Sunday, 2 May 2010

Local Faces - John Smeaton (1724-94)

John Smeaton is known as the father of Civil Engineering and was the founder of the Society of Civil Engineers in 1771.

He was born at Austhorp, attended Leeds Grammar School (the old John Harrison site) and after starting work at his father's law firm then went on to learn how to make mathematical instruments with Henry Hindley. I wonder how long it took to pursuade his father that law wasn't his forte?

A mechanical and civil engineer, he is most famous for building the Eddystone Lighthouse (first to use concrete since the Romans), but he also made improvements to the Aire Calder Navigation and undertook several drainage projects. He built substantial bridges in Banff, Coldstream (Robert Burns used this one to cross into England for the first time) and Perth all of which are still in use.

Despite working throughout England and Scotland it seems he didn't leave the area to live and died at the family home, Austhorp Lodge in 1794.

Models of his prototypes and the wood framed lathe he made and used are on display at Armley Mills. His innovative model for dealing with the foundation of Eddystone lighthouse is illustrated over on the Leeds Museums blog.

Janet Taylor hand and machine stitched this piece on printed fabric (4 hours).

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