1841, John Roebling invented a wire rope in order to improve upon
the bulkier and weaker hemp fiber rope being used to haul canal
boats along the Allegheny Portage Railroad between the eastern
and western sections of the Pennsylvania Canal. Roebling also
developed a technique for spinning cables in place rather than
constructing pre-fabricated cables that required maintenance before
actually being used.
1844-45, Roebling built his first structure using his invention,
a wooden canal aqueduct across the Allegheny River. In 1845-1846,
he built his first suspension bridge to carry a highway across
the Monongahela River. He cemented his reputation as the premier
builder of suspension bridges in the U.S. with the construction
of a railroad suspension bridge at Niagara Falls (1851-55). Roebling
was contracted as chief engineer for construction of the Brooklyn
Bridge, the project with which he is most popularly associated.
However, as work was about to begin, he suffered an accident that
led to his death. Construction of the bridge was completed under
the supervision of his son, Washington.
Roebling was born in Mublhausen, Germany. He studied civil engineering
at the Royal Polytechnic Institute in Berlin. He immigrated to
the United States in 1830 and became a citizen in 1837.