Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59) was the outstanding example of an entrepreneurial Victorian engineer. He assisted his father in the design and construction of the Thames Tunnel, the first in the world to be constructed underwater. This project was followed by the construction of the Great Western Railway and its Terminus, Paddington Station. But the boldest his many endeavours were his three great ships, each the largest in the world when launched. The Great Western, the Great Britain, and finally the Great Eastern. The planning and construction of the last was to prove damaging to his health, he had a stroke on board the ship and died shortly after her disastrous maiden voyage. His fame and prestige have never dimmed and this is evident in the high esteem in which he is still held across Britain two-hundred years after his brith,
ANNABEL GILLINGS is a BBC television producer of Science and History programmes, most recently of the Time series. She has also produced programmes for the Horizon series and What the Victorians Did for Us. She has written for various publications, including Prospect magazine and the Economist.