John Smeaton

1724 – 1792

John Smeaton’s life begins and ends in Leeds, yet reaches around the globe. A self-taught engineer, inventor and collaborator, Smeaton is recognised as the first Civil Engineer in the UK.

He was a modest character who didn’t like to boast, but the truth remains that he stopped London Bridge from falling down, designed one of the most iconic lighthouses in the world and is name checked by NASA.

Almost 300 years after his birth our world is still shaped by his pioneering projects and collaborative way of working. The blueprints for lighthouses, waterwheels, bridges, ports, canals, windmills, observatories, renewable energy sources and even flight are all part of an incredible legacy.

The term civil engineering was coined by Smeaton to establish a new profession creating engineering works for the public good. He was an ethical employer who never patented his work, preferring instead to share his ideas freely and allow them to be improved on by others.

Smeaton300 is a chance to understand our engineering history in different ways, uncover new stories and take a look at how engineering can shape our future.