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Timeline of Scottish History

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Thomas Telford Engineer

Thomas Telford / Engineer

  • Name  : Telford
  • Born  : 1757
  • Died  : 1834
  • Category  : Engineers
  • Finest Moment : Menai Bridge in Wales (1819-26)

Born 9 August 1757 near Westerkirk, Dumfries, the son of a shepherd. Telford was educated in the parish school, beginning his life with an education but no silver spoon. His first career was that of stonemason, and he worked in the Borders, as well as on Edinburgh's New Town. Lacking that silver spoon, he did the next best thing and acquired an influential patron, in this instance the MP William Pulteney.

One logical step up from making the building blocks of structures was making the actual structures, so Telford became a civil engineer. He superintended a large number of public works in the south of England, before being made Surveyor of Public Works for Salop in 1788. Five years later, in 1793, he put in charge of the Ellsmere Canal, as agent, architect and engineer. His design, and spectacular aqueducts at Chirk and Pont Cysylltau, sealed his reputation as a versatile and innovative civil engineer.

In 1801 the government appointed him in charge of a communications survey of Scotland. Following on from his masterful survey, and for 20 years after 1804, he constructed over 1450km (900 miles) of roads and 120 bridges in the Highlands of Scotland, in addition to which he built harbours and jetties for ferry and fishery use. As a useful aside he also built the Caledonian Canal.

In 1818 he became the first President of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He continued working to the end and died in London on 2 September 1834. Like his equally famous predecessor General Wade, he is buried in Westminster Abbey.

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