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Thomas Telford (1757-1834) was born in 1757 in Eskdale, a remote Scottish valley close to the England border. He was raised by his mother as his father, a shepherd, died when he was a few months old. He left school at age 12 to work for a local stonemason. At age 25 he moved to London. He then spent the rest of his life building roads, bridges and canals. He was the designer and builder of much of the Industrial Revolution’s infrastructure. He built the Caledonian canal and the Ponteysyllte canal. The Swedish government hired him to plan the Gota Canal in 1810. At that time, it was Sweden’s largest civil engineering project. In Scotland, he built 1000 new bridges, 1200 miles of roads, 40 new or improved fishing ports and three dozen churches. He built the iron bridge over the Sprey and the Menai suspension bridge in Bangor, North Wales. On his death, he was the first engineer to be buried in Westminster Abby.
The book is well written and meticulously researched. Glover was able to show the genius of the man without turning it into a hagiographic biography. Glover showed Telford’s strengths and weakness. Glover sailed across Telford’s aqueducts, crossed his bridges, walked his towpaths and sailed his canals. The book is easily readable and absorbing. Glover wrote in such a way that brings Telford to life almost like a fictional novel. Glover was a speech writer for Prime Minister Cameron. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and learned a lot about how industries change over time. At the end of Telford’s life, all his work was becoming obsolete as the railroad was becoming the major method of transportation for industry rather than canals and horse drawn wagons. If he had lived, he would have needed to learn to build railways.
Daniel Philpott does a good job narrating the book. Philpott is a British actor and audiobook narrator.
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