Dr William Brown

As a bridge designer, civil and consulting engineer and mentor, Bill Brown was unique. His eye for design and detail was uncanny; his flexibilty in designing for changing technologies examplary. In a career spanning more than five decades, Bill designed more than a dozen major suspension bridges, including the Severn Bridge, the Bosphorus Bridge, the second Bosphorus Bridge and the proposed Messina Strait crossing. His designs were modern, yet true to engineering heritage. Above all, they were always elegant.

Foundations of a remarkable career

Bill’s engineering story began at school, where he excelled in mathematics and physics. From a young age, he was engrossed by such diverse skills as woodwork, learnt in his grandfather’s workshop, and the aerodynamics of the Second World War fighter planes that flew over his childhood home in South Wales. As he grew into adulthood, Bill developed a keen interest in bridges, technology, steel, teamwork, surveying, racing cars, sketching and photography. His chosen career required huge intellect, courage and an ethos of hard work. All of these came naturally to Bill.

It was Bill’s range of skills that culminated in the creation of several innovative schemes for long-span suspension bridges in steel. He would work in pencil at a drawing board, where clarity of thought and complex calculations were at the centre of a multitude of tasks. Years of knowledge, experience and ideas came together in bridge designs and schemes. He had a liberal mind and saw everyone as equal.


Bill Brown lead the design and engineering of some of the UK's and Europe's great bridges from the 1950s to the 1980s. He established his innovative reputation with the design of the streamlined deck of the Severn Bridge. On later projects in northern Europe he was the consulting engineer on bridge suspension cable erection using optimised aerial-spinning techniques.

Proposed Bridges

Governments across the world commissioned Bill Brown to create ultra-long span suspension bridge designs for some of the most challenging proposed crossings. It is perhaps the design for the Messina Straits, with its multi-box deck, that Bill is most recognised.

Cranes & Telescopes

At Freeman Fox & Partners, Dr William Brown applied his design and engineering expertise to the techniques of manufacturing and erecting of swing bridges, cranes and telescope mountings.


Bill Brown was always enthusiastic about furthering the development of long-span bridge design and construction. He shared ideas, proposals, developments and his project experience. He presented at conferences across the world and published many technical papers.

Published Work

Development of the Deck for the 3,300m Span Messina Crossing

Proceedings of the 15th Congress of IABSE. Copenhagen, Denmark, pp.1019-1030.

June 1996

Published Work

Design Aspects for Long Span Bridges

IV International Colloquium on the Gibraltar Strait Fixed Link


Published Work

Strength Through Shape

Journal of Royal Society of Arts, No. 5321 Vol. CXXX1

April 1983, p.258

Published Work

Suspension Bridges with Box Girder Decks

Symposium, Crossing of the Gibraltar Straits


Published Work

Long-Span Suspension Bridges - A British Approach

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 352(1), 1-26


Published Work

A brief comment of Long Span Bridge Aerodynamics


Published Work

Importance of higher strength steel wire in ultra long span designs

IABSE Symposium: Long-Span and High-Rise Structures, Kobe, Japan

September 1998


Bosporus Bridge Design and Construction

Proc. Institution of Civil Engineers. Volume 58



Basis of Rules for Design of Plate Girders to BS 153

Proc. Institution of Civil Engineers.



The Erskine Bridge

The Structural Engineer Volume 50

April 1972


New Bridges for Better Communications



Bill Brown's Bridges

The official biography of Dr William Brown was launched in December 2015 at the Institution of Civil Engineers, London, in front of friends, family and key figures from the international engineering industry.

The 148-page hardback biography was researched, written, designed and published by 301 Design. It features more than 100 stunning photographs and illustrations of bridges including the Severn Bridge, two bridges over the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul and the proposed 3,300m crossing of the Messina Strait in Italy.

Order a copy