On this date in 1843, the Great Britain was launched.
Designed and built by I.K. Brunel, it was another of Brunel’s breakthroughs in transatlantic shipping – it was the first ship to combine an iron hull and screw propellers, and it was a 100 feet longer and a thousand tons larger than any ship previously built.
And that is the way Brunel did things, bigger, taller, longer. He pretty much got Britain moving in the first half of the nineteenth century – railroads, bridges, ships, tunnels, he did it all.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, son of a French engineer and his English wife, studied in France, then returned to follow in his father’s footsteps. He engineered the route of the Great Western Railway from Bristol to its terminus in London, and he designed the terminal – Paddington Station.
Brunel is not well known in the U.S., but Britons encounter his work on a daily basis. So when the BBC asked the public to vote for the ‘100 Greatest Britons’ in 2002, Brunel came in second. Winston Churchill was first.
When the SS Great Britain was retired in 1881 after carrying thousands of immigrants to Australia, it wound up in the Falklands as a coal hulk and quarantine ship. It was finally scuttled in 1937, but in 1970 it was brought back to England for repairs. Now in dry dock at Bristol, it serves honorably as a museum ship, open to visitors year round.
Lynn Rippelmeyer landed at Gatwick Airport in the early hours of July 19, 1984, the first woman to pilot a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet and the first woman to serve as a Jumbo Jet captain on a transatlantic crossing. She had begun her career as a TWA flight attendant twelve years earlier.
Not coincidentally, it was also the same day Geraldine Ferraro accepted the Democratic nomination for vice-president. That was a good year.