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4.6 out of 5 stars31
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 18 June 2004
Biographies of engineers can fall into a stereotypical format. A chapter on their childhood and education, then a series of chapters discussing their main works. Personal insight is usually minimal.

Rolt's biography of Brunel is light-years away from this - it is first and foremost a portrait of a complex, ambitious and determined genius, with his engineering placed in a personal, social and historical context. The chequered career of his father and his family background serve to place Isambard in context, too.

Sure, if you want to know how much per foot the rails on the GWR weighed, it's here, but you'll also find fascinating fragments of Brunel's diaries and letters, descriptions of London society in the early nineteenth century, and the remarks of many of those whose paths Brunel crossed during his life.

Brunel's own words are as vigorous and fascinating as those Rolt uses; this is a lively, fast-paced book covering all aspects of a very full life full of innovation.
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on 27 August 2007
Isambard Brunel was an engineering genius, a technical innovative icon out of the top drawer and one of the greatest figures of the Industrial Revolution. His imagination, innovation and sheer manic drive saw Brunel overcome the engineering problems of the day with radical new designs and concepts in regard to the design and construction of ships, railways, bridges and tunnels. He simply changed the face of the English landscape and maritime travel with his groundbreaking designs and ingenious constructions....a man whose engineering masterpieces were years ahead of his time.

L. T. C. Rolt's masterly, authoritative and descriptive biography is the definitive work on Brunel, tracing the life, times and monumental achievements of the man who helped to build modern Britain. He portrays a genius of a man who eventually worked himself to death....fascinating reading on the era where we moved from the horse to the train and from sail to steam sea travel...an excellent read!
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on 27 August 2007
This is a very engaging read - Rolt's enthusiasm for his subject shines out. This is a full account of Brunel's life and work, with interesting (but not unduly technical) detail on the engineering side. Rolt has been accused of painting too rosy a picture of Brunel - you can read other biographies if you are concerned about that - but you cannot beat this one for inspiration!
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on 4 August 2012
Highly revealing and often surprising exploration of Brunel. Readable, yet sufficiently (accessibly) detailed on the engineering to expose the intelligence and creativity of this amazing man. The incredible energy, vision and tenacity behind the achievements, and their scale came as a shock. The human aspects of Brunel's life, in terms of relationships, successes and failures are handled with sympathetic objectivity, and subtle humour by Rolt in understated, often wry observations of the human nature of the protagonists. I can fully understand why this is considered the definitive chronicle.
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on 1 June 2009
A first-class biography of the man and his times. Vividly brings the legend to life, setting him against a backdrop of society and politics. Excellent and inspiring. Remarkable man, remarkable story.
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on 4 December 2010
i enjoyed the read very much.i found it very informative and gave a great insight into the life of brunel and the background to his upbringing.i also liked the detailed descriptions of his inventions and how his determined character got him through the problems he faced.i would recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in brunel.
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on 5 April 2013
I have a keen interest in all things related to the Industrial Revolution, and had been looking for a decent Brunel book for a while (I am a frequent visitor of the Brunel Museum in London). This appeared to be the most popular choice and didn't let me down. I had read many of the basic facts elsewhere, but this goes in to detail and is packed with interesting facts and stories. I am obsessed with hidden structures like the Thames Tunnel, and it was fascinating to read more about how long it took to build. Perfect for dedicated fans of Brunel's work, and newbies alike.
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on 18 June 2010
It is a book that not only makes the reader understand the order of magnitude by which Brunel exceeded everything else in his time, but also what an unimaginably driven person he was.
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on 26 April 2012
this is a fine book about a really great man , a british leonardo . if he was around today he wuold soon sort out any water shortage problems. visit the ss great britain at bristol to get a glimpse of his genius .
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on 30 December 2012
This is the best Brunel biography and a perfect introduction to LTC Rolt who also wrote biographies of Telford and the Stephensons, not forgetting Red for Danger about signalling. Enjoy.
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