John Augustus Roebling - Encyclopedia


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JOHN AUGUSTUS ROEBLING (1806-1869), American civil engineer, was born at Miihlhausen, Prussia, on the 6th of June 1806. Soon after his graduation from the polytechnic school at Berlin he removed to the United States, and in 1831 entered on the practice of his profession in western Pennsylvania. He established at Pittsburg a manufactory of wire-rope, and in May 1845 completed his first important structure, a suspended aqueduct across the Allegheny river. This was followed by the Monongahela suspension bridge at Pittsburg and several suspended aqueducts on the Delaware & Hudson Canal. Removing his wire manufactory to Trenton, New Jersey, he began, in 1851, the erection at Niagara Falls of a long span wire suspension bridge with double roadway, for railway and carriage use (see Bridge), which was completed in 1855. Owing to the novelty of its design, the most eminent engineers regarded this bridge as foredoomed to failure; but, with its complete success, demonstrated by long use, the number of suspension bridges rapidly multiplied, the use of wire-ropes instead of chain-cables becoming all but universal. The completion, in 1867, of the still more remarkable suspension bridge over the Ohio river at Cincinnati, with a clear span of 1057 ft., added to Roebling's reputation, and his design for the great bridge spanning the East river between New York and Brooklyn was accepted. While personally engaged in laying out the towers for the bridge, Roebling received an accidental injury, which resulted in his death, at Brooklyn, from tetanus, on the 22nd of July 1869. The bridge was completed under the direction of his son, Washington Augustus Roebling (b. 1837), who introduced several modifications in the original plans.

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