Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame

Queensferry Crossing

The Queensferry Crossing, Scotland, under construction in 2016. Jacobs/Arup client engineers

Robert Stevenson (1772-1850), civil engineer and founder of a family dynasty of lighthouse engineers.

Robert Stevenson

Born in Glasgow, Robert Stevenson was father to David, Alan and Thomas Stevenson who all became engineers. His grandson was famous author, Robert Louis Stevenson.

His first assignment as an apprentice was the supervision of the erection of a lighthouse on Little Cumbrae. From these beginnings he realised the importance of lighthouses and that the marking of navigation hazards would save countless lives and greatly improve the safety of near coastal shipping. In total Robert Stevenson was responsible for the building of over 15 lighthouses, including the Bell Rock Lighthouse in 1811. The building of the lighthouses was a heroic achievement. Not only did the structure have to be designed to cope with the great forces of nature - waves, currents and wind - but the designer also had to devise the method of construction and design, the lifting plant et al necessary to construct a monolith, usually on a rock in the middle of the ocean, sometimes far offshore. Stevenson served for nearly 50 years as engineer to the Northern Lighthouse Board, until 1842. He innovated in the choice of light sources, mountings, reflector design, the use of Fresnel lenses, and in rotation and shuttering systems providing lighthouses with individual signatures allowing them to be identified by seafarers. For this last innovation he was awarded a gold medal by William I of the Netherlands.

Stevenson was also responsible for a number of bridges in Scotland including the Stirling New Bridge, Annan Bridge, and Hutcheson's Bridge over the Clyde in Glasgow.

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