Sydney Opera House Engineer Behind The Iconic Sails Dies

Joe Bertony, the man who helped the sails of the Sydney Opera House become a reality, has died aged 97.

Bertony died at his home in Hornsby, Sydney, on Saturday morning.

Born in Corsica in 1922, he studied naval engineering in the French Navy, before becoming a spy.

During World War II, he was captured twice by the Gestapo and sent to concentration camps, escaping both times.

Construction in 1963. Images: Getty Images

He immigrated to Australia in 1952, and worked in the uranium mines in Western Australia. His mathematical skills soon earned him a job in Brisbane but it wasn't long before he was asked to help on a project in Sydney that would be known around the world.

That project was the Sydney Opera House.

Bertony hand-wrote 30,000 mathematical equations in his quest to work out how much strain the supporting truss could hold from the arches.

Construction began in 1959 and was completed in 1973.

Building in 1966. Image: Getty Images

The Sydney Opera House paid tribute to its designer, and said the sails were "possible" because of Bertony's invention of the erection arch.

"We are saddened at the passing of Joe Bertony, one of our original engineers. Joe will be remembered by many as the inventor of the Opera House erection arch, which made the building of our sails possible," it said.

"Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this time."