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SECRET ENGINEER by Rachel Dougherty


How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge

by Rachel Dougherty ; illustrated by Rachel Dougherty

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-250-15532-0
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Emily Warren Roebling was way ahead of her time.

As a young girl she studied math and science. She married Washington Roebling, an engineer whose father, John Roebling, was known for his innovative ideas. He designed a suspension bridge spanning the treacherous waters of the East River that would employ new technology and construction methods. When John died, Washington became the chief engineer. Working tirelessly, he went down into the dark, sweltering caissons to dig at the bottom of the river. Like many of the workers, Washington contracted “the bends,” also known as caisson disease, causing him to be incapacitated for years, only able to see the bridge from his window. For more than 10 years, Emily became his go-between, bringing daily plans to the work site and reporting progress back to her husband. She taught herself to understand and interpret equations and drawings, and she was able to answer any questions and negotiate with confidence. In 1883, to calm the public’s fears, she proudly took the first trip across the bridge. Dougherty’s lively narration of the events provides readers with an accessible, factual account of a remarkable woman’s accomplishments. Brightly colored illustrations enhance the action, presented in double-page spreads and framed vignettes, with blueprints and thumbnail informational sidebars and incorporating equations and engineering terms. The endpapers display historical and contemporary photos. All characters depicted are white.


(author’s note, glossary, additional biographical information, bibliography, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)