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Sir William Fairbairn
1789 - 1874

Engineer. Born in Kelso (Scottish Borders), the son of a farmer, Fairbairn left the land for England to become an apprentice mill-wright. He set up a business to manufacture mill machinery in Manchester before moving to London, where he opened a shipyard and became a pioneer of the use of iron in the construction of ships. He built the first iron-hulled steamship the Lord Dundas. When assisting Robert Stephenson in the construction of his Conway and the Menai Strait bridges in North Wales, Fairbairn developed the idea of using tubular steel as a construction material. This was both stronger and lighter than solid steel and Fairbairn went on to built hundreds of bridges using this method. He set up an iron-works in Manchester which produced boilers for steam engines and locomotives.

He was knighted in 1869 and his statue stands in Manchester Town Hall.


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