The History of the Brooklyn Bridge

A few moments ago, I wanted to do some leisure researching on Google and read/learn about successful people, their qualities, mindsets, and how they behaved. So I typed in something along the lines of “how do successful people behave” on Google and came across a Quora post. The question posted was “What are some characteristics of successful people?” The top answer was pretty inspiring, and it was a lesson on the story of how the Brooklyn Bridge was made and the people behind the one-thought-impossible feat. Please take a read:

They don’t give a fuck to unfuckworthy things in life.

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time there was a 60-year-old engineer who conceptualized a bridge connecting New York with Long Island. However, expert architects throughout the world contemplated that this was an impossible feat and told him to forget the idea. It just could not be done. It was not practical. It had never been done before.

But the engineer could not ignore the vision he had in his mind of the bridge. He knew deep in his heart that it could be done. With the headiness of a wild challenge before him, he started on his dream bridge. The project started well, though, two years later, while standing at the edge of a dock at the construction site, his foot was crushed by an arriving ferry. His injured toes were amputated. His condition deteriorated and he died of tetanus soon after.

His son, aged 32 at that time, had recently got involved in this project as a chief engineer. He had designed two large pneumatic caissons (watertight chambers in which construction work is carried out under water) that became the foundations for the two towers. As fate would have it, a year later, fire broke out in one of the caissons. From within the caisson, he directed the efforts to extinguish the flames. Working in the compressed air in the caisson caused him to get decompression sickness, shattering his health and rendering him bed-ridden. He was now unable to physically supervise the construction firsthand.

His wife took it upon herself to learn bridge construction and see it off to finish. She became his nurse, companion, confidant and took over much of the chief engineer’s duties including day-to-day supervision and project management. She studied higher mathematics, the calculations of catenary curves, the strengths of materials, bridge specifications, and the intricacies of cable construction. She lobbied for formal retention of her husband as chief engineer, when his termination seemed inevitable after the tragic incident, and succeeded at it.

He carried on the construction from his apartment with a view of the bridge for next 11 years, aided by his wife, who served as a critical link between the architect husband and engineers on the site.

The bridge was Brooklyn Bridge. The civil engineer was John Roebling. His son was Washington Roebling, whose wife was Emily Roebling.

John, Washington and Emily Roebling

“Nowhere in the history of great undertakings is there anything comparable to Roebling conducting the largest and most difficult engineering project ever “in absentia.”

~ David McCullough, author, The Great Bridge

All three of them harness characteristics of successful people.

Successful people don’t give a fuck to what others think of them.

Had the Roebling Sr. took a rest from believing in his vision and cared about what others are saying, he would never have been written in history. Neither had he created history.

Successful people don’t give a fuck to what is over and can’t be changed.

Had the son spent endless time wailing over the death of his father, he would had got himself immobilized, unable to act. He couldn’t have put in the effort which established him as an authority in a short span of two years, so much so to allow an incapacitated person work from home, in those days.

Successful people don’t give a fuck to fear of unknown.

Had Emily Roebling feared the unknown, she would have never stepped on that construction site. Rather she welcomed the unknown, and learnt so many things at once that one could only hope for. She became a civil engineer, a lobbyist, a nurse, and a project coordinator all at once.

Successful people don’t give a fuck to the conventional practices.

John Roebling designed Brooklyn bridge as a wire rope suspension bridge at a time when they were not common. Had he gone by the conventional practices, he wouldn’t have created the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time it was finished.

Successful people don’t give a fuck to failures.

Had the wife went into emotional trauma over his husband’s paralysis and the fact that he won’t be able to stand on his feet ever, she would have never gathered the courage to finish what he started.

She didn’t keep lamenting. Neither did she waste time hoping the past was otherwise, “Why didn’t you leave the caisson when the fire broke?” She only acted to make her present better- so her husband can retain his job, and she can supervise his dreams all the way to the end.