Isambard Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806 - 1859)

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Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Born in Portsea, Hampshire, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married in Kensington, London, Englandmap
Descendants descendants
Died in Westminster, London, Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 25 Apr 2012
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Categories: Engineers | Great Western Railway | Kensal Green Cemetery, Kensington, London | Portsmouth, Hampshire | Notables.

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Isambard Brunel is Notable.

Brunel's given name is an amalgamation of his parents' names. Isambard comes from Marc Isambard Brunel, his French-born father's middle name, which was also his father's preferred given name. "Isambard" is a Norman name of Germanic origin, meaning "iron-bright". A cognate name is the German surname "Eisenbarth", which can still be found today among Bavarians and German-Americans. His middle name Kingdom is his mother's surname

The son of French civil engineer Sir Marc Isambard Brunel and an English mother Sophia Kingdom, Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born on 9 April 1806 in Britain Street, Portsea, Portsmouth, Hampshire, where his father was working on block-making machinery. He had two older sisters, Sophia (oldest child, Sophia) and Emma, and the whole family moved to London in 1808 for his father's work. Brunel had a happy childhood, despite the family's constant money worries, with his father acting as his teacher during his early years. His father taught him drawing and observational techniques from the age of four and Brunel had learned Euclidean geometry by eight. During this time he also learned fluent French and the basic principles of engineering. He was encouraged to draw interesting buildings and identify any faults in their structure.

When Brunel was eight he was sent to Dr Morrell's boarding school in Hove, where he learned the classics. His father, a Frenchman by birth, was determined that Brunel should have access to the high-quality education he had enjoyed in his youth in France; accordingly, at the age of 14, the younger Brunel was enrolled first at the University of Caen Normandy, then at Lycée Henri-IV in Paris.

When Brunel was 15, his father Marc, who had accumulated debts of over £5,000, was sent to a debtors' prison. After three months went by with no prospect of release, Marc let it be known that he was considering an offer from the Tsar of Russia. In August 1821, facing the prospect of losing a prominent engineer, the government relented and issued Marc £5,000 to clear his debts in exchange for his promise to remain in Britain.

When Brunel completed his studies at Henri-IV in 1822, his father had him presented as a candidate at the renowned engineering school École Polytechnique, but as a foreigner he was deemed ineligible for entry. Brunel subsequently studied under the prominent master clockmaker and horologist Abraham-Louis Breguet, who praised Brunel's potential in letters to his father. In late 1822, having completed his apprenticeship, Brunel returned to England.

In 1830, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

On 5 July 1836, Brunel married Mary Elizabeth Horsley (b. 1813), who came from an accomplished musical and artistic family, being the eldest daughter of composer and organist William Horsley. They established a home at Duke Street, Westminster, in London.

In 1843, while performing a conjuring trick for the amusement of his children, Brunel accidentally inhaled a half-sovereign coin, which became lodged in his windpipe. A special pair of forceps failed to remove it, as did a machine devised by Brunel to shake it loose. At the suggestion of his father, Brunel was strapped to a board and turned upside-down, and the coin was jerked free. He recuperated at Teignmouth, and enjoyed the area so much that he purchased an estate at Watcombe in Torquay, Devon. Here he commissioned William Burn to design Brunel Manor and its gardens to be his country home. He never saw the house or gardens finished, as he died before it was completed.

Brunel, a heavy smoker, who had been diagnosed with Bright's disease (nephritis), suffered a stroke in September 1859, just before the Great Eastern made her first voyage to New York. He died ten days later at the age of 53 and was buried, like his father, in Kensal Green Cemetery in London.[1]

He left behind his wife Mary and three children: Isambard Brunel Junior (1837–1902), Henry Marc Brunel (1842–1903) and Florence Mary Brunel (1847–1876). Henry Marc followed his father and grandfather in becoming a successful civil engineer

Date: 1 NOV 1806
Place: St Marys, Portsea, Hampshire, England[2]
Date: 1851
Place: Westminster, London, England
Age: 44y[3]
1st Marriage:
Date: 1 NOV 1799
Place: Holborn, London, England[4]
Husband: Marc Isambard Brunel
Wife: Sophia Kingdom
Child: Sophia McNamara Brunel
Child: Emma Brunel
Child: [[Brunel-8|Isambard Kingdom Brunel]
2nd Marriage:
Date: 5 JUL 1836
Place: Kensington, London, England[5]
Husband: Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Wife: Mary Elizabeth Horsley
Child: Isambard Brunel
Child: Henry Marc Brunel
Child: Florence Mary Brunel
Place: Kensal Green Cemetery, London, England


