Brunel, Marc Isambard

ENGINEER (FRANCE)
BORN 25 Apr 1769, Hacqueville, Eure - DIED 12 Dec 1849, London
GRAVE LOCATION London: Kensal Green Cemetery, Harrow Road, Kensal Green (041/PS (8590))

Second son of the wealthy farmer Jean Charles Brunel. He was educated at a seminary in Rouen, but he didn't want to become a priest. Hs was trained for the navy instead and in 1786 he became a cadet on a frichate. He travelled to the West Indies several times.
During the French Revolution he was in Paris and when Louis XVI was tried he predicted that Robespierre would die. This almost cost him his life but he was able to flee to Rouen. From there he went to Le Havre and he boarded a ship to New York. At Rouen he had met the young governess Sophie Kingdom, but he was forced to leave her behind. She was arrested as a spy and only escaped execution because of the fall of Robespierre. In 1795 she left France and settled in London.

In New York his work impressed his surroundings and after he became an American citizen in 1796 he was appointed Chief Engineer of the city of New York. In 1798 he designed a machine to produce pulley blocks and in 1799 he left for England to present his invention there.

In England he immediately visited Sophie in London and they married on 1 Nov 1799. They had two daughter before their son Isambard Kingdom was born.

Brunel executed several commissions for the British government, but by 1821 he was so heavily in debt that he was put in the debtor's prison in Southwark. Sophie accompanied him there. Only when Tsar Alexander I of Russia was interested in employing him the British government realised that they didn't want to lose a good engineer and they paid for his release.

In 1825 the work for a tunnel under the River Thames began. Brunel was assisted by his son but after several problems work was stopped in 1828. After a new chairman was appointed and a new loan was granted work was resumed and now Brunel made progress. He was knighted in 1841 when the tunnel was almost complete. In 1842 he suffered a stroke that partially paralysed him for a while, but in 1843 he was present when the Thames Tunnel was officially opened. It is still in use, now for the London Underground.

Suffering from bad health he undertook no more large projects and occasionally assisted his son until he suffered another stroke in 1845. He died in 1849 and was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in London. Sophie was buried in the same grave after her death on 5 Jan 1855.

Family
• Son: Brunel, Isambard Kingdom

Sources
Winkler Prins Encyclopedie (editie 1909), 1909
• Greenwood, Peter, Who's buried where in England, Constable, London, 1982
Marc Isambard Brunel - Wikipedia

Images

The grave of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Marc Isambard Brunel at Kensal Green Cemetery, London.
Picture by Androom (26 Jun 2009)

 


Brüning, Heinrich

Published: 30 Jul 2010
Last update: 30 Jul 2010