In writing this paper I am reminded of many great civil engineering projects, but who were the people behind these great projects?
The father of civil engineering was John Smeaton.
John Smeaton was an Englishman the first self-proclaimed civil engineer, often regarded as the “father of civil engineering.” Smeaton was born in Austhorpe, Leeds, England on June 8, 1724.
John Smeaton was a pioneer in the use of cast iron in water and windmill mechanisms. It was the President of the Royal Society who recommended John to design the Eddystone Lighthouse.
Recommended by the Royal Society at the age of 30, Smeaton designed the third Eddystone Lighthouse after the previous structure was destroyed by fire. He pioneered the use of hydraulic lime, a form of mortar that will set underwater, and developed a technique involving dovetailed blocks of granite in the building of the lighthouse. He also developed a method to raise the blocks from a movable floating base 60 feet in the air, so that the stones could be placed atop the lighthouse.
One of my favourite civil engineering projects would be the third Eddystone Lighthouse, no doubt many will disagree with my choice, however, such an undertaking in such dangerous conditions of the time took remarkable ingenuity and nerve.
About Eddystone Lighthouse
Height: 49 m
Opened: 18 May 1882
Owner: Trinity House
Range: 17 nautical miles (31 km)
Smeaton was responsible for the development of modern cement, having identified the compositional requirements needed to obtain hydraulicity in lime, work which led ultimately to the invention of Portland cement. His lighthouse remained in use until 1877. After the rock underlying the structure’s foundations began to erode, it was dismantled and partially rebuilt at Plymouth Hoe where it is known as Smeaton’s Tower.
The current Eddystone Lighthouse is the fourth to be built on the site (or the fifth, since the first lighthouse was substantially rebuilt after only a year due to harsh conditions). The first lighthouse (Winstanley's) was swept away in a powerful storm, killing its architect and five other men in the process. The second (Rudyard's) stood for fifty years before it burned down. The third (Smeaton's) is the best known, renowned because it influenced lighthouse design and its importance in the development of concrete for building; its upper portions were re-erected in Plymouth as a monument. The first lighthouse, completed in 1699, was the world's first open ocean lighthouse, although the Cordouan Lighthouse off the western French coast preceded it as the first offshore lighthouse.
Blog revised 29th November 2021