Record

Authorised form of nameSmeaton; John (1724 - 1792)
SurnameSmeaton
ForenamesJohn
Dates1724 - 1792
NationalityBritish
Dates and placesBirth:
Austhorpe, near Leeds, Yorkshire, England (08 June 1724)
Death:
Austhorpe, Yorkshire (28 October 1792)
Burial:
In the chancel of Whitkirk parish church, Yorkshire
ActivityProfession:
Engineer
Research Field:
Civil engineering
Career:
Employed in the office of his father, an attorney; went to London, gave up law, and entered the service of a scientific instrument maker; later started his own similar business; designed and built the Eddystone Lighthouse (1756-1759) Lord Macclesfield proposed Smeaton for the Royal Society's prestigious Copley Medal for his "Experimental inquiry concerning the powers of water and wind in the moving of Mills" (published in 'Philosophical Transactions' volume 51 1759-1760, pp 100-174) on 22 November 1759. Medal awarded, with 15 page laudatory speech recorded in Journal Book, on 30 November 1759.
After a sound elementary education Smeaton was encouraged to follow a legal career and was employed in the office of his father, an attorney; then was sent to London for further training in the courts. His inclination to mechanical arts prevailed, and with his father's consent he gave up law and entered the service of a scientific instrument maker; then started his own similar business as a maker of scientific instruments, thereby providing scope for both his scientific interests and his mechanical ingenuity. In the 1750's he produced several technical innovations, including a novel pyrometer with which he studied the expansion of various materials. However, the pace of industrial and and commercial progress directed his attention to large scale engineering works. From 1756-1759 Smeaton was occupied with his best known achievement, the rebuilding of the Eddystone lighthouse, which confirmed his reputation as an engineer. He subsequently became a consultant in the more profitable structural engineering and river harbour works, and adopted the term 'civil engineer' to distinguish civilian consultants from the military engineers graduating from the Military Academy at Woolwich. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1753, and in 1759 he published a paper on water wheels and windmills, for which he received the Copley Medal of the Royal Society. He was a member of the Royal Society Club, an occasional guest at meetings of the Lunar Society, and a charter member of the first professional engineering society, the Society of Civil Engineers founded in 1771; after his death it became known as the Smeatonian Society. Its founding reflected the growing sense of professionalism among British civilian engineers during the eighteenth century.
Royal Society activityMembership:
Fellow
Election Date:
15/03/1753
Medals/Prizes:
Copley Medal 1759
RelationshipsHis daughter, Mary, married the son of Jeremiah Dixon (FRS 1773)
Published worksPaper entitled 'An Experimental Enquiry concerning the Natural Powers of Water and Wind to Turn Mills, and Other Machines, Depending on a Circular Motion' in Philosophical Transaction, Volume 51, 1759-1760, pp100-174
SourcesSources:
Bulloch's Roll; DNB; DSB
Journal Book Original Volume XXIV, pp 399-414
References:
R L Hills, 'John Watt's Map of the Clyde' in NR 1998 vol 52 pp 63-71
A P Woolrich, 'The Printing of Smeaton's Reports' in NR 1980 vol 35 pp 131-133
A W Skempton, 'The Publication of Smeaton's Reports' in NR 1971 vol 26 pp 135-155, plate
J R M Setchell, 'The Friendship of John Smeaton, FRS, with Henry Hindley, Instrument and Clockmaker of York and the Development of Equatorial Mounting Telescopes' in NR 1970 vol 25 pp 79-86
J R M Setchell, 'Further Information on the Telescopes of Hindley of York' in NR 1970 vol 25 pp 189-192
T E Allibone, 'The Club of the Royal College of Physicians, the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers and their Relationship to the Royal Society Club' in NR 1967 vol 22 pp 186-192
Douglas McKie, 'Priestley's Laboratory and Library and Other of his Effects' in NR 1956-57 vol 12 pp 114-136
J A D Ackroyd, 'Sir George Cayley, the father of aeronautics. Part 2. Cayley's aeroplanes' in NR 2002 vol 56 pp 333-348
J Corden, 'Web of Science History' project in NR 2002 vol 56 pp 383-388
See; http://www.timeout.com/london/music/features/76/Kaiser_Chiefs-10_things.html>http://www.timeout.com/london/music/features/76/Kaiser_Chiefs-10_things.html [Ricky Wilson, one of the 'KaiserChiefs' pop group went to Leeds Grammar School and namechecks another ex-pupil in the song "I predict a riot" with the line 'would never have happenede to Smeaton'. John Smeaton (1724-1792) is the father of civil engineering'.]
