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Brunel, Sir Marc Isambard

Brunel, Sir Marc Isambard, engineer, was born near Rouen in 1769. Early exhibiting an aptitude for mechanics, he in 1786 entered the French navy. During the time of the revolution he found it necessary to flee for safety to the United States, and there, in 1794, his engineering career began in connection with the canal leading from Lake Champlain to the Hudson at Albany. In 1799, coming to England, he was employed by the British Government in making block-pulleys for ships by machinery, according to plans of his own, instead of, as formerly, by hand. His machinery for this purpose - which was completed in 1806, and which on the first year's work saved about 24,000 - is still used; and as a reward for his invention he received from Government 17,000. Besides being employed upon works of public utility, he also invented machines for making shoes without seams, wooden boxes, nails, and other minor ingenuities. His leading achievement, however, was the Thames Tunnel, an undertaking twice previously attempted. This was begun in 1825, and completed in 1843. Amongst honours that befel Brunel were his appointment as fellow of the Royal Society in 1814, and as vice-president in 1832, and a knighthood in 1841; he also belonged to various foreign societies. He died in 1849.