John Smeaton

John Smeaton was one of the greatest of the British engineers who helped transform Britain in the 18th century. He was born in Leeds in 1724 and like his great contemporary James Watt trained first as a maker of scientific instruments. He quickly established himself as the go to man when mechanical engineering problems arose and himself coined the term ‘civil engineering’ to cover the great works undertaken as part of the revolution in transport. He built bridges, harbours, viaducts, lighthouses and canals all over the country including, of course, the great canal from the Forth to the Clyde from 1768 where he served as Chief Engineer.

Around the same he began a long association with Carron Company for whom he designed or improved many pieces of apparatus including blowing engines, waterwheels, canon boring machinery, pumping engines, steam engines and boring mills as well as advising on the supply of water from the dams and the lade and designing the convex damhead on the Carron which diverted water from the river into the furnace lade. He continued to work for the Company until the mid 1780s and died in Leeds in 1792.

Ian Scott (2021)