Roebling, John Augustus

SUBJECT AREA: Civil engineering
b. 12 July 1806 Muhlhausen, Prussia
d. 22 July 1869 Brooklyn, New York, USA
German/American bridge engineer and builder.
The son of Polycarp Roebling, a tobacconist, he studied mathematics at Dr Unger's Pedagogium in Erfurt and went on to the Royal Polytechnic Institute in Berlin, from which he graduated in 1826 with honours in civil engineering. He spent the next three years working for the Prussian government on the construction of roads and bridges. With his brother and a group of friends, he emigrated to the United States, sailing from Bremen on 23 May 1831 and docking in Philadelphia eleven weeks later. They bought 7,000 acres (2,800 hectares) in Butler County, western Pennsylvania, and established a village, at first called Germania but later known as Saxonburg. Roebling gave up trying to establish himself as a farmer and found work for the state of Pennsylvania as Assistant Engineer on the Beaver River canal and others, then surveying a railroad route across the Allegheny Mountains. During his canal work, he noted the failings of the hemp ropes that were in use at that time, and recalled having read of wire ropes in a German journal; he built a rope-walk at his Saxonburg farm, bought a supply of iron wire and trained local labour in the method of wire twisting.
At this time, many canals crossed rivers by means of aqueducts. In 1844, the Pennsylvania Canal aqueduct across the Allegheny River was due to be renewed, having become unsafe. Roebling made proposals which were accepted by the canal company: seven wooden spans of 162 ft (49 m) each were supported on either side by a 7 in. (18 cm) diameter cable, Roebling himself having to devise all the machinery required for the erection. He subsequently built four more suspension aqueducts, one of which was converted to a toll bridge and was still in use a century later.
In 1849 he moved to Trenton, New Jersey, where he set up a new wire rope plant. In 1851 he started the construction (completed in 1855) of an 821 ft (250 m) long suspension railroad bridge across the Niagara River, 245 ft (75 m) above the rapids; each cable consisted of 3,640 wrought iron wires. A lower deck carried road traffic. He also constructed a bridge across the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Covington, a task which was much protracted due to the Civil War; this bridge was finally completed in 1866.
Roebling's crowning achievement was to have been the design and construction of the bridge over the Hudson River between Brooklyn and Staten Island, New York, but he did not live to see its completion. It had a span of 1,595 ft (486 m), designed to bear a load of 18,700 tons (19,000 tonnes) with a headroom of 135 ft (41 m). The work of building had barely started when, at the Brooklyn wharf, a boat crushed Roebling's foot against the timbering and he died of tetanus three weeks later. His son, Washington Augustus Roebling, then took charge of this great work.
Further Reading
D.B.Steinman and S.R.Watson, 1941, Bridges and their Builders, New York: Dover Books.
D.McCullough, 1982, The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge, New York: Simon \& Schuster.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Roebling,John Augustus — Roeb·ling (rōʹblĭng), John Augustus. 1806 1869. German born American engineer who designed and began the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, a project completed (1883) by his son Washington Augustus Roebling (1837 1926). * * * …   Universalium

  • Roebling, John Augustus — born , June 12, 1806, Mühlhausen, Prussia died July 22, 1869, Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., U.S. German U.S. civil engineer, a pioneer in the design of suspension bridges. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1831. His best known work is New York s Brooklyn… …   Universalium

  • ROEBLING, John Augustus — (1806 1869) and Washington Augustus ROEBLING (1837 1926)    See STEEL …   Historical Dictionary of Architecture

  • Roebling, John Augustus — (12 jun. 1806, Mühlhausen, Prusia–22 jul. 1869, Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., EE.UU.). Ingeniero civil alemán estadounidense, un pionero en el diseño de puentes colgantes. Emigró a EE.UU. en 1831. Su obra más conocida es el puente de Brooklyn de Nueva… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Roebling, John Augustus —  (1806–1869) American engineer, designer of Brooklyn Bridge …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • ROEBLING, Washington Augustus —    See ROEBLING, John Augustus …   Historical Dictionary of Architecture

  • Roebling, Washington Augustus — SUBJECT AREA: Civil engineering [br] b. 26 May 1837 Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, USA d. 21 July 1926 Trenton, New Jersey, USA. [br] American civil engineer. [br] The son of John Augustus Roebling, he graduated in 1857 from the Rensselaer Polytechnic… …   Biographical history of technology

  • Roebling, Washington Augustus — ▪ American engineer born May 26, 1837, Saxonburg, Pa., U.S. died July 21, 1926, Trenton, N.J.  U.S. civil engineer under whose direction the Brooklyn Bridge, New York City, was completed in 1883; the bridge was designed by Roebling with his… …   Universalium

  • John Augustus Roebling — Este artículo o sección necesita referencias que aparezcan en una publicación acreditada, como revistas especializadas, monografías, prensa diaria o páginas de Internet fidedignas. Puedes añadirlas así o avisar …   Wikipedia Español

  • John Augustus Roebling — vers 1847–1848. John Augustus Roebling (né Johann August Röbling le 12 juin 1806 à Mühlhausen, Allemagne mort le 22 juillet 1869 à New York, États Unis) était un ingénieur civil né allemand, connu pour ses ponts suspendus à des câbles d acier …   Wikipédia en Français

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