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RICS 150

9 JUL 2018

John A. Roebling: Designing Brooklyn Bridge

John Roebling was a German-born American surveyor and civil engineer, who is best known for his role in the design and construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.

In 1824 Roebling graduated as a surveyor from Bauakademie University in Berlin, before training further in architecture and engineering, specialising in suspension bridge design. In 1831, John left Prussia and migrated to the United States, which was in the middle of an economic boom. For a number of years John conducted surveys for railway lines across the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania.

In 1844 Roebling won a bid to replace a wooden canal aqueduct across the Allegheny River. His design was something of an innovation, encompassing seven 50m spans, each consisting of wood trunks supported by continuous cable. The success of the project led to the build of his first suspension bridge over the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh.

John would go on to oversee the construction of another four suspension aqueducts, five suspension bridges and a railroad bridge connecting New York Central and Great Western Railway in Canada, over the Niagara River.

John’s most notable work was the Brooklyn Bridge, which spans the East River in New York. The hybrid cable-stayed suspension bridge is a neo-Gothic design, took 14 years to complete and is one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States. It was the first steel-wire suspension bridge constructed and was considered a symbol of optimism and 19th century entrepreneurialism.

Unfortunately John died two years into the work, however his son Washington Roebling, carried on the construction until its completion in 1883.

The bridge which connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, has become a New York icon, was made a National Historic Landmark in 1964, and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972.