Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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William Christopher Brown (1928-2005)

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1928 Born at Beech House, Croesyceiliog, Monmouthshire, son of a joiner and cabinet maker.

His grandfather had established a joinery and cabinet-making business, which was continued by his two sons on his death. As a boy Brown derived pleasure from visiting the workshop, making articles in wood and using tools fashioned by his ancestors.

Educated at Monmouth School

Took a first-class degree in civil engineering at University College, Southampton.

Graduate studentship at Imperial College, London, doing research on the buckling behaviour of metal plates in structural engineering, which contributed to his first professional paper in 1956.

1951 Joined Freeman Fox and Partners.

Worked on the design of the Volta Bridge, a trussed arch, when he was seconded to Halcrows to work on site during 1956.

Returned to Freemans where he developed a close working relationship with Gilbert Roberts

1964 he married Celia Hermione Emmett; there were no children of the marriage.

1966 Appointed OBE

After Roberts's retirement, Brown took over the leadership of his engineering team.

1970 Became a partner in Freeman Fox.

1970 The collapse during construction of the Milford Haven Bridge in June, followed by the more serious collapse of the West Gate Bridge, led to criticism of Brown and other partners of Freeman Fox. Such experiences led to the Merrison report on design and construction of box-girder bridges (1974), which identified the need for clear codes of practice supported by research coupled with independent design checks.

The optimization of bridge decks remained a special interest of Brown's throughout his later career, in relation particularly to their dynamic and aerodynamic characteristics.

1972-3 The first Bosphorus Bridge (span 1074 metres, completed 1973) was Brown's last major bridge constructed project with Freeman Fox, for which he was resident partner during construction.

1974 he designed his own simple wind tunnel to test and improve aerofoil forms to minimize air resistance and avoid risk of "flutter". Some of his later designs introduced slots in the deck between two or more box structures beneath carriageways or rail-tracks.

1985 Resigned from Freeman Fox.

1987 Set up his own consultancy, Brown Beech and Associates.

His principal commission was as engineer and project director for the second Bosphorus Bridge (span 1090 metres, opened 1988) although he was also involved in several other major projects.

2005 Died at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Biography of William Christopher Brown, ODNB