Marc Isambard Brunel

Marc Isambard Brunel was Isambard Kingdom’s father.  He was born in France and served as a naval cadet, during which service he built a quadrant for himself.

During his stay in Rouen, Brunel had met Sophia Kingdom, a young Englishwoman who was an orphan and was working as a governess. Unfortunately he was forced to leave her behind when he fled to Le Havre [because of the French Revolution] and boarded the American ship Liberty, bound for New York…

…Sophia Kingdom remained in Rouen and during the Reign of Terror, she was arrested as an English spy and daily expected to be executed.

Meanwhile, in New York, Marc was sick with worry:

In 1798, during a dinner conversation, Brunel learnt of the difficulties that the Royal Navy had in obtaining the 100,000 pulley blocks that it required each year to fit out its ships. Each of these was being made by hand. Brunel quickly produced an outline design of a machine that would automate the production of pulley blocks. He decided to sail to England and put his invention before the Admiralty. He sailed for England on 7 February 1799 with a letter of introduction to the Navy Minister

Back in London, Marc was joyfully reunited with the now-freed Sophia.  They had a son, Isambard Kingdom.   Marc went to work on an idea for a tunnel under the Thames.

Marc’s helper in this project was 18 year old Isambard.

I’m stealing all this from Marc’s wikipedia page, which in turn seems to be stolen from a book called The Greater Genius? by one Harold Bagust.  Q: is that the perfect name for the biography of a father?

A good way to remember the Brunels is the lyrics of Irish traditional song “The Humours of Whiskey,” found here.

Come guess me this riddle, what beats pipe and fiddle,

What’s hotter than mustard and milder than cream?

What best wets your whistle, what’s clearer than crystal,

What’s sweeter than honey and stronger than steam?

What’ll make the lame walk, what’ll make the dumb talk,

What’s the elixir of life and philosopher’s stone?

And what helped Mr. Brunel to dig the Thames Tunnel?

Wasn’t it whiskey from old Inishowen?



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