Thomas Smith (engineer)
Thomas Smith (1752–1814) was a Scottish businessman and early lighthouse engineer. Born in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, his father drowned in Dundee harbour when he was young. His mother encouraged him into a career away from the sea, leading him into working in ironmongery.
By his 30s, he was running his own business making lamps and designing street lighting for the burgeoning New Town, Edinburgh. His success with innovative reflectors on lights led him to search for new business by contacting the newly formed Northern Lighthouse Trust (now Northern Lighthouse Board). He was appointed the first engineer to the Trust contracted to build the first four lighthouses (Kinnaird Head, Mull of Kintyre, Eilean Glas, and North Ronaldsay).
He used the newly invented Argand lamp with its circular wick and glass chimney which gave a much brighter light than traditional wick lamps. But behind this he fixed parabolic reflectors which concentrated the light. He experimented with several designs to make the lights unique and it was one of the last he designed on Start Point, Sanday that used a revolving light that was to become universal.
In 1787, he had been twice widowed and had three young children when he met and married Jean Lillie Stevenson, a widow whose young son was Robert Stevenson. Robert became Smith's apprentice, business partner, son-in-law and eventual inheritor of the lighthouse building business.
Lighthouses of Thomas Smith
- Kinnaird Head (1787)
- Mull of Kintyre (1788)
- Dennis Head Old Beacon, North Ronaldsay (1789)
- Eilean Glas, Scalpay, Harris (1789)
- Pladda, off the Isle of Arran (1790)
- Little Cumbrae (1793)
- Muckle Skerry (1794)
- Cloch, Gourock, (1797)
- Inchkeith, Firth of Forth (1804)
- Start Point, Sanday (1806)
- Bathurst, Bella The Lighthouse Stevensons, ISBN 0-00-720443-4
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