Brunel was, in 1851, appointed consulting engineer to the Australian Steam Navigation Company, and in this capacity recommended the construction of steamships of 5,000 tons burden, capable of making the voyage to Australia with only one stoppage for coaling. His suggestion was not then adopted. Brunel's crowning effort in shipbuilding was in the design of the Great Eastern, the largest steamship yet built. The scheme for this vessel was adopted by the directors of the Eastern Steam Navigation Company in 1852, Brunel was appointed their engineer. The work was begun in December 1853, and the Great Eastern entered the water on 31 Jan. 1858. The delays and casualties attending her launch must be attributed to the novel and gigantic character of the undertakin and the imperfect calculations then applied to the problems of friction. The experience of the Great Eastern proved the accuracy of Brunel’s designs, and she affords a good example of the double-skin system of construction, a device unknown in previous shipbuilding. In many other respects the ship was admirably constructed, and remains astron and efficient vessel to this day, although she gas been subjected to the severest strains in the work of laying submarine cables. Financially she has been a failure, except as a cable-carrying ship. She was popular when carrying troops in 1861, and when taking assengers to America; but as a single and exceptional ship has been commercially unsuccessful. Brunel was restive under restraint on invention, and was apersistent and outspoken opponent of the patent laws. In addition to the works already mentioned, Brunel devoted much attention to the improvement of large fguns, and designed a floating gun-carriage or the attack on Cronstadt in the Russian war in 1864. He also designed and super-intended the construction of the hospital buildings at Renkioi on the Dardanelles in 1855. The labour and anxiety involved in the building and launch of the Great Eastern proved too much for Brunel’s physical powers, and he broke down on the day of her start on the trial trip. He was present, on 5 Sept. 1859, at the trial of the engines the day before she left the Thames, but his health had been failing him for some time, and on this occasion he was seized with an attack of paralysis. Ten days later, on 15 Sept. 1859, he died. He was buried in Kensal Green cemetery on 20 Sept. At a meeting held in the following November, under the residency of Lord Shelburne, it was resolved to erect a public monument to Brunel, and a statue was made by the late Baron Marochetti. A window was also erected by his family to his memory in the nave of Westminster Abbey. Brunel’s personal character was universally esteemed. Though undemonstrative and overworked, he found time for many acts of generosity. Where his professional work was concerned he exhibited an almost excessive indifference to public opinion. He was a profound student of engineering science, and possessed, besides big mathematical knowledge and readiness in applying it, great natural mechanical skill. Brunel’s special objects of study were problems connected with railway traction and steam navigation. He devoted two years to completing the experiments of his father for testing the application of compressed carbonic acid gas as a motive power or engines. He was a zealous promoter of the Great Exhibition of 1851. He was a member of the buildin committee, and chairman and reporter of the section of civil engineering. Brunel was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in June 1830, and became a member of most of the leading scientific societies in London, and of many abroad. He joined the Institution of Civil Engineers as an associate in January 1829, became a member in 1837, was elected on the council 1845, and from 1850 to the time of his death held the position of vice-president. He declined the office of president in 1868 from ill-health. He frequently took part in discussions, but contributed no papers to the proceedings. Brunel received the the of Hon. D.C.L. from the university of Eford in 1857. In July 1836 he married, and he left a widow, two sons and a daughter surviving him.
[Proceedings of Inst. of Civil Engineers, vol. six. memoir; Smiles‘s Life of Stephenson, p. 370; Encycl. Metropolitana ; Encyl. Britan. 9th edit.; Life of I. K. Brunel, by his Son, 1870.]
BRUNEL, Sir MARC ISAMBARD (1769–1849), civil engineer, was born on 25 April 1769 at Hacqueville, near Gisors, in Normandy, where members of his family had farmed land for generations. He was destined by his parents for the church, and when only eight years old was sent to the college of Gisors to begin the necessary classical studies, for which, however, he showed no inclination at any time. He already at that age evinced a marked taste for mechanical pursuits and for drawing. At eleven years of age he was sent to the seminary of St. Nicaise at Rouen, connecfcd with the ecclesiastical college in that city, and there determined to qualify himself for the navy. After some time devoted to the studyof drawing and hydrography, he obtained, through the influence o the minister of marine-the Maréchal de Castries-a nomination to the