  1. London, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-2003, Burials 1859 in All Souls Cemetery, P149, No.31690; London, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-2003, Original data: Board of Guardian Records, 1834-1906 and Church of England Parish Registers, 1813-2003. London Metropolitan Archives, London, Reference Number: DL/T/041/027; Name: Isambard Kingdom Brunel Age: 53 Record Type: Burial Birth Date: abt 1806 Death Date: abt 1859 Burial Date: 20 Sep 1859 Burial Place: All Souls, Kensal Green, Kensington and Chelsea, England Register Type: Bishop's Transcript (Accessed 26 April 2018)
  2. Source: #S1 Page: Hampshire Baptisms Data: Date: MAY 2012 Text: Day:1Month:NovYear:1806Son/Daughter:SonForename:Isambard KingdomSurname:BrunelFirst Parent:Marc Isambard Second Parent:SophiaNotes:bn 9 AugParish:Portsea St MaryCounty:HampshireRecord source:Hampshire Baptisms Data provider:Hampshire Genealogical Society Quality or Certainty of Data: 3
  3. Source: #S1 Page: English 1851 Census Data: Date: MAY 2012 Text: 1851 English Census Piece: 1480, Folio: 154, Page: 21, Registration District: Westminster Civil Parish: Saint Margarets, Municipal Borough: Westminster Address: 17an, Duke Street, Saint Margarets, Westminster, County: Middlesex BRUNEL, Isambard Head Married M 44 1807 Civil Engineer Portsmouth, Hampshire BRUNEL, Mary Elizabeth Wife Married F 37 1814 Hemington, Surrey BRUNEL, Lady Sophia Mother Widow F 76 1775 Lady Westminster, Middlesex BRUNEL, Isambard Son M 13 1838 Scholar At Home Westminster, Middlesex BRUNEL, Henry Mark Son M 8 1843 Scholar At Home Westminster, Middlesex BRUNEL, Florence Mary Daughter F 3 1848 Scholar At Home Westminster, Middlesex CANNOW, Mary Louisa Governess Un F 31 1820 Teacher Newspyme, Elgin, Scotland LAWSON, William Servant Unmarried M 26 1825 Butler Aldgate, Middlesex BATE, Penelope Servant Unmarried F 19 1832 Kitchen Maid Tavistock, Beerferris BATE, Mary Ann Servant Unmarried F 21 1830 Ladys Maid Tavistock, Beerferris ATKINSON, Mary Servant Married F 43 1808 Nurse Wicklow LEGG, Elizabeth Servant Unmarried F 44 1807 Nurse Bristol, Gloucestershire DAY, Elizabeth Farrell Servant Un F 23 1828 Housemaid Arundel, Sussex HONETON, Belinda Servant Un F 29 1822 Housemaid Mundford, Norfolk VARNON, Jane Servant Unmarried F 29 1822 Housemaid Stockbridge, Hampshire DEAN, Ellen Servant Unmarried F 46 1805 House Keeper Easthampstead, Berkshire ABREACHAN, Maria Servant Un F 35 1816 Cook Shefford, Essex Quality or Certainty of Data: 3
  4. Source: #S1 Page: Society of Genealogists Data: Date: MAY 2012 Text: Date of Marriage:1799Groom's Title:Groom's Surname:BrunelGroom's Firstname:Marc IsambardGroom's Suffix/Occupation:/Groom's Age:Groom's Status:BachelorGroom's Parish:St Andrew, HolbornGroom's County:LondonParish as in Register:St Andrew, HolbornCounty as in Register:LondonGroom's Sign:YesBride's Title:Bride's Surname:KingdomBride's Firstname:SophiaBride's Age:Bride's Status:SpinsterBride's Parish:St Andrew, HolbornBride's County:LondonParish as in Register:St Andrew, HolbornCounty as in Register:LondonBride's Sign:YesHow Married:LicenceDate of Marriage:1 NOV 1799Married by Surname:PriceMarried by Firstname:J1st Witness Surname:Kingdom1st Witness Firstname:2nd Witness Suname:B...on2nd Witness Firstname:Record source:St Andrew's Holborn Marriage Index 1754 -1812 Quality or Certainty of Data: 3
  5. Source: #S1 Page: West Middlesex Marriage Index Data: Date: MAY 2012 Text: Day:5Month:JulYear:1836Groom Forenames:Isambard KingdomGroom Surname:BRUNELBride Forenames:Mary ElizabethBride Surname:HORSLEYPlace:KensingtonCounty:MiddlesexCountry:England Quality or Certainty of Data: 3

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No known carriers of Isambard's Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA have taken yDNA or mtDNA tests and no close relatives have taken a 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or Family Tree DNA "Family Finder" test.

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Images: 5
Isambard Kingdom Brunel Image 1
Isambard Kingdom Brunel Image 1

Brunel Family Plot Headstone
Brunel Family Plot Headstone

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