Monday, January 17, 2011

Author challenges Brunel's 'heroic myths'

Canal revival pioneer, author and engineer, Tom Rolt is responsible for misrepresenting and glamorising the work of Isambard Kingdom Brunell claims a new book.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel - his 
genious is overstated says author
This book by Adrian Vaughan draws on previously unpublished material and is the work of former railway signalman, steam railway footplate man and author of scores of books on railways with such titles as "Railway Blunders", "The Greatest Railway Blunder", "Tracks to Disaster"  and "Signalman's Nightmare". 

This is Vaughan's third book about Brunel and in it he claims that much of the work credited to Brunel is either not his work or his involvement has been overstated.

He said, "People need to have another look at Brunel and be more objective. The idolatry is not justified". He goes on to argue, "Brunel's reputation today stems from "heroic myths" promoted in a 1950s biography by Tom Rolt, which he claims contained factual errors which glossed over the engineer's shortcomings and the contribution of others". And he concludes, "Modern commentators and television historians have perpetuated this view". 

The Intemperate Engineer: 
Isambard Kingdom Brunel in His Own Words 

by Adrian Vaughan, Published by: Ian Allan Publishing, 208 pages, Hard Back.
Available from the KAcanalTIMES Bookstore

Isambard Kingdom Brunel is one of the most celebrated men in British engineering history, his legacy reaching almost legendary proportions. Brunel's designs revolutionised public transport and modern engineering, and although his projects were not always successful, they often contained innovative solutions to long-standing engineering problems. 

During his short career, Brunel not only created the Great Western Railway and constructed many important bridges and tunnels, but he achieved many engineering 'firsts', including assisting in the building of the first tunnel under a navigable river and development of SS Great Britain, the first propeller-driven ocean-going iron ship, which was at the time the largest ship ever built. 

Although much has been written about Brunel, this new book by Adrian Vaughan looks in depth at his letters and writings, revealing much about the real person. Through Brunel's own writings the author aims to portray his worries, his difficulties and tensions and ultimately to realise his humanity - his genius and his fallibility. 

With an ocean of research to draw on the author has chosen to concentrate on Brunel's early diaries and his work in planning and constructing the Great Western Railway. It also reveals his relationships with assistants and contractors, his enemies and close friends and relations. 

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