Whenever anyone remarks at the wonder of a Ferris wheel, they are indeed invoking the genius of a Rensselaer engineer. George W.G. Ferris is among the most notable alumni of our university, and there’s certainly an argument to be made that his is the most widely-recognized name of all the Institute’s graduates.
Today, Google paid homage to Ferris’ 154th birthday with a Google Doodle, which you can see above (and archived here). The Doodle is a mash-up of a Ferris Wheel scene with plenty of St. Valentine’s Day imagery.
Ferris began his career in the railroad industry and pursued an interest in bridge building.
Foreseeing an increase in the use of structural steel, he founded G.W.G. Ferris & Co. in Pittsburgh, a firm that tested and inspected metals for railroads and bridge builders.
When the chief of construction for the World’s Columbian Exposition challenged America’s civil engineers to produce something to rival the Eiffel Tower of the Paris Exposition, Ferris’s imagination was fired.
He conceived the Ferris Wheel, which rose 250 feet and carried 36 cars, each with a capacity for 40 passengers, revolving under perfect control, and stable against the strongest winds from Lake Michigan.
The daring and accuracy of its design and the precision of the machine work of its construction won the admiration of engineers and the joy and wonder of generations.