A N Rollinson 'Engineering and technology of Industrial water Power at Castleford Mills from the seventeenth century to the twentieth century.' N&R Vol 70 Issue 1 March 2016, pp45-63
Royal Society codeNA6321
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
IM/004253Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004247Smeaton, Johnnd
P/0119Portrait of Smeaton, John
IM/004256Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004250Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004257Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004252Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004258Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004239Smeaton, John2002
IM/005388Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004229Smeaton, John2000
IM/004238Smeaton, John2002
IM/004235Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004254Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/005871Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004228Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004237Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004249Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004242Smeaton, John1992
IM/004243Smeaton, John1992
MM/11/10Letter from C R Weld, Assistant Secretary, Royal Society, to the Council of the Royal Society31 March 1846
IM/004240Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004226Smeaton, Johnnd
P/0120Portrait of Smeaton, John
IM/004225Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004241Smeaton, John1992
IM/004245Smeaton, Johnnd
RSL/3/3Letter from Alex Aubert, Highbury, to Sir Joseph Banks7 November 1799
IM/005389Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004255Smeaton, John2002
CB/1/6/125Letter from John Smeaton, York to Charles Blagden, King's Road, near Gray's Inn Lane12 August 1784
IM/004246Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/007029Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004233Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/005872Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/006004Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004227Smeaton, Johnnd
NLB/37/558Copy letter from Robert William Frederick Harrison to Major P [Percy Alexander] MacMahon, Fellow of the Royal Society6 April 1908
L&P/2/163Paper, 'Of the structure and use of the azimuth compass' by John Smeaton 1750
L&P/2/164Paper, 'Of improvements in the mariner's compass, to render the card and needle proposed by Dr Knight of general use' by John Smeaton1750
L&P/3/234Letter, 'Of cements' from John Smeaton to George Parker3 April 1757
L&P/2/311Paper, 'A new tackle or combination of pullies' by John Smeaton1752
L&P/2/164/1Paper, 'Of improvements in the mariner's compass, to render the card and needle proposed by Dr Knight of general use' by John Smeaton1750
L&P/2/357Paper, 'Of the quick firing canons of Eide Siade Johans' by John Smeaton1753
L&P/2/491Paper, 'Experiments on a machine for measuring the way of a ship at sea' by John Smeaton1754
L&P/2/286Letter, 'Improvement in the air pump' from John Smeaton to John Ellicott16 April 1752
JSWorking design drawings of civil engineering projects by John Smeaton1741-1792
L&P/2/355Paper, 'Of a new sluice or dam invented by Eide Siade Johans' by John Smeaton1753
L&P/2/462Paper, 'Remarks on Mr Bruckner's machine for finding the way of a ship at sea' by John Smeaton1753
L&P/2/507Paper, 'Description of a new pyrometer for measuring expansions' by John Smeaton1754
L&P/3/152Letter, 'Of the machine to measure the way of a ship at sea' from John Smeaton to Thomas Birch21 March 1756
L&P/5/35Paper, 'Of the menstrual parallax' by John Smeaton17 April 1768
L&P/3/403Paper, 'Address on presenting the Copley Medal to John Smeaton FRS' by George Parker30 November 1759
L&P/5/36Paper, 'A new method of observing the heavenly bodies out of the meridan' by John Smeaton1768
L&P/5/220Paper, 'Of a new hygrometer' by John Smeaton1771
L&P/5/128Paper, 'Observation of the solar eclipse of 4 June 1769 near Leeds' by John Smeaton1769
L&P/6/173Paper, 'Of the quantity and proportion of mechanical power required to give different degrees of velocity to heavy bodies' by John Smeaton1776
L&P/7/11Paper, 'Of the further use of steam engines and the conversion of reciprocating into circular motion' by John Stewart and John Smeaton31 January 1778
L&P/7/247/2Plate, 'Machine of collusion' by John Smeaton1782
L&P/7/247Paper, 'New fundamental experiments upon the collision of bodies' by John Smeaton10 April 1782
L&P/7/247/1Letter, 'New fundamental experiments upon the collision of bodies' from John Smeaton to Joseph Banks10 April 1782
L&P/8/154Paper, 'Observations on the graduation of astronomical instruments with an explanation of the method of dividing circles invented by the late Henry Hindley' by John Smeaton1785
L&P/9/55/2Plate, 'Observation of the right ascension and declination of Mercury out of the meridian' by John Smeaton1787
L&P/9/55/1Paper, 'Account of an observation of the right ascension and declination of Mercury out of the meridian near his greatest elongation, September 1786, with an equatorial micrometer of his own invention and workmanship; with an investigation of a method of allowing for refraction in such observations' by John Smeaton1787
L&P/9/55Paper, 'Account of an observation of the right ascension and declination of Mercury out of the meridian near his greatest elongation, September 1786, with an equatorial micrometer of his own invention and workmanship; with an investigation of a method of allowing for refraction in such observations' by John Smeaton1787
L&P/9/104/2Plate, 'Cross sections of the instrument' by John Smeaton1788
L&P/9/104Paper, 'Description of an improvement in the application of the quadrant of altitude to a celestial globe, for the resolution of problems dependent on azimuth and altitude' by John Smeaton19 November 1788
L&P/9/104/1Letter, 'Description of an improvement in the application of the quadrant of altitude to a celestial globe, for the resolution of problems dependent on azimuth and altitude' from John Smeaton to William Wales19 November 1788
IM/004231Smeaton, JohnSeptember 2002
IM/004244Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004251Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004230Smeaton, JohnSeptember 2002
IM/004232Smeaton, JohnSeptember 2002
EC/1752/34Smeaton, John: certificate of election to the Royal Society
IM/004234Smeaton, Johnnd
IM/004248Smeaton, Johnnd
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