John Roebling – Master Engineer
John Roebling, considered one of America’s foremost engineers of suspension bridge construction, was born in Muhlhausen, Thuringia on June 12, 1806. Interested in engineering from an early age, Roebling graduated from the Royal Polytechnic Institute of Berlin in 1826. By 1831, he and his brother immigrated to Pennsylvania to farm.
John Roebling in America
Shortly after arriving in America, John Roebling began work as a state engineer, surveying and supervising the construction of canals, locks and dams. In 1841, he invented the twisted wire-rope cable which could support long spans and heavy loads. This cable was the forerunner of the cable supports used on suspension bridges. In 1848, he purchased a three acre tract of land in Trenton, New Jersey and opened a wire rope factory.
Roebling’s greatest accomplishment is considered to be the design of the Brooklyn Bridge, which spans the East River to connect Manhattan with Brooklyn. At the time, the bridge, with a span of 1595 feet, was the longest suspension bridge in the world. The bridge took 14 years to build, and on its completion, it was paid for by a three-cent toll levied on anyone using the bridge.
Sadly, Roebling died in 1869, from tetanus he contracted in an accident on the bridge pilings.