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Featured Famous Engineer: The Father of the Iron Bridge

  • 30 August, 2019

Do you live by a river, stream, or any other waterway? If so, chances are you cross a bridge often during a commute- whether it be to work, to school, or just to another part of town.

Although there are many structural and civil engineers who can be credited for developing the bridges we have and use today, there is one engineer who is largely credited for bridgework and development. In fact, he is considered the "Father of the Iron Bridge." His name was Squire Whipple.

About Squire Whipple

Squire Whipple, a civil engineer, lived from 1804 to 1888. He was born in Massachusetts, but later moved to New York State where he received his education in engineering. For his secondary education, he attended Fairfield Academy in Herkimer, New York. Whipple greatly exceeded in his college studies, as he graduated from Union College in New York after being a student for only a year.

After graduating from college, Whipple began his career as an engineer. Surprisingly enough- his career did not begin with a focus on bridges. Instead, he performed a lot of engineering work that dealt with railroads and canals. One of his inventions was a lock, which helped weigh canal boats.

Whipple's Bridge Work

After focusing on railroads and canals, Whipple soon shifted his focus to bridgework.
During his career, he obtained two patents for his bridge designs:

  • Bowstring iron-bridge truss
  • Lift drawbridge

Whipple also dedicated his time and effort to develop a 146-foot iron railroad bridge. This bridge was constructed by Watervliet, New York.


In efforts to share his immense knowledge for bridge building, Whipple published the book, Work on Bridge Building, in 1847. Consisting of two essays and original plans for iron and wooden bridges, Whipple's insight to bridge construction is still used in many civil and structural engineering university classes today. In fact, you can view an online version of his book here.

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