Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

John Smeaton (1724-1792), Civil engineer

Civil engineer of Austhorpe, Leeds; FRS 1753, contributing various papers on marine navigation, air pumps and the steam engine; his masterpiece was the third Eddystone lighthouse, completed in 1759 (replaced in 1882); designed bridges, advised on drainage schemes, and planned the Forth and Clyde canal, completed in 1790; James Watt declared that Smeaton’s ‘example and precepts have made us all engineers’.

‘he had a warmth of expression, that might appear to those who did not know him well, to border on harshness ... he would sometimes break out hastily ...’ (John Holmes, 1793).

‘In person he was of middle stature, broad and strong made, and possessed originally of a vigorous constitution. In his manners he was simple, plain, and unassuming ... He spoke in the dialect of his native county, and was not ashamed to admit it’ (Samuel Smiles, 1862).


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.