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#201 Isambard Kingdom Brunel (James Dyson's hero)
August 30th, 2021 | E201

What I learned from reading Isambard Kingdom Brunel: The Definitive Biography of The Engineer, Visionary, and Great Briton by L.T.C. Rolt.


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1. His career was to him a tremendous adventure.

2. I have always made it a rule, which I have found by some years experience a safe and profitable one, to have nothing to do with newspaper articles.

3. It is consoling to be thus reminded that the lunatic fringe is a hardy perennial and not a phenomenon peculiar to our day and age.

4. The livelihood of anybody relying upon their penmanship is generally precarious.

5. One whose high spirits seemed quite impervious to cold and discomfort.

6. The ready wit and the gaiety concealed a fire and a power which would drive him, undeterred by repeated disappointments, to achieve fame and fortune.

7. The name of Isambard Brunel would not mean what it does today if he had not displayed the same characteristics of dogged persistence and an unlimited capacity for hard work which distinguish the self-taught engineers.

8. A great man achieves eminence by his capacity to live more fully and intensely than his fellows and in so doing his faults as well as his virtues become the more obvious.

9. It is not in freedom from faults but in the ability to transcend and master them that greatness lies.

10. Isambard Brunel threw into the work all that unsparing energy which was to distinguish his whole life. For as much as thirty-six hours at a time he would not leave the tunnel, pausing only for a brief cat-nap.

11. The Brunels were not men to sit down with folded hands and bewail their misfortune.

12. Spurred on by Brunel's unconquerable determination, the work went forward.

13. Iť's a gloomy perspective and yet bad as it is I cannot with all my efforts work myself up to be down hearted.

14. Never Despair has always been my motto – we may succeed yet. Persevere.

15. This time he was going to win, but it would be a great struggle.

16. He never lost faith in himself.

17. He determined then to make perfection of his work the supreme goal and from that resolve he never subsequently wavered.

18. He knew that it would be so because, as any artist or craftsman must, he had alrcady conccived the completed work in his imagination

19. For it was an inviolable rule of Brunel's that he would never, under any circumstances, accept an appointment which involved divided responsibility. In any work upon which he engaged there could be only one engineer and he must have the full responsibility for the work and for the conduct of his staff.

20. Plain, gentlemanly language seems to have no effect upon you. I must try stronger language and stronger measures. You are a cursed, lazy, inattentive, apathetic vagabond, and if you continue to neglect my instructions, and to show such infernal laziness, I shall send you about your business. I have frequently told you, amongst other absurd, untidy habits, that that of making drawings on the back of others was inconvenient; by your cursed neglect of that you have again wasted more of my time than your whole life is worth.

21. Experiment was the breath of life to Brunel and for him precedents only existed to be questioned.

22. Brunel rejected precedent and proceeded from first principles.


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