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From Eddystone to the Stars

The Astronomy of John Smeaton (1724-92)

David Sellers


Format: Paperback

Size: 220 mm x 150 mm

Pages: 48

ISBN: 9780954101329

Published: 9 May 2024














Price: £8.99

(post free in UK)

About this book


John Smeaton is justly famed for the design and construction of the third Eddystone Lighthouse. Many of his great engineering works – mills, harbours, bridges and waterways – are still in use today. Smeaton was the archetypal civil engineer. But he had other strings to his bow.


It is not so well known that he was elected to the Royal Society on the strength of his innovative work as a maker of scientific instruments, long before the lighthouse commission came along. Aside from his engineering avocations, his ruling passion in life was astronomy. He had his own observatory at Austhorpe and manufactured telescopes and micrometers for himself and others. He also designed astronomical observatories for some of the most distinguished astronomers of his day.


This booklet reveals that, although Smeaton made no notable discoveries in astronomy, he nevertheless did make valuable and sophisticated contributions to the development of that science. Despite that, very little has been written about this side of his life.


Remarkably, through his work and friendships, Smeaton had a connection with seminal experiments concerning the properties of light and electricity, analyses of the observational effect of the Moon’s gravity, expeditions to measure the distance of the Sun, a delicate experiment to weigh the Earth, and even – maybe – the earliest discussion of black holes!




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