The enthralling biography of the shepherd boy who changed the world with his revolutionary engineering and whose genius we still benefit from today.
Thomas Telford may have been born into poverty but he became one of Britain’s most important engineers, changing the shape of Britain forever; the creations that resulted from his skill, ambition and obsessive hard work span its length and breadth still. For too long, his extraordinary achievements have been overlooked, and his life left unexamined. Julian Glover now brings forward the man behind the name.
There is brilliance and beauty in Thomas Telford’s work. With his revolutionary vision, Telford invented the modern road and created the backbone of our national road network, tying England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales together, resulting in his being dubbed ‘The Colussus of Roads’. His elegant bridges are the greatest of the pre-twentieth century, the Menai Bridge a wonder of its time and our own while the famous Pontcysyllte aqueduct in Wales with its dramatic and alarming exposed heights is a UNESCO world heritage site and still a huge draw for tourists. Yet Telford was no lone genius and his engineering triumphs were a physical manifestation of a new industrial and imperial power: Great Britain. It was an age of incredible ingenuity and ambition and rivalries ran high. It was a time of great energy and drama – and possibilities.
Drawing on colourful contemporary accounts and travelling by horse to understand better the journeys we undertook before Telford’s work transformed them, Julian Glover examines the stories behind Telford’s greatest achievements and explores what in that time enabled him to flourish. At once intimate and expansive, this illuminating biography brings to life that most creative of eras and places Telford both at its heart and amongst the ranks of our greatest Britons.
“A biography of great verve . . . brings back to vivid life a man who should never have been forgotten” – Andrew Marr
“Glover has done detailed research and any other author will struggle to improve on his life of Telford . . . Man of Iron is a competent, interesting book about an engineer whose star . . . deserves to shine a little brighter.” – Simon Heffer, Daily Telegraph
“An evocative biography of Britain’s greatest civil engineer . . . An evocative telling of an interesting life, an account that has lots to admire . . . Glover catches the thrill of Telford’s engineering quite beautifully.” – Guardian
“A strikingly clear portrait of the man who helped shape Britain . . . A beautifully-written biography, reading almost as a work of classic literature.” – Engineering & Technology
“Vivid, enthusiastic . . . Glover makes an enormously readable and persuasive case for Telford’s importance in our national story.” – Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times
“Astonishing and inspiring . . . Mixing effortless prose with genuine insight has produced an immersive biography that proves hard to put down . . . The story of Thomas Telford is the story of modern Britain, and never has it been so well told.” – BBC Countryfile
“Glover has sailed across Telford’s aqueducts, walked his towpaths and tracked down his most obscure Scottish bridges [and his] dedication . . . has paid off.” – Harry Mount, Spectator
“Absorbing . . . [Glover’s] clear, concise style gives the plain-speaking Telford . . . a fitting literary treatment.” – Observer
“Glover has . . . been digging in the archives with Telfordian energy to produce a readable book about an overlooked man.” – Damian Whitworth, The Times
“This is a fine biography of a man of outstanding genius.” – Who Do You Think You Are?
“An engaging new biography which celebrates the achievements of the Borders boy who invented the modern road” – Sunday Post
“[Glover] has avoided hagiography in this engaging, evocative and very readable tale” – Financial Times
“Affectionate . . . His was a classic tale of self-help straight out of Samuel Smiles, with much of the romance of a Dickens tale.” – Literary Review
“Absorbing . . . As an account of a hugely talented and ambitious architect-engineer and the times in which he lived Glover’s book would be hard to better. Drawing from a wide range of sources, he paints a vivid picture of a man who was at once massively gifted, restless, ambitious, arrogant and utterly relentless in pursuit of his projects . . . A superb biography. Lengthy but rewarding, it sets Telford in the clash, clamour, stink and roar of Britain in the Georgian era . . . Glover has done well to revive the saga of Tam Telford.” – Herald
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