Thomas Telford was born on August 9th 1757 in Westerkirk, Scotland. He was the son of a shepherd. His father died soon after he was born and he was raised in poverty by his mother. His jubilant personality awarded him the nick name of 'Laughing Tam'.

Thomas Telford was a stone mason, architect and civil engineer and remains a celebrated road, bridge and canal builder. Beginning his career at the age of fourteen, Telford was apprenticed to a stone mason. He worked in Edinburgh for a short time and in 1782 moved to London where he was involved in building additions to Somerset House. Later, he moved south where he found work at Portsmouth Dockyard. Influenced by prominent architects of the time such Robert Adam and Sir William Chambers and later by a wealthy patron called William Pulteney, Telford decided to establish himself as an architect, becoming Surveyor of public works in Shropshire. As the Shropshire county surveyor, Telford was also responsible for bridges of which he built over fourty in Shropshire. He also renovated Shrewsbury Castle and the town's prison.

In 1790 Telford designed a bridge carrying the London to Holyhead road over the river Severn at Montford and in 1795 designed a replacement for the bridge at Bewdley which was swept away in floods. Later projects included St Katharine Docks (London), the Menai Straits Bridge (Anglesea), Conwy Suspension Bridge (Anglesea), Craigellachie Bridge (Scotland) and a number of canal systems including the Caledonian Canal ,where he built a series of lock systems at Forts Augustus and William, and the Ellesmere Canal which included the fantastic Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. In 1806, Telford was consulted by the King of Sweden regarding the construction of a canal system between Gothenbug and Stockholm. This is known today as the Gotha Canal. In 1820 Thomas Telford was appointed the first President of the recently formed Institution of Civil Engineer. He held this post until his death in September 1834. Thomas Telford was buried in Westminster Abbey.

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