“Few professional men have attained such well-deserved celebrity as Robert Stephenson, and his works will remain to attest his well-earned reputation” – a fine sentence taken from his 1860 obituary in The Engineer remembering the works of a man who has been described as ‘The Greatest Engineer of the 19th Century’.
In addition for being the first inventor and constructor of tubular plate-iron bridges, he was a great pioneer of locomotion design, and has gone down in railway construction history as a mechanical genius with his father George Stephenson (also known fondly as the ‘Father of the Railway System), with his contributions to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway and London and Birmingham Railway amongst many others. Together they founded ‘Robert Stephenson and Co’ the first company set up specifically to build railway engines, where many early locomotives such as the famous ‘Rocket’ improved the outlook of locomotion production forever.
During his lifetime, he was a member of Parliament for Whitby, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a Chief Engineer for many endeavours, and a great traveller for his works, admired globally for his generous and kind personality as well as his successful projects and innovations.
Influencing countries from Belgium and Denmark to Canada and Egypt, his talents were felt worldwide, and many will probably remember his works through his important influence on bridge design and construction from the High Level Bridge at Newcastle-upon-Tyne to the Victoria Tubular Bridge over the St. Lawrence River at Montreal. Being a rival of Isambard Kingdom Brunel didn’t stop a friendship with him and they often helped one another at work.
His death was deeply mourned throughout the country and he was rightfully granted a resting place at Westminster Abbey. He left behind a legacy of engineering achievements and should always be remembered for his well-earned reputation both privately and professionally.
The 12th October 2014 signifies the 155th anniversary of his death.