Art & History, Science, Nature and Tech

The Clifton suspension bridge: designed by a woman, built by Brunel

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Sam has worked as a forensic scientist as well as for the British government, and has degrees in both archaeology and osteoarchaeology. She has 2 children, is passionate about science, reading, history and music, and loves dyeing her hair bright colours!

Sam blogs about all kinds of science at www.samanthagouldson.com.
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One of the best known landmarks in Bristol, UK, the Clifton suspension bridge first opened in 1864. It was built by the famous British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, but it has recently become public knowledge that it was designed by a woman. Our science editor Sam Gouldson explains who she was and why her work isn’t more widely known.

Who really designed the bridge?

The Clifton suspension bridge was designed by a woman called Sarah Guppy. She was born Sarah Beach in 1770, but when she married her husband Samuel Guppy she took his name. She was one of the great British inventors of her time and the bridge isn’t the only thing she came up with.

What else did she design?

The invention that earned Sarah the most money was her device to prevent barnacles forming on the hulls of ships. Without barnacles the ships would be able to cut better through water and travel more quickly, and the Royal Navy paid her £40,000 for it. That may not sound like much for such a valuable design, but today it would be more than £2.3 million. Her other inventions included a kettle that not only boiled water for tea but could cook an egg and keep toast warm, a candle holder that could keep candles alight for longer and a way of treating boats so that they were more watertight. She also came up with the idea of planting willow and poplar trees on the embankments of new railways, to hold the earth together and prevent landslides.

Why isn’t she more famous?

Sarah lived during the Georgian and Victorian eras. In those times married women weren’t allowed to own property in their own name, and intellectual property such as Sarah’s inventions were no different. Her husband had to file the patents on her behalf, as the property of the Guppy family. The patent for her method of piling bridge foundations in order to create a new kind of bridge was filed in 1811, but she refused to charge others to use the idea because she felt it was for the benefit of the public. Thomas Telford, a civil engineer, used her design to build the Menai bridge in 1826, and when the competition to design the Clifton bridge was announced Sarah gave her work to Brunel. When she wrote to him to suggest the use of willow and poplar trees to reinforce railway embankments, she explained that she didn’t want the credit for her idea because she felt that women “must not be boastful”.

 

Featured image: Sage Solar/Flikr

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Art & History

Great Women You Should Know: Betty Skelton

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Lynn Schreiber

Founder and Editor at Jump! Mag
A freelance writer, who lives and works in Scotland with her family and fluffy white dog.

Likes: Writing, reading, twitter and chocolate
Dislikes: Negative and angry people

Latest posts by Lynn Schreiber (see all)

In our series of Great Women You Should Know … here comes daredevil and adventurer Betty Skelton

When she was eight, Betty fell in love with aeroplanes. She watched them flying over her house every day, she devoured books about them, and she begged her parents to take her to airfields where she would persuade pilots to take her on rides above the clouds.

Betty must have been a very persuasive person, because she also talked a young Navy pilot into giving the whole family flying lessons. And when I say whole family, I mean it: Betty flew her first plane solo when she was just twelve years old. She might have been a tiny daredevil, but she was so scared her mother would scold her for doing it that she kept it a secret for a week!

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Art & History, Uncategorized

12 Women Explorers – YouTubeHistory

Lynn Schreiber

Founder and Editor at Jump! Mag
A freelance writer, who lives and works in Scotland with her family and fluffy white dog.

Likes: Writing, reading, twitter and chocolate
Dislikes: Negative and angry people

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Art & History

Women You Should Know… Agnes de Mille

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Lynn Schreiber

Founder and Editor at Jump! Mag
A freelance writer, who lives and works in Scotland with her family and fluffy white dog.

Likes: Writing, reading, twitter and chocolate
Dislikes: Negative and angry people

Latest posts by Lynn Schreiber (see all)

If you ask people if they know the name ‘de Mille’, some will say they’ve heard of Hollywood producer Cecil de Mille, some might even know his brother William de Mille, but not many will have heard of William’s daughter. Which is a shame, because Agnes De Mille was a fascinating woman.

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Art & History, Language & Literature

What is a Malapropism?

what is a malapropism

Tina Price-Johnson

A Paralegal and Litigation Assistant by day, and Freelance Writer/Poet by night and weekend, Tina loves history, social studies and biographies, and enjoys writing about almost anything.She lives in London and travels in the UK and abroad whenever she can, and can usually be found wandering around crumbling ruins.

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You may not have had the term ‘malapropism’, but I am sure you know what a malapropism is when you hear it!  It is when you get one word mixed up for another and as a result change the meaning of a sentence completely.  

For example you might mean to say to your friend, “I’m bored, let’s go watch telly”, but what you actually say is, “I’m bored, let’s go eat telly”. 🙂 

What is a malapropism, and why does it have such a funny name?

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