Engineer Profile

The name most readily associated with the Bridge is John Job Crew Bradfield. An exceptional person, he too had to rely on many others to see the project through.

Born in Sandgate, Queensland on the 26 December 1867, he was educated at lpswich State School, lpswich Grammar School and the University of Sydney, where he studied under Professor Warren and graduated as a Bachelor of Engineering in 1889. In 1891 he married Edith Jenkins. They had six children.

In 1891 Bradfield joined the New South Wales Department of Public Works as a temporary draftsman, becoming permanent in 1895. Involved in major projects such as the Cataract Dam and Burrunjuck Dam, in 1909 he became assistant engineer, and in 1913 was appointed chief engineer for metropolitan railway construction. He went overseas in 1914 to study railway construction and in the next few years wrote many papers advocating the electrification of suburban railways.

By 1922 Bradfield was in charge of the bridge project, with strong ideas of what the bridge should look like, having visited Europe and inspecting the arched Tyne Bridge built by Dorman and Long, and the Hell Gate Bridge in New York built by the Cleveland Bridge Company.

He himself had drawn designs for an arch bridge, part of which formed the basis for his thesis on electric railways and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which earned him the first doctorate of science in engineering at Sydney University in 1924.

Of course there are many others who made considerable contributions to this complex project, as well as advances in bridge engineering technologies and materials and developments in local manufacture of prefabricated steel and reinforced concrete.

When the Dorman Long Company won the contract to build the bridge, they employed Sir Ralph Freeman, a leading consulting engineer, to prepare the final detailed design. A bitter dispute developed between Bradfield and Long as to who actually designed the bridge.

While overall management responsibility was Bradfield's, some other significant contributors included Laurence Ennis, engineer-in-charge at Dorman Long (main supervisor) and Edward Judge, Dorman Long's Chief Technical Engineer. Arthur Plunkett is another name also connected with the design.

Life After "The Coathanger"

In 1934 Bradfield was appointed consulting engineer for the design and construction of the Storey Bridge in Brisbane, which was opened in 1940. He also helped with the design of the University of Queensland at St Lucia.

He later also promoted schemes to irrigate western Queensland and Central Australia. He was a councillor of the Institution of Engineers, Australia (1920-24), a member of the Senate of the University of Sydney (1913-43), and a member of the Australian National Research Council.

Other significant projects included the Barren Jack Dam (1908, now known as Burrinjuck Dam) the Cataract Dam, two Highways proposals (Warringah and Quay), St. Lucia University, Brisbane (1936), Alpha Oil Shale, and the manufacture of aluminium in Australia (1940).

While not credited with designing or building them, Bradfield had some other bridge involvements, such as the Kempsey Timber Bridge (1897), the Hobart Derwent Bridge and the Auckland Bridge.

He died in Sydney on 23 September 1943.







  • Australian Constructors Association
  • Cochlear
  • Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO)
  • Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO)
  • Leighton Holdings Limited
  • Resmed
  • Thales
  • ARUP
  • KBR