Sir John Fowler (1817-1898)
Designer of the world’s first underground railway and the Forth Bridge.
Sir John Fowler was the chief engineer of world’s first underground, the Metropolitan Railway, and he designed the steam locomotives that pulled its trains. He is also celebrated for his innovative bridges, including Grosvenor Bridge, the first railway bridge over the River Thames. He is perhaps best known for the iconic Forth Bridge, which continues to carry trains across Scotland’s Firth of Forth today.
Fowler was born in Sheffield, and briefly worked on waterworks and canals before becoming an engineer on several of the north of England’s railways. He grew to be a chief railway engineer, then leapt to public prominence for his work on London’s underground system.
He also built bridges and designed stations, including the Forth Bridge, London’s Victoria Station and Liverpool and Manchester’s central stations. He was the youngest president of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1865, aged just 48, and was committed to educating and training young engineers.
Fowler’s reputation was international. He was a railway and engineering designer and consultant to governments and companies around the world, including Egypt, Algeria, Belgium, France, Germany, Portugal, the United States and India.
Following the successful completion of the Forth Railway Bridge in 1890, Fowler was created a baronet. This, and many other awards, are testament to his long and distinguished career.