Bradfield was a shortarse, a short bloke, and by the time the Coathanger was under construction in the 1920s, a chrome dome with half his hair gone. He had a big bulgy forehead and a stiff moustache and was never off the construction site.
He was born in Queensland in 1867. His father was labourer who fought in the Crimean War. Bradfield went to U Syd (University of Sydney) and graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering in 1889.
1815 was the year a bridge was first put forward. A mere 109 years before they actually got started on the bastard. Francis Greenway it was who suggested it, a year after he'd stumbled ashore.
One of our top colonial architects, Greenway was. He got nicked for forgery and transported (sent to Australia) for 14 years. He died here in 1837 and there's nearly 50 of his buildings in the Sydney CBD. The Macquarie Lighthouse (South Head at the entrance to Sydney Harbour), Hyde Park Barracks, St. James Church and the new Government House. Not bad for an old lag (ex con).
The same year Greenway arrived, an ex-convict called Billy Blue started up a ferry service across the Harbour. Him and others ran passenger ferries until the 1840s. That's when the first horse-and-cart ferry started. It went from Dawes Point (Sydney side) to Milsons Point (North Shore). (The Coathanger goes from Dawes Point to Milsons Point.) The vehicle ferries were it until the Coathanger came. The Harbour got pretty bloody crowded with ferries criss-crossing but still people had to wait to get across. Business and the growth of the colony was suffering.
Eventually, at the beginning of the 20th century, concrete and steel technology had moved along a bit and new bridge designs were possible. Steel had got fairly cheap so Sydney could now afford a nice big bridge across the Harbour.
The competition for a design was opened in 1900. The construction started in 1924 and the Bridge was opened in 1932. He was 64. He had spent his entire adult life on the Bridge in one way or another.
In 1912 (same year the Titanic went down) he submitted a design for a suspension bridge to the design competition. In 1913 his idea for a cantilever bridge from Dawes Point to Milsons Point was accepted. In 1922 he went overseas to look at getting the bridge constructed (we didn't have enough steel then). Later that year he suggested the official documents for the bridge be changed to allow a cantilever or arch bridge rather than just a cantilever bridge.
The bridge we got.
(J Stewart & Co. 1903)
The Bridge we should've got. Not Bradfield's own cantilever bridge but one as near as dammit. This type of bridge looks better in this sketch than it would've been in real life. At the time pretty much every other bridge in the world looked like this. It would've just been a bridge. The Coathanger is an icon.
Bradfield is also responsible for the design of the City Circle (Sydney's underground railway), Brisbane's Story Bridge and a few dams and such like on other parts of the state. All good stuff.
But in his dotage he joined the Brigade of Nutters and wanted to turn the rivers inland.
Turning the rivers inland or even just one river is a scheme proposed by fuckwitted radio announcers with credulous listeners at every mention of drought. It is an feat of engineering on a scale that would give even God the heebies.
Bradfield's Bridge - lots of pictures & stuff about the competition & design & some lovely construction photos.
Biog page at the State Records site. They have photos also. Go there and do a search on "Bradfield".
City of Sydney.nsw.gov.au - photos old & new & links down the bottom.