Skip to main content
A B C D(/People and pioneers/Pioneers/) E F G H I(/People and pioneers/Pioneers/) J(/People and pioneers/Pioneers/) K L M N O P Q(/People and pioneers/Pioneers/) R S T U(/People and pioneers/Pioneers/) V W X(/People and pioneers/Pioneers/) Y(/People and pioneers/Pioneers/) Z

Brunel, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Isambard Kingdom (1806-1869)

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was one of the 19th century's greatest engineers.

Brunel was the son of a French inventor, and invention was in his blood. He studied mathematics, engineering and precision instrument making and always shone as a natural. He was an 18-hours-a-day workaholic who even managed to squeeze in a visit to the Liverpool & Manchester Railway opening during his three-day honeymoon.

But his other talents lay in his ability to handle clients, manage projects, budget, organise and motivate, as well as create visionary ideas and revolutionary techniques.

Brunel built the physical structures and trains of the Great Western Railway, which hosted the first commercial telegraph. He transformed shipbuilding with the SS Great Britain, the first large iron steamship. The Great Eastern was his third large ship project, but was plagued by problems, and he died before seeing her sail. Eventually it nonetheless became the premier submarine cable-laying vessel. He was also responsible for a number of docks and stations and for the Royal Albert and Clifton Suspension Bridges.

fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

featured story

100 years of automatic switching!
In 1912 the GPO installed Britain's first automatic telephone exchange in Epsom.

Discover the early days of the telephone...