Joseph Bazalgette, the man who designed London’s sewers in the 1860’s, said ‘Well, we’re only going to do this once and there’s always the unforeseen’ and doubled the pipe diameter. If he had not done this, it would have overflowed in the 1960’s (its still in use today).

Joseph Bazalgette

Joseph Bazalgette in the 1870s

Sir Joseph William Bazalgette, CB (/ˈbæzəldʒɛt/; 28 March 1819 – 15 March 1891) was a 19th-century English civil engineer. As chief engineer of London’s Metropolitan Board of Works his major achievement was the creation (in response to the Great Stink of 1858) of a sewer network for central London which was instrumental in relieving the city from cholera epidemics, while beginning to clean the River Thames.

Early life

Bazalgette was born in Hill Lodge, Clay Hill, Enfield, London, the son of Joseph William Bazalgette (1783–1849), a retired Royal Navy captain, and Theresa Philo, born Pilton (1796–1850), and was the grandson of a French Protestant immigrant who had become wealthy.

In 1827 when Jos… Continue Reading (5 minute read)

12 thoughts on “Joseph Bazalgette, the man who designed London’s sewers in the 1860’s, said ‘Well, we’re only going to do this once and there’s always the unforeseen’ and doubled the pipe diameter. If he had not done this, it would have overflowed in the 1960’s (its still in use today).”

  1. aikijo

    I’m guessing there were people who complained it was too expensive. Foresight is a luxury too few people want to deal with nowadays.

  2. PhasmaFelis

    What’s really interesting to me is that he did his math when buildings had a handful of floors at most. Other cities built their sewers based on realistic estimates of how much waste a square mile of people can produce, and they all had to rebuild them once skyscrapers came along and that number dramatically increased. No one foresaw the heights that steel-framed towers would reach–but Bazalgette foresaw that *something* would change, even if he had no idea what it would be.

  3. obeto69

    this is why we need smart people

  4. ScienceFactsNumbers

    Modern contractor: let’s do half the diameter so they have to pay us to increase the diameter next time

  5. LDan613

    Engineers still over design (safety factors and all) but cost pressures tend to reduce those margins to the bare minimum. That’s where the importance of a solid regulatory framework and an apt regulador come into play.

  6. brucekeller

    >At that time, **the River Thames was little more than an open sewer**, empty of any fish or other wildlife, and an obvious health hazard to Londoners.
    >
    >Bazalgette’s solution (similar to a proposal made by painter [John Martin](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Martin_(painter)) 25 years earlier) was to construct a network of 82 miles (132 km) of enclosed underground brick main sewers to intercept sewage outflows, and 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of street [sewers](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanitary_sewer), to **intercept the raw sewage which up until then flowed freely through the streets** and thoroughfares of London.

    Gee modern times sure do suck, wish I lived back in the day when people were free! lol

  7. faajzor

    in the software industry, a person who proposes something like this will get booed really bad. planning ahead is overrated. it’s so sad

  8. Johnny_the_banker

    A student asks a math professor what is the answer to 1 + 1. The math professor said “it’s 2”. He went on and asks physics professor. The physics professor said “it’s 2.00000”. And this student went on and asks an engineer. The engineer said “it’s around 2. But for safety reasons make it 4”.

  9. Sloppy_Tiger

    He foresaw the unforeseen, or as Donald Rumsfeld said, the known unknowns (how much poop) and the unknown unknowns (what else will get down here). Just as well he did – doubling the diameter of the pipe will have increased its capacity fourfold.

  10. I_might_be_weasel

    “The poops of the future will be of god-like girth!”

  11. TA_faq43

    Tsunami, hurricane, volcano, earthquake, etc. preparation should take his example into account.

  12. Hairydone

    I wish he had designed California’s highways.

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