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Written by the English author of two previous biographies, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and The , this joint biography of George Stephenson, chief inventor of the steam locomotive, and his son Robert is also a comprehensive history of English railways in the first half of the 19th century. The son of a coal miner, George Stephenson, born in 1781 in a grim Northumberland mining village, worked as a boy as a mine engineer. Unable to read and write until he was 18 but a brilliant mechanical genius, he worked on internal combustion engines, designed a successful safety lamp, and dreamed of transporting coal by rail and steam engines instead of in horse--drawn wagons. Helped by men he later discarded and using his son Robert as his tool, he designed workable locomotives, among them the famous Tocket and planned and built the first successful British railway, the Stockton & Darlington line, opened with tremendous acclaim in 1824. Robert Stephenson, born in 1805, complemented his father; equally brilliant but lacking his father's pride and jealousy, he built and financed railways himself and designed bridges, one of them the famous bridge across the Menai Straits; together the Stephensons grew rich and famous out of railways and were responsible for making then ""a practical means of long-distance transport"". Well written and carefully documented but too technical for the average reader this book is one for men rather than women, will appeal to railway engineers and buffs with a knowledge of English geography; it should find a place in collections of early 19th-century English history and in technical libraries.

Publisher: St. Martin's Press