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Lecture

The life and achievements of John Smeaton: from Austhorpe to outer space

Event organised by ICE

Date
13 February 2024
Time
10:30 - 12:45 GMT
Location
Rogerthorpe Manor Hotel
Thorpe Lane
Badsworth, WF9 1AB
United Kingdom

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Overview

This two-part lecture explains the life of John Smeaton from his civil engineering success to his lifelong passion for astronomy.

In the first lecture, leading Smeaton researchers take a whistlestop tour through his life. In the latter, David Sellers, astronomer and retired engineer, dives into Smeaton's astronomical achievements to tell a lesser known story about the engineer's fascinating career. 

Lecture 1: The life and achievements of John Smeaton

By Abby Dix-Mason and Jane Earnshaw

John Smeaton changed the world. But it is a tricky and compelling task to research the life of a modest person. You are required to be creative with your detective work, dig a little deeper and go the extra mile to unearth the hidden gems that make up someone’s life story.

This was the case for Abby Dix-Mason and Jane Earnshaw when they began exploring the history of John Smeaton - the UK’s first civil engineer born in Leeds nearly 300 years ago – the more they discovered the more fascinated they became by his work and how he chose to live.

Taking a whistlestop tour through his life, this talk goes behind the scenes of how two non-engineers became Smeaton's biggest fans and, in the process, created Smeaton300 - a two-year long programme of work by artists, academics and engineers. in celebration of the 300th anniversary of Smeaton's birth.

Lecture 2: From Austhorpe to Outer Space

By David Sellers

John Smeaton was the archetypal civil engineer. But he had other strings to his bow. 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 presentation 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 this, 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!

Book to attend by emailing [email protected] by clicking the 'book now' button.

Lunch is available at an extra cost. Please state whether or not you will take lunch in your booking email.

Cash payment will be accepted on the day, or BACS payment information is available on request.

Please note: RICE (Retired ICE) meetings are open to all members of ICE and to members of other organisations with whom the ICE has a reciprocal arrangement, such as IET and IMechE. Additionally, RICE members may invite a guest to a RICE ordinary meeting, two times in a year.

Prices

Item Prices
Entry to the event £1.67 (Excl. VAT)
Lunch £10.86 (Excl. VAT)
Dessert £4.18 (Excl. VAT)

Programme

10:30 - 11:00

Registration, tea and coffee

11:00 - 12:45

Presentations 'The life and achievements of John Smeaton' and 'From Austhorpe to outer space', followed by questions and discussion

12:45

Bar opens and buffet lunch service

Speakers

Jane Earnshaw

Jane Earnshaw

Foxglove

owner

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Jane Earnshaw

Jane Earnshaw is the joint owner of Foxglove, a company that has been creating, commissioning and producing arts projects for over 20 years. Jane, alongside Abby Dix-Mason, has collaborated with artists and communities to produce work in parks, shopping centres, universities, swimming pools, museums, public spaces, bridges, castles, festivals, canals, playgrounds, libraries, schools, train stations and traditional arts venues. Jane recently appeared on Antiques Roadshow featuring Smeaton’s book “A description of the construction of the Eddystone Lighthouse with Stone”

Abby Dix-Mason

Abby Dix-Mason

Foxglove

owner

Read more

Abby Dix-Mason

Abby Dix-Mason is the joint owner of Foxglove, a company that has been creating, commissioning and producing arts projects for over 20 years. Abby, alongside Jane Earnshaw, has collaborated with artists and communities to produce work in parks, shopping centres, universities, swimming pools, museums, public spaces, bridges, castles, festivals, canals, playgrounds, libraries, schools, train stations and traditional arts venues. Abby recently appeared on Antiques Roadshow