Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, the Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge

Erica Wagner (Author)

Product Details

Bloomsbury Publishing
Publish Date
February 05, 2019
5.4 X 1.1 X 8.2 inches | 0.9 pounds

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About the Author

American writer and critic Erica Wagner was the literary editor of the London Times for seventeen years and is now a contributing writer for New Statesman and consulting literary editor for Harper's Bazaar. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Economist, Financial Times, and the New York Times, among others. She is the author of Ariel's Gift, Seizure, and the short story collection Gravity. She lives in London with her husband, the writer Francis Gilbert, and their son, Theodore.


"A masterful psychological study about duty and drive." --The Economist, "Books of the Year 2017"

"Compelling and elegant . . . [an] exploration of the life of Washington Roebling, the engineer whose energy and ideas got the Brooklyn Bridge built . . . the story not just of two engineers, father and son, but also of a son who survived treatment that, as he wrote in a private memoir at the end of the 19th century, could have led to his death . . . [a] powerful book." --The Guardian

"Ms. Wagner's writing is graceful, even evocative, conveying a mellow admiration of Washington Roebling that suits the man." --Wall Street Journal

"A masterful work of research, revelation and gripping narrative. It brings to pulsating life 19th-century New York and New Jersey and manages to be moving, too." --New Statesman, "Books of the Year"

"The impressive career of [Washington Roebling] is well told in Erica Wagner's captivating new book." --New York Post

"[An] engaging new biography . . . [a] detailed portrait of a sensitive and tormented man." --New York Times Book Review

"In this engrossing biography. . . Wagner writes detailed, lucid descriptions of the technological advances that made the bridge possible. . . . Wagner grounds her fine study of the human side of industrial progress in patient devotion to science and craft." --Publishers Weekly

"With contemporary notes, clippings, and letters, too, [Chief Engineer] makes a fascinating tale . . . A sturdy, illuminating biography." --Kirkus Reviews

"A well-judged and well-written portrait." --Booklist

"As we learn from Chief Engineer, Erica Wagner's highly original biography of Washington Roebling, the little-remembered and rather strange man who built it, the feat of raising such a bridge took over a dozen years of his life--and nearly killed him . . . Chief Engineer also sheds light on matters beyond engineering . . . Where she unquestionably succeeds is in bringing to life, and very probably bringing to the public's attention for the first time in generations, the name--and rather peculiar life--of a man who deserves his place on the top tier of the pantheon of engineers. ****" --The Sunday Telegraph

"Chief Engineer was made possible by the discovery of an unpublished memoir at Rutgers University and Wagner has mined it well. She tells the story with the thoroughness of Roebling's calculations: the book is as robust in structure and fine in detail as the bridge itself and, like its subject, unlikely to be bettered. It is immaculately researched, meticulously written but exciting and evocative too." --Spectator

"In her bravura book about its creation . . . The magnificent book by Wagner, an NS contributing writer, focuses on the two men responsible for building the edifice: John A Roebling and his patriotically named son Washington." --New Statesman

"Powerful." --The Observer

"Warm, meticulous . . . Chief Engineer makes a solid case for Washington as a great American hero." --Times Literary Supplement

"Erica Wagner honours Washington with a fine, sympathetic biography." --Literary Review