Most viewers in America were probably mystified by Branagh's portrayal of the fellow in the stovepipe hat puffing away on a cigar. In Britain, of course, Brunel is a national hero, as well he should be. He is, in many ways, the man who invented the modern world.
A brilliant engineer, Brunel designed and built bridges, tunnels, and railways. And after conquering countless challenges of land transportation, he designed three innovative steamships that changed the way the world thought of ocean liners.
Many Americans are probably still wondering why a man in Lincoln's hat was wearing sideburns and smoking a cigar at the Olympics. But for those who know about Brunel, it was great fun to see Kenneth Branagh portraying him as he ushered in the new world of industry and innovation.
More: Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Photograph: Isambard Kingdom Brunel/courtesy New York Public Library Digital Collections
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