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Isambard Kingdom Brunel

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Isambard Kingdom Brunel

by Daniel John Pound, after a photograph by John Jabez Edwin Mayall
engraving, published 1859
11 1/4 in. x 8 1/8 in. (287 mm x 207 mm) paper size
Given by Henry Witte Martin, 1861
Reference Collection
NPG D1126

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  • Cooper, John, Great Britons: The Great Debate, 2002, p. 104 Read entry

    Both this engraving and the painting of Brunel (NPG 979) are unfamiliar representations. They were commissioned when Brunel was at the height of his engineering fame (the painting is by his brother-in-law John Callcott Horsley), but there are few signs of his power, profession or character. Brunel is reported to have been a workaholic who would readily work an eighteen-hour day and sleep in his office. His honeymoon allegedly consisted of three days in Capel Curig in North Wales and included a visit to the Liverpool-Manchester railway.

Events of 1859back to top

Current affairs

Formation of the first Liberal cabinet, following the dissolution of Parliament in light of the Liberal and opposition member Lord Russell's introduction of a resolution arguing for widening the franchise, carried because the Conservatives, the ruling party, only have a minority. Palmerston holds a meeting of Whigs, Peelites and Radicals, from which the Liberal Party is formed, and the Queen later invites him to become Prime Minister.

Art and science

Charles Darwin's The Origin of the Species is published, in which he sets out his theory of evolution based on the process of natural selection, species mutation, and survival of the fittest.
The engineer Joseph Bazalgette begins work on constructing the London sewerage system, following the 'Big Stink' of the preceding summer. Bazalgette's system, now extended, continues to serve London.

International

Outbreak of war between an alliance of France and Italian nationalists, and Austria. Napoleon III signs an armistice with Austria. However, pressure from Britain, supporting Italian unification to counterweight French and Austrian influence, leads to success for Italian nationalists.
The first oil well is drilled in America, after Edwin Drake's discovery in Titusville, Pennsylvania, transforming a quiet farming region into Oil Creek.

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