Father of Civil Engineering

John Smeaton ‘ Father of Civil Engineering ‘ was an Englishmen born on 8th June 1724, in the United Kingdom. He was blessed with the ability to think differently. Hence laid the foundation for civil engineers with his innovative works. Apart from his proficiency in Civil engineering, he was also a Mechanical engineer and an eminent physicist. He pioneered the use of hydraulic lime in concrete, using pebbles and powdered brick as aggregate, thus creating a new path in the development of modern cement, which led to the formation of Portland cement . Portland Cement is major Invention in World And Major Facts.

Read Also : Difference between Civil Engineer and Architecture.

Smeaton is also credited with using the term ‘Civil Engineer’ for the first time, and he became the first self-proclaimed civil engineer

History of John Smeaton ‘ Father of Civil Engineering ‘

  • Name – John Smeaton
  • Place of Birth – Austhorpe, Leeds, United Kingdom
  • Date of Birth – 8th June 1724
  • Date of Death – 28 October 1792

Some Famous Works

  • Eddystone Lighthouse
  • Smeaton’s Lighthouse
  • Portland Cement
  • Forth and Clyde Canal at Scotland
  • Ramsgate Harbour
  • Perth Bridge
  • Banff Harbour
  • Aberdeen Bridge
  • Improvements to the River Lee Navigation
  • Nent Force Level
  • Peterhead Harbour etc.

Career and Life Biography of John Smeaton ‘ Father of Civil Engineering ‘

  • John Smeaton opened his own shop in Great Turnstile in London with a little knowledge of science and tool-making under his sleeve, in 1748.
  • He built the mariner’s compass together with Dr. Gowin Knight, in 1750. The compass became hugely popular. He was living in Great Turnstile at the time.
  • Smeaton moved his shop from Great Turnstile to a larger place in Furnival Inn Court and employed three craftsmen under his supervision, in 1751.
  • He conducted some experiments related to the power of windmills and water wheels which were successful and proved his expertise in the knowledge of science and engineering, in 1752.
  • During 1754, Smeaton visited the Low Countries, studying canals, harbours, and mills; the tour was the turning point in his career.
  • From 1756 to 1759 Smeaton was occupied with his best-known achievement, the rebuilding of the Eddystone lighthouse.
  • Smeaton oversaw the design and construction of several canals, bridges & lighthouses. He also developed several techniques for construction of windmills which were widely adopted. Some of his major construction works include the Aberdeen Bridge, Coldstream Bridge, Ripon Canal, and the Clyde Canal.
  • Smeaton built the third Eddystone Lighthouse, using dovetailed blocks of Portland stone to withstand the pounding of the waves; this technique became standard for such wave-swept structures, in 1756-59. While planning the lighthouse, he discovered the best mortar for underwater construction to be limestone with a high proportion of clay, and thus he was the first to recognize what constitutes a hydraulic lime.
  • Smeaton constructed the first 5-smock chimney mill in Newcastle, Britain. He also developed the method of using hydraulic lime in the foundation of bridges.
  • Smeaton is also credited with using the term ‘Civil Engineer’ for the first time, and he became the first self-proclaimed civil engineer. He also co-founded the ‘Society of Civil Engineers’ in 1771.
  • John Smeaton showed his mechanical engineering skills and developed a water pressure engine that pumped water which was later superseded by James Watt’s steam engine, in 1760.
  • During his professional career, he engineered the construction of various canals, bridges, and harbours including the Coldstream Bridge, Ripon Canal, Aberdeen Bridge, Peterhead Harbour and Forth and Clyde Canal in Scotland. He also contributed in building 43 mills including his most significant one at Carron Company ironworks in 1769.
  • In 1782 Smeaton built the Chimney Mill at Spital Tongues in Newcastle upon Tyne, the first 5-sailed smock mill in Britain.
  • During the last thirty-five years of his life, John Smeaton was responsible for many engineering projects, including bridges, steam engine facilities, power stations run by wind or water, mill structures, and machinery, and river and harbour improvements.
Smeaton Bridge

Awards and Achievements

  • In 1753, John Smeaton was made a fellow of the Royal Society of London for his work in constructing precision instruments.
  • Smeaton was honoured with the Copley Award in 1759 for his extraordinary research in the mechanics of waterwheels and windmills.
  • In 1834, the Society of Civil Engineers, which Smeaton was a co-founder of, was renamed as the ‘Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers’ in his honour.