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Brooklyn Bridge – Dale’s Daily Data

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When it opened in 1883 it was called a marvel of engineering.  The Brooklyn Bridge across the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn in New York City was one of the world’s first suspension bridges.  And over the years millions of people have used it in cars, trains or just walking across it.

Washington Roebling was the chief engineer and it was destined to be the biggest achievement of his career.  But he never got a chance to finish the job.  He barely got it started.   When they were setting the foundation of the bridge, 78 feet underwater, Roebling got decompression sickness – coming up to the surface too quickly. 
They didn’t know much about it then.  But it left him paralyzed, partly blind, deaf and unable to talk.  He couldn’t continue and because the job was so massive and so unique there was nobody willing to take on the job.  Except for one.  And this was somebody who knew almost nothing about construction or engineering.  And really wasn’t very good at geometry or other math.  But this one person was a big fan of Roebling’s work and committed to getting the job done.   Even if it meant learning higher math and engineering on the fly.     

 

It meant learning some of the most complicated construction methods ever attempted up to that point all the while kind of learning from Roebling himself.  And if it wasn’t for this one person willing to take on the job we might not have the Brooklyn Bridge today. 

Many of the assistant engineers and contractors depended on this person’s advice and was considered by many as the project’s Chief engineer.  Turns out it was a woman who got the job done.  The woman was Roebling’s very intelligent, talented and dedicated wife Emily. 

And if you look at the plaque dedicating the bridge – you’ll find her name recognizing her role in creating one of the era’s great engineering achievements.

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