J. P. Knight
|John Peake Knight|
13 January 1828|
|Died||23 July 1886(aged 58)|
|Education||Nottingham High School|
|Spouse(s)||Elizabeth Knight (m. 1832–1913)|
|Children||James Percy Knight|
London, Brighton & SouthCoast Railway Company
|Significant projects||first traffic lights|
|Significant awards||Legion of Honor, 1878|
John Peake Knight (1828–1886), was a railway engineer and inventor, credited with inventing traffic lights.
John Peake Knight was born in Nottingham and attended Nottingham High School. He left school at 12 to work in the parcel room of the Derby railway station. Peake Knight was promoted quickly and by the age of 70 was Traffic Manager for the London to Brighton Line. He did a great deal to improve the quality of railway travel – introducing the Pullman car and safe carriages with alarm pulls for ladies.
He and his wife had 5 sons and the eldest founded JP Knight Ltd, tug boat operators.
He died in 1886 and the Prince of Wales had a special wreath placed on his coffin during the funeral.
Invention of the traffic light
Peake Knight is credited with inventing the original traffic light in 1868.
In 1866, a year in which 1102 people were killed and 1334 injured on roads in London, John Peake Knight proposed a signalling system based on railway signals.
This was not the traffic light we know now, but was a revolving gas-powered lantern with a red and a green light. Knight's invention was similar to the railway signals of the time. The traffic light was originally placed near London's House of Commons, at the intersection of Great George and Bridge Streets (SW1). However, the lights exploded during use in 1869 and were removed by 1870.
In 1910, Earnest Sirrine improved the light by adding automatics. He also changed the red and green lights to words that read proceed and stop.
In 1912, Lester Wire opted to go back to the red and green lights. However, this time, electric lights were used instead of the original gas-powered lanterns.
A memorial plaque to Peake Knight's invention can be seen at 12 Bridge Street, Westminster, the corner building close to where the original traffic lights would have been erected. Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Baroness Hayman, unveiled the plaque on 4 March 1998.
- Day, Lance; Ian McNeil (1996). Biographical dictionary of the history of technology. Taylor & Francis. p. 404. ISBN 0-415-06042-7.
- City of Westminster green plaques
- Carnell, Jennifer (22 September 2009). "Photographs of Brompton Cemetery in London by Jennifer Carnell. Victorian graves of famous and not so famous people, including the novelist G.A. Henty". Retrieved 2009-11-08.
- "The man who gave us traffic lights". BBC. 16 July 2009. Retrieved 2011-04-25.