From Brunel to Wallace & Gromit: the public image of the British engineer
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From Brunel to Wallace & Gromit: the public image of the British engineer

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The Structural Engineer
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2006 is a year of many anniversaries. The 200th birthday of Isambard Kingdom Brunel was on 9 April. As Chairman of the Royal Mint Advisory Committee, in 2005 I helped to steer the discussion about two commemorative ‘Brunel’ coins – bi-metal £2 coins – which will soon be released into general circulation. One is a portrait design, the other celebrates Brunel’s engineering achievements. The design by artist Rod Kelly includes a version of the famous photo of Brunel standing in front of the huge anchor chains of the ‘Great Eastern’ in 1857, the one in which he’s wearing a stove-pipe hat and a snugly-cut frock coat over his muddy trousers and shoes, a watch-chain and mutton-chop whiskers.

Behind him, in the design, is the Royal Albert Bridge crossing the Tamar at Saltash. There was discussion at the Committee – I’m glad to say very brief – about whether Brunel’s cigar should be censored, but we agreed that Brunel without his cigar would be like... Box without the tunnel or Ove without Arup or Maitland without Major.

Professor Sir Christopher Frayling, PhD
Rector and Vice-Provost, Royal College of Art

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The Institution of Structural Engineers

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Issue 13

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