BILL BROWN, perhaps the most inspirational bridge engineer of the last half century, died last week at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital aged 76.
His last regret was that he did not see the Messina Straits Bridge built, according to his wife Celia. Known on this project as the 'father of the bridge', he was thinking and sketching ideas right up to the end.
Dr William Christopher Brown was principal designer for many of the world's greatest long-span bridges and he significantly advanced solutions to aerodynamic torsion in bridge decks.
His achievements included the Forth Road Bridge in 1964, the Severn and Wye crossings in 1966, Auckland Harbour Bridge in 1969, Erskine in 1971, Bosporus One in 1973, the Humber in 1981 and Bosporus Two in 1988.
His latest success was cable spinning for the Storebaelt crossing in Denmark, the world's second longest suspension bridge. Using his new 'controlled tension' method, 20,000 tonnes of steel wire were spun in three months.
Born in South Wales in 1928, Brown studied engineering at University College, Southampton, and Imperial College, where he was made a fellow in 1987. His busiest years in practice were with Freeman Fox & Partners where he was a partner from 1970 to 1985.
Then came Brown, Beech & Associates, with an office off Kensington High Street and his pet wind tunnel, an arrangement that straddled two rooms and gave accurate results more cheaply and quickly than established research tunnels.
For many years he crisscrossed the globe, in demand wherever clients wanted long bridges. He wrote many papers and gained numerous awards including an OBE in 1966 and the first McRobert Award presented by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1970. He was master of the RSA's Royal Designers for Industry from 1983 to 1985 and only last year he was awarded the John A Roebling Medal for lifetime achievement in bridge engineering.
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