an Honest Appraisal of this Remarkable Man - in 3 books.
This is the first of Adrian's books about Brunel (a third is in preparation).
I have several other biographies of Brunel, all of which tend toward the hagiographic in tone. Granted he was a genius, but he was not perfect and this is well brought out by Adrian Vaughan in his story of Brunel's achievements and failures over 3 volumes.
Not afraid to be critical when it is appropriate, he in no way diminishes the man, rather, Mr. Vaughan identifies him as a human being as well as a great genius.
I received my copy of this lovely book within a few days of publication from Nigel Bird.
This is a very well written book and a joy to read simply as a biography of a fascinating man. One does not need to be a railway or engineering enthusiast to enjoy it.
Mr. Vaughan does not let his well known love of the Great Western Railway colour his view of either the man, his contemporaries or the enormous difficulties they had to overcome. Back to Top
Brunel's other works, which were at least as important as the GWR, are well covered and I learned much more about the man, his times and methods.
A thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating read, I recommend both volumes to anyone interested in learning about the times, trials and achievements of Victorian entrepreneurs generally and Brunel in particular.
The Intemperate Engineer – Isambard Kingdom Brunel in His Own Words by Adrian Vaughan. Ian Allen £19.99.
This, the third in his series on the great engineer, is well up to Adrian’s fine standards of erudition, research and plain speaking. Without diminishing the man’s genius or his triumphs, Adrian manages to make Brunel human and show us how he coped with the problems of his day.
Adrian considers that Brunel was a genius engineer at anything that did not run on wheels and deploys a great deal of well researched fact, much of it never before seen in print, to support his arguments. No hagiography this but a fascinating look into the life, work and problems faced by a man whose confidence seemed unassailable but who privately at times was far from it.
Though his broad gauge was truly a folly of huge proportion and cost the GWR’s shareholders dearly, not to mention the disaster of the atmospheric caper, his legacy to us is a rich history of an idiosyncratic railway that has no parallels in many ways.
Much of the book is verbatim quotes from the man himself by way of his letters with apposite – and often pithy – observations from Adrian.
Among the illustrations are examples of his draughtsmanship and of the instruments with which he used to draw.
Rolt wrote a deification of a man who could do no wrong. Adrian has written three books about the man as a flawed genius that tells, in fascinating detail and excellent prose, what the real man was like. The man, the railway and his ships come to life so that we may see him for what he really was.
A book that belongs on the shelves of every student of the GWR, its servants and history.