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Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  115 ratings  ·  21 reviews
The first full biography of a crucial figure in the American story--Washington Roebling, builder of the Brooklyn Bridge.

"I know that nothing can be done perfectly at the first trial; I also know that each day brings its little quota of experiences, which with honest intentions, will lead to perfection after a while." --Washington Roebling

His father conceived of the Brookly
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 27th 2017 by Bloomsbury USA
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Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book about one of the men responsible for raising Cincinnati’s Roebling bridge, completing an engineering degree at Rensselaer when that was even less fun (particularly when one is underfed) and building the Brooklyn Bridge to his father’s general design (and his own detail work and problem-solving) after the patriarch’s preferred water cure failed to improve his fatal injury.

Washington himself suffered decompression sickness while on site sinking caissons, leaving his rather brilli
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Chief Engineer is the biography of Washington Roebling, chief engineer of the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge. This book follows his life, starting with his fathers immigration to the United States, past his death, looking at his lasting legacy. Washington Roebling was abused, survived a gruesome war, and experienced a tragic lack of individuality and appreciation during his life. Though dry at times, Chief Engineer paints a vivid and fascinating picture of the life of one of the most important engine ...more
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was very impressed by this biography of a person I had never previously heard of. It was well researched and told a good story without veering into some of the more obvious traps that comes with writing popular non-fiction. I think a lot of people will want to read this book to hear about Roebling's work on the Brooklyn Bridge, but honestly I wish there was more information in there about the wire rope company. That kind of thing is fascinating to me.

I also get the impression was very empathet
Vic Lauterbach
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This fine biography captures the measure a remarkable man. His life and this book are both far more than the story of a bridge. Overshadowed by his immigrant father John A., who is also captured here, Washington's life is a study in the transformation of American. The agrarian society found by John A. when he settled in western Pennsylvania was powered by wind and water. The nation Washington knew on the eve of his death in 1926 was powered by coal and oil, electrified, interconnected by steel r ...more
Jul 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways
I won a copy of this book on goodreads in exchange for an honest review. This is a very meaty biography and it took a while to get through it. Prior to reading this I knew nothing about who build it and how it was built. I have seen it in person and its a sight to behold especially when you realize how old it is and the fact its still in use today, reinforces the idea they don't build them like they used to. It was a good book I think an one interested in the history of New Yorks Landmarks would ...more
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This wonderfully written book will bring joy to history readers! Whether you love New York City or history is general, this biography of Washington Roebling is for you. The author gives a good overview of father and son so you get an idea of their personalities. Washington's experience in the Civil War was interesting to me because his descriptions were those of a soldier, not a leader.

Of course, the Brooklyn Bridge is the star of the book, but the surprise was the active role Roebling's wife p
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Well-written and incredibly well-researched biography of a man whose contributions to the "Eighth Wonder of the World" have been unappreciated. As someone who has done extensive research in the archives myself for my own program "Bridge Builder in Petticoats" which examines the role his wife Emily Roebling played in the construction, I was particularly interested in the author's meticulous research. Kudos.
Esther Somorai
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book just kept drawing me to it. So I decided to enter to win a copy, so glad I did.

It's about so many things in Washington Roebling's life, including the relationship between him and his father. I have been greatly moved by the reading of this real life story.

Thanks to Goodreads, first-reads for this chance to win an ARC from Erica Wagner and Bloomsbury USA.
Jun 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Since reading The Great Bridge and actually getting to walk across it, I have been fascinated by the Brooklyn Bridge. This is a well written book about the man executed the completion of the amazing project. Washington Roebling overcame much to live a long, productive life
Kent Archie
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
For my tastes, there was too much about the U.S. Civil War and family issues. But on the whole, I liked the book and learned more about an impressive project.
After I finished, I wanted to know more about the Roebling wire company.
Their products and skills were involved in The Golden Gate bridge, the Wright brothers flyer, elevators
and other things.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading about these inspiring engineers who perservered through many problems and hardships. There was just no 'give up' in them. Although this book says it is about W Roebling, I founf it to be as much about the father, John Roebling. A good read especially after a quick Sophie Kinsella preceding it, ;)
Debra Belmudes
Very interesting and inspiring ... I wish the narration had been better.
Tom Deboissiere
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting view of his family and life as well as the details of building the Brooklyn Bridge
Sep 11, 2018 rated it did not like it
Very little of this book is actually about the Brooklyn Bridge. Disappointing.
May 01, 2020 added it
Short version: huh.
Long version with TL;DR, quotes, and whatnot:
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Jim Thomas
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book must be read after reading McCullough`s Great Bridge. Great life and history not covered before. ...more
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a very dense biography. Some really great info, interesting observations and a lot of information. Like i said dense. Still worth the read.
Chris Wray
Mar 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
Washington Roebling is chiefly remembered as the man who built the Brooklyn Bridge, and so it is no surprise that the bridge forms such a huge part of this biography. Indeed, the bridge forms something of a backdrop to the entire book as his father's whole career, and Washington's to that point, were (excuse the pun) building towards the design and construction of this epic feat of 19th Century engineering. The rest of Washington's long life was spent in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, and it ...more
Dec 30, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a full biography of Roebling, from his childhood days and apprenticeship under his overbearing-taskmaster father through his long retirement. In the middle, he goes off to fight in the Civil War (rising, impressively, from private to colonel) and, of course, leads most of the project of building the Brooklyn Bridge. It was an interesting, unusual life in a lot of ways: because his father's path to success was the wire-rope business—a natural adjunct to working on suspension bridges—there ...more
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Aug 10, 2017
Jeff Hollingsworth
rated it it was ok
Aug 08, 2017
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Jan 19, 2019
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Erica Wagner is an American author and critic living in London. She is former literary editor of The Times.

She is the author of several books, including a collection of short stories, Gravity, and Ariel’s Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of Birthday Letters, and the novel Seizure.

Her husband, Francis Gilbert, is author of I’m a Teacher, Get Me Out of Here!. She also reviews regularly

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