Thursday, May 23, 2013
May 23 - James Eads
Captain James Buchanan Eads was born on May 23, 1820, in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, and grew up in St. Louis. He was largely self-educated by reading books on science, mechanics and engineering. He made a fortune in riverboat salvage, especially on the Mississippi, using a diving bell. From 1867 to 1874, he designed and built the Eads Bridge in St. Louis, the first road-and-rail bridge to cross the Mississippi and the longest arch bridge in the world when completed. Steel was its primary material, considered daring at the time. Eads was the first bridge builder to use the cantilever method, allowing boats to continue using the river during construction. Pier foundations were built with pneumatic caissons (watertight enclosures), still among the deepest ever sunk. Decompression sickness caused the death of 15 workers, disabled two others, and severely afflicted 77 men. A "test elephant" was marched across the completed bridge to prove it was safe, and on opening day a parade stretched 15 miles through St. Louis streets.