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Engineering the Stars: Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Published: 18th February 2008

About Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was an inspiring pioneer of design and construction, playing a significant role in the Industrial Revolution.
He has been hailed as a genius, and it's easy to see why. According to the website for Brunel 200 his career "embraced civil, structural, mechanical, and marine engineering, as well as architecture, art and design."

In 2002, nearly 150 years after his death, the public voted him the 2nd greatest Briton of all time. Brunel's talents and achievements changed not just the UK, but the world. He has been described as "One of the most ingenious and prolific figures in engineering history" and a "man with the greatest originality of thought and power of execution".

Among his manifold constructions were twenty-five railway lines, more than one hundred bridges, and three ships. He helped his father plan a tunnel under the Thames, the first in the world to be built under a navigable river. When completed in 1843 it was hailed as the eighth wonder of the world, and it's still in regular use to this day.

He designed the construction of the Clifton Suspension Bridge over the river Avon, and he constructed a network of viaducts, bridges, and tunnels for the Great Western Railway, initially connecting Bristol and London. He ultimately engineered more than 1000 miles of railway around the world.

Of the ships he designed and built there were the 'Great Western', which was the first steamship to go into transatlantic service, and the 'Great Eastern', which was at the time by far the biggest ship ever built. He also redesigned and built several of the UK's major docks, including those of Bristol and Cardiff.

Life themes

In the book 'The Ocean Railway: Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Samuel Cunard, and the Revolutionary World of the Great Atlantic Steamships', Stephen Fox wrote:

"Brunel became a celebrity, an engineering superstar at a time when the public works of engineers were remaking everyday life in large, visible ways and sparking the popular imagination as never before."

And in a review of the same book, a reader commented:

"The book reads as a story, with recurring characters (Cunard, Brunel, Inman, Harland) and recurring themes (scientific innovation versus commerce, national pride, personal ambition, risk) and a relentless progession towards modernity, a progression which must stamp its authority over one of the most dangerous and unpredictable environments known to man - the North Atlantic. [The story is] in part a history of technology, allowing the reader a feel for how technology advanced (the progression from wood, to iron, to wrought iron, to steel and even aluminium and the increasingly methodical research used to optimize ship design). Most of all, this book is about man's constant desire to control the world in which he lives, and to tame it, and to conquer it and to impose his order on it."

In fact, this is a brilliant summary of the main themes of Brunel's birth chart, shown below.

Brunel's birth chart

So here is the birth chart of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. As you can see, he was born during a conjunction of Saturn and Uranus in Libra, opposed by the Sun in Aries. The Saturn-Uranus cycle has been linked with the development of machines and technology and the general process of industrialisation and the Western economic system.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel's birth chart

Depending on the accuracy of the birth time, the opposition between Sun and Saturn-Uranus could be in the 11th-5th houses, or the 10th-5th houses, or the 10th-4th houses. The 11th and 5th pertain to creativity and invention, the 10th-4th pertain to career and a person's 'place in the world'. All of the houses are connected with the relationship between the individual and society.

Another quote about engineering that articulates the themes of Saturn-Uranus and its relationship to the Sun in Brunel's chart:

"the need to be sure [Saturn] gets in the way of the essential spark of engineering, the drive to innovate [Uranus]. Whatever else we may think of him, Isambard Kingdom Brunel had that visionary drive."

Stars of the superstar

Let's now turn to the paran relationships between Isambard's planets and the fixed stars of our galaxy. A paran is like an aspect, that's to say it describes a specific, measurable, mathematical, angular relationship between two objects in the sky. In this case, a paran links a planet with a star.

Brunel's parans are stunningly accurate descriptions of his skills, direction, and character. There are too many to include all of them, so here we will cover the most striking ones. These aptly illustrate Isambard's innovative and visionary gifts, his skill and determination in executing those visions, and his higher motivations for pursuing what he imagined.

Under each italicised heading there is a single line of text. This text is quoted directly from pre-written software; it has not been written with Isambard in mind. These quotes have been included to show, without tailoring, how accurate the star-planet parans can be.

Sun in paran with Vega
Seeing the magic in life, touching another world

Vega, in the constellation Lyra

Sun in paran with Altair
A bold and determined individual

This paran is associated with bravery and a character who possesses the willingness to take risks.

Moon in paran with Arcturus
Concerned with the health of others, physical, emotional or spiritual
This paran describes 'leading... people as they embrace a new life style' and 'one who can lead the way, one who has the vision or the spirit to take the first step'.

Moon in paran with Acubens
A paternal instinct; trying to make people’s lives more fruitful

Acubens, in the constellation Cancer
Mercury in paran with Scheat
The innovator, gifted with ideas, words or rhythm; far-sighted
This paran relates to a person who can be 'interested in new technologies, new discoveries, and new thinking', describing someone who is 'an innovator, who thinks outside the square/box'.

Scheat, in the constellation Pegasus

Venus in paran with Alhena
The desire to reform, either as a social activist, or in fantasy and art

Mars in paran with Betelgeuse
The courage to undertake large and painstaking projects
This paran describes a life where 'if you can take on the long, arduous task that others shy away from, then you gain your greatest rewards.' The interpretation is that 'by applying yourself and having the courage to tackle the large task, you find success.'

Betelgeuse, in the constellation Orion

Jupiter in paran with Zuben Elgenubi
A humanitarian who looks for the big solution

Jupiter in paran with Alphard
An explorer of places or people
This paran describes a person whose 'best success comes from tackling large issues, seeing the big picture, and being prepared to walk along the pathway least used.'

Saturn in paran with Fomalhaut
To bring to fruition one’s higher ideals
The drive here is to 'endeavour to give form or shape to your ideals and dreams. This may take the shape of creative, artistic expression, in design, architecture, sculpture and the like'.

Fomalhaut, in the constellation Piscis Australis

Brunel 200 website -
Amazon book review -
Bio at Brunel Uni website -

Applying astrology to political lifeGordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, EU, USA, France, Australia, Uranus in Pisces & Neptune in Aquarius, & more

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W Edwards Deming, European Central Bank, stock markets, & more

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