John A. Roebling

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John Augustus Roebling (born Johann August Röbling, June 12, 1806 in Mühlhausen - July 22, 1869) was a German-born civil engineer famous for his wire rope suspension bridge designs, in particular, the design of the Brooklyn Bridge.


Early life

Roebling was the youngest of four children. He was baptized in the Lutheran church Divi Blasii at Mühlhausen. As a young boy he enjoyed music such as playing the flute and the piano. Roebling also exhibited great artistic talent for sketches and paintings. His father owned a small tobacco shop, but the business was insufficient to provide livelihood for all three sons. Roebling's sister Friederike Amalie married Carl August Meissner, a wealthy merchant in the town, and his oldest brother Herman Christian Roebling prepared to take over the tobacco shop.[1]


At first John attended the public school gymnasium in Mühlhausen. Recognizing his intelligence at a young age, Roebling's mother, Friederike Dorothea Roebling arranged for him to be in mathematics and science at Erfurt by Ephraim Solomon Unger. He went to Erfurt when he was 15. In 1824, he passed his Surveyor's examination by and returned home for a year. In 1824 he enrolled for two semesters at the Bauakademie in Berlin where he studied architecture and engineering under Martin Friedrich Rabe (1765–1856), bridge construction and foundation construction under Johann Friedrich Dietlein (1782–1837), hydraulics under Johann Albert Eytelwein (1764–1848), and languages. Roebling also attended lectures of philosopher Georg Hegel. Roebling developed an interest in natural philosophy and many years later he worked on a 1000 page treatise about his own concepts of the universe.[2]

In 1825 he got a government job at Arnsberg, Westphalia, working on military road building for four years. During this period he made sketches for suspension bridges. In 1829 he returned to his home to work out his final thesis and prepare for his second engineers' examination. For unknown reasons, he never took the examination.[3]

Fleeing Germany

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