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10 Women Who Broke New Ground in Engineering


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Emily Warren Roebling
Emily Warren Roebling would have delighted in the sight of the Brooklyn Bridge celebrating its 125 anniversary in May 2008.
Emily Warren Roebling would have delighted in the sight of the Brooklyn Bridge celebrating its 125 anniversary in May 2008.
Jemal Countess/Wire Image/Getty Images

How many lawyers did it take to finish building the Brooklyn Bridge? Just one, Emily Warren Roebling (1843-1903). Although Roebling did not hold an engineering degree, but instead a law degree from New York University, she is famous for stepping in as an engineering manager of sorts and ensuring that the design work begun by her father-in-law and husband reached completion.

When Roebling's husband became too ill to work on the bridge after the death of his father, Roebling managed the project by taking extensive notes and communicating goals to the workman and financiers, while becoming self-taught in all aspects of civil and construction engineering. When the completion of the bridge appeared to be stalling and there was talk of replacing her husband as head engineer, Roebling defended the project and its leadership to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Her appeal was accepted and she was dubbed by some as the "silent builder" of the Brooklyn Bridge as it stands today [source: ASCE].