John Augustus Roebling

Roebling, John Augustus (rōˈblĭng) [key], 1806–69, German-American engineer, b. Mulhouse. He studied engineering in Berlin and in 1831 came to the United States. He demonstrated the practicability of steel cable and established a plant for manufacturing it at Trenton, N.J. A pioneer in the building of suspension bridges, he built the Allegheny Suspension Bridge (completed 1845) at Pittsburgh, the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge (completed 1855), and the Cincinnati and Covington Bridge over the Ohio (completed 1867). His most ambitious project was the Brooklyn Bridge. It was scarcely begun when Roebling, directing operations, was injured in an accident and died a few days later.

His son Washington Augustus Roebling, 1837–1926, b. Saxonburg, Pa., grad. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1857, had aided his father in building the Allegheny Suspension Bridge. During the Civil War he joined the Union army as a private, was transferred to Irvin McDowell's engineering staff, and rose to the rank of colonel. He went to Europe to study engineering and especially pneumatic caissons. After his father's death he directed the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. Because of continuous underground work he was stricken (1872) with decompression sickness (caisson disease), but despite his invalidism he directed the project until the bridge was opened to traffic (1883). In 1888 he took over the management of the Roebling plant in Trenton.

See biography by H. Schuyler (1931); D. B. Steinman, The Builders of the Bridge (1945).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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