Writing my nature diary for the January edition of the Dalesman magazine, I got sidetracked by the story of John Smeaton (1724-1792), ‘the father of civil engineering’. He only has a walk-on part in my article, where he described the rock in Coxley Quarry as ‘the best Blue Stone’ he had ever seen (I’ve come up with a theory of why he described the buff sandstone in the quarry as ‘Blue Stone’).
He visited the quarry in 1760 when he was acting as superintendent engineer on what would become the Calder and Hebble Navigation. The year before he had completed the construction of the Eddystone Lighthouse, which he designed to have the proportions of the trunk of an oak tree.
He’d also recently been awarded a medal by the Royal Society for his work on the mechanics of waterwheels and windmills. His enquiries into the relationship between pressure and velocity for objects moving in air led to a formula for calculating lift that the Wright brothers used in designing their aircraft.