John Smeaton was born in Whitkirk, near Leeds, in 1724. At 18 he was sent to London to study to become a lawyer but after two years he decided to pursue his interest in science and mechanics instead. At aged 29 he was accepted as a fellow of the Royal Society and is now recognised as the father of civil engineering in the UK. He was a self-taught engineer, instrument maker and astronomer who left an incredible legacy, even being named on NASA’s website. Smeaton was also an ethical employer and concerned with improving the world around him for the greater good.

This first edition Smeaton’s account of building the famous Eddystone Lighthouse contains beautiful maps, engravings and plans and is dedicated by the author to George III. His radical new lighthouse design contained innovative features, including the tapered shape inspired by the oak tree and dovetailed masonry mimicking the kerbstones of London’s pavements. The development of a hydraulic cement that would set under water was another of his impressive inventions.

The Eddystone Lighthouse book inspired Smeaton300, an exciting project that celebrates the life and work of John Smeaton. The programme of activity will lead all the way up to his 300th birthday in 2024.

The digitisation of this book has been carried out by the British Library and funded by Leeds2023. You can now borrow a copy for free from Leeds Libraries using your library card. To read more about John Smeaton please visit the new My Learning page which has been created as part of the Smeaton300 project.