Around the turn of the 19th century, the culture of the Enlightenment, alongside the emerging needs for modernisation and industrialisation, give rise to a particular interest in technical aspects of construction. Originating in the scientific, mathematical and technical approach to architecture that several theoreticians of the Enlightenment promoted, this becomes stronger in the late 18th century through the unification and modernisation processes by which Germany is evolving from being an aggregate of several backward states and small political entities still based around medieval forms of administration and an agriculture-based economy into a united, modern and industrialised country.
The first bridges with a structure of load-bearing iron elements were suspension bridges. The idea of a suspended bridge is extremely old; the first known footbridge, using suspension chains, was constructed in China around 65 A.D. However, until the end of the 18th century, very few bridges were constructed from metal. The weight of the chains limited spans to around 20 m, and only the invention of chains made of articulated iron bars, known as eye bars and patented in England in 1817, allowed spans to substantially increase. The first important suspension bridge by the Englishman, Telford, was constructed over the Menai Straits in 1826 and is noteworthy for achieving a record span of 176 m. This bridge is still in service, the original iron chains having been replaced by articulated steel bars in 1938.