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06-12   Print  E-mail
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On June 12, 1806, John A. Roebling, civil engineer and designer of the Brooklyn Bridge, was born in Muehlhausen, Prussia. The Brooklyn Bridge, Roebling's greatest achievement, spans the East River to connect Manhattan with Brooklyn. For nearly a decade after its completion, the bridge, with a main span of 1595 feet, was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Steel wire cable, invented and manufactured by Roebling, made the structure possible. In 1869, Roebling died from tetanus he had contracted in an accident on the bridge pilings. From 1870 on, Roebling's son and partner, Washington A. Roebling, supervised construction. A series of mishaps, including an explosion, fire, and contractor fraud hampered completion of the project.

Pneumatic caissons sunk to a depth of forty-four feet on the Brooklyn side, and seventy-eight feet on the Manhattan side provided dry space for workers to dig footings for the bridge's foundation. Alas, working in the caisson often brought on "the bends" -- a serious medical condition caused by moving too quickly from a high-pressure atmosphere to a low-pressure atmosphere. Washington Roebling was among many workers permanently impaired by the then little understood "caisson disease."


 

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