John Smeaton, English mechanical and civil engineer, 1773.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Oil painting by Sir Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) of John Smeaton (1724-1792) holding a design for a lighthouse. Smeaton was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1753 and was commisioned to replace the second Eddystone Lighthouse, off the Devon coast, after it was destroyed by fire. Work began in 1756 and the lighthouse stood until 1876, when the rock eroded so much that part of it was moved to Plymouth Hoe. Smeaton's Tower is now a popular tourist attraction. Smeaton also improved Thomas Newcomen's (1663-1729) steam engine and was responsible for Ramsgate Harbour in Kent (1774) and the Forth and Clyde Canal in Scotland.