great Western Railway at the age of 26 - but it was his nature to take nothing for granted, and to look at every project, whether it was the longest railway yet planned, or the largest ship ever imagined, from first principles. A hard taskmaster to those who served him, he ultimately sacrificed his own life to his work in his tragically early death at the age of 53. His legacy, though, is all around us, in the railways and bridges that he personally designed, and in his wider influence.

This fascinating new book draws on Brunel's own diaries, letters and sketchbooks to understand his life, times, and work.

Product Description


The illustrations in this book are quite outstanding... the book's design and reproduction quality make it an invaluable document of record. (BUILDING DESIGN)

suitably monumental... the supreme strength of this book is its beatuy and visual scholarship... after reading this wonderful work all should concur that Brunel can lay claim to the title of Britain's greatest engineer (Tristram Hunt HISTORY TODAY)

Packed both with interesting facts and rare illustrations... Brindle has produced an excellent book that is not only accessible but is genuinely riveting stuff, and I'd highly recommend it (RAIL)

excellent... Steven Brindle's book is immensley readable... contains a fantastic collection of images... It is a book to be read straight through, and then to dip into again and again. (THE VICTORIAN)

This is truly the finest biography of his life published to date: with accessible and informative text illuminated by a wide variety of images (FAMILY HISTORY MONTHLY)

Book Description

An illustrated celebration of the life and engineering achievements of Isambard Kingdom Brunel by two of the world's foremost authorities.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Present 18 Oct. 2005
By A Customer
This book was given to me and it is so beautifully written and illustrated I shall treasure it always. It has a wonderful introduction by Dan Cruilshank and excellent text by Steven Brindle who has obviously done his research well. The book is written in an easy, flowing manner and is really makes you feel that you know the true Isambard Kingdom Brunel -what a man!
I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in engineering, social history, or just Brunel. It looks great on a coffee table too and I tend to lose all hope of conversation with anyone who picks it up, as they are instantly absorbed in this book. Excellent idea for Christmas presents.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic treasure 16 Jan. 2008
I was given this book as a present and it is truely a beautiful production. The illustrations and diagrams are plentiful and superb. Steven Brindle's text is both well researched and understandable, giving fine examples to illustrate his point. I cannot think that M. J. Clarke below has spent much time with this book as there are diagrams gallore and the pull out illustration of SS Great Britain is a delight.
Dan Cruikshank writes a beautiful introduction and the story of Brunel is both interesting and informative with accurrate facts and it is obviously well reseached. After all Wasn't it Brindle who discovered Brunels early bridge behind Paddington Station - he should know his stuff.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing book! 7 Jan. 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a splendid book which goes into a wealth of detail about Brunel and his creations. Certainly the best book I have seen on Brunel.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brunel the man 24 July 2009
An excellent biography. Steven Brindle is an expert in his subject and manages to get inside this extremely complex and gifted character, Strongly reccommendedBrunel: The Man Who Built the World (Phoenix Press)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I've grown up with Brunel; my first home was a pub built to serve the railway works he started; the first shopping centre I can remember as a child was named after him; later, we moved to Bristol where his legacy is both visible and unavoidable. I was put in 'Brunel' house at school, where we did a project on the SS Great Eastern. I could go on...

And yet while I've used his railway, stations and bridges countless times, and visited some of his other works, such as the Thames Tunnel where I bought this book, the SS Great Britain, and the Starcross Pumping House as a tourist, this is the first real biography of the great man that I've read. And it's fantastic, if a bit brief.

Although I could probably claim a bit of prior knowledge of the extent of Brunel's works, I am no engineer, and yet even the most technical parts of this book kept me enthralled. As well as neatly summarising Brunel's career, in subject specific sections (his work with his father, his railway, his bridges, his ships, etc) rather than chronological order, Steven Brindle has done a great job of both showing what a catalogue of achievements Brunel's career was and bringing the character of the man alive; the inclusion of excerpts from Brunel's own letters is a wonderful touch. Many of them are amusing, one of them in particular made me laugh out loud.

The book inspires a sense of wonder that one man achieved so much, much of it all going on at the same time. But it isn't simple hagiography. Whilst they're not dwelt on, Brindle does expand on some of Brunel's failures, and questionable negotiating tactics. He comes across as a little unscrupulous by modern standards.

I can't really fault this book in any way apart from wishing it was longer. This is a summary of a career, rather than a detailed biography. But as an introduction to the man, his career, legacy and character, I recommend it fully.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good overview but no particluar depth 22 Aug. 2008
I picked this book up while working out in the Middle East recently. Well, I'd been away for a while and exhausted the local sights so inevitably it was time to become a resident of Starbucks, drinking coffee and reading.

'Brunel', I thought - 'now that should be interesting', knowing him as the guy who built Paddington Station, the railway to Bristol and beyond, SS Great Britain, Great Western and Great Eastern and a number of bridges and the East London Line tunnel under the Thames.

Sure enough it's good read but I still only really know him as the guy who built Paddington Station, the railway to Bristol and beyond, SS Great Britain, Great Western and Great Eastern and a number of bridges and the East London Line tunnel under the Thames, without a great deal more detail than before.

The book itself is presented neatly into eight sections, which cover his early life working with his father, his connections to Bristol, family life, his work on Railways, bridges, shipbuilding, his office set up and Staff, and his legacy and is written in an acessible way which doesn't bend the readers mind with too much in the way of engineering detail.

However, the format might be the downfall of the book as it takes away any sense of chronology (though a section is provided at the back to make up for this). Added to this, there is no real sense of biography and the story telling lacks any real detail and considering the trials of getting Great Eastern built (which I should think would fill a book on it's own) this is rather disappointing.

But maybe that's the book's downfall... there's just too much to tell in under 200 pages of fairly large text!

Anyway, the book comes recommended as a decent overview of what Brunel acheived but if it catches your imagination (and admittedly, it's caught mine) expect to look for the real detail elsewhere.
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