Gustav Lindenthal : biography
Gustav Lindenthal (May 21, 1850 – July 31, 1935) was a civil engineer who designed the Hell Gate Bridge in New York City, among other bridges. Lindenthal's work was greatly affected by his pursuit for perfection and his love of art. His structures not only serve the purpose they were designed for, but are aesthetically pleasing to the public eye. Having received little formal education and no degree in civil engineering, Lindenthal based his work on his prior experience and techniques used by other engineers of the time.
Lindenthal was born in Brünn, Austro-Hungarian Empire, now Brno, Czech Republic in 1850. Lindenthal began to receive practical training in 1866 when he was employed as a mason and carpenter. At the age of 18, Lindenthal left his family to set out to make a life of his own in Vienna, Austria.
Gustav Lindenthal Medal
The International Bridge Conference is the site of the annual presentation of the Gustav Lindenthal Medal. Winners have included the Millau Viaduct and the Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge.
During the time Lindenthal practiced engineering, the railroad industry was expanding and replacing many wooden-truss bridges with stronger ones capable of handling the heavier locomotive loads. In order to accommodate these heavier trains, different construction materials were being utilized. The materials being considered by engineers like Lindenthal were reinforced concrete, cable, and steel. Steel and reinforced concrete were two main materials used in the truss bridges Gustav Lindenthal designed. The use of reinforced concrete was a relative new idea in bridge construction, with its first use in 1889.
The design of the Hell Gate Bridge required a different approach to bridge construction. Nearly all major members of Hell Gate are composed of smaller trusses. The erection of the Hell Gate was carried through without the assistance of any falsework, or work that was not part of the actual bridge. This was accomplished by building the two halves of the arch simultaneously from each tower. The steel work was supported with the use of cables during construction to carry the load of the arches until they finally met at the center of the span.Scientific American (1907-06-08).
In another instance, a bridge needed to be constructed over the Monongahela River, after the ferry, which was used for many years beforehand, became outdated. The first bridge, designed by John Roebling, continuously swayed and deflected, as well as being "shaky and loose." Lindenthal was then given an opportunity to design a replacement, the Smithfield Street Bridge in Pittsburgh. This bridge, completed in 1883 using the structural form of a lenticular truss, could withstand higher stresses, as well as using resources that made it more economical (Approximately $23,000 was saved simply by using these materials). "Lindenthal's use of steel instead of iron wherever possible was based upon economy as much as anything."
When he arrived in Vienna he became an assistant in the engineering department for the Empress Elisabeth Railway of Austria. Two years later he joined the Union Construction Company, where he gained experience in building incline planes and railroads. Then a year later he decided to join the Swiss National Railroad, where he was hired on as a division engineer in charge of location and construction. While living in Vienna, he attended some public engineering lectures at a local university. However, he never did actually attend the university or receive a degree. Lindenthal in fact taught himself mathematics, engineering theory, metallurgy, hydraulics, estimating, management, and everything else that a successful bridge engineer needed to know. Nevertheless, the lack of his formal education hindered him from further advancement in Europe, so he decided to emigrate to the United States in 1874.
When he first arrived in the United States he was employed as a journeyman stonemason for the memorial granite building of the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia (Janberg 2006). After completion of this project, Lindenthal worked for the Keystone Bridge Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on numerous projects over a three-year period. While working for this company, he gained valuable experience which propelled him to the status of bridge engineer. He worked for the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad during 1879 to 1881.
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