Boy's Own Paper,  3 (1880–81), 595–96.

Some Boys Who Became Famous. Robert Stephenson  [2/2]



Regular Feature, Essay, Serial

Relevant illustrations:

wdct. [2]


Engineers, Engineering, Invention, Railways, Genius, Heroism, Commerce, Political Economy, Controversy, Steamships, Astronomy, Instruments, Internationalism

    Begins by describing the next period of Robert Stephenson's life as one of 'astonishing activity' for someone 'never of robust constitution', emphasising his public fame, his 'uninterrupted success' as an engineer, and constructions noted for their 'simplicity, permanence, and utility'. Compares Stephenson with Isambard K Brunel, emphasising Stephenson's caution and attention to all the 'bearings' of an engineering problem, and Brunel's status as someone whose 'genius was more splendid in designing than cautious in executing', his 'tendency to 'leave many difficulties unheeded', and his achievement of 'glorious growths of scientific intellect' that were economically disappointing. Notes parallels in the backgrounds and careers of Brunel and Stephenson, their conflict over the 'battle of the gauges', but participation in each other's engineering schemes: Brunel aided Stephenson on the Britannia Bridge, Menai Straits, while Stephenson helped Brunel launch the Great Eastern. Proceeds to describe Stephenson's British and overseas railway enterprises (including the construction of the London and Birmingham Railway) and lists many of his titles and honours, and his 1856 Institute of Civil Engineers address in which he presented statistics illustrating the immense achievements of the railway industry. Goes on to detail Stephenson's British and overseas accomplishments as a bridge builder, notably the tubular bridge over the Menai Straits—a design that was 'utterly incomprehensible to multitudes'—and the Victoria Bridge, Montréal. Notes Stephenson's enjoyment of yachting and Charles P Smyth's use of Stephenson's yacht to take astronomical instruments to Tenerife. (595) Concludes by describing Stephenson's well-attended funeral in Westminster Abbey. The illustrations consist of a cut of Tapton House, which Stephenson occupied when he was a Member of Parliament, and portrait of Stephenson surrounded by several scenes from his life. These comprise scenes showing him as a boy learning from George Stephenson, the construction of a steam-locomotive, the laying of the London and Birmingham Railway, and his funeral service; and representations of several of his engineering accomplishments: the Royal Border Bridge over the Tweed, the Victoria Bridge, the High Level Bridge, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and the Britannia Bridge.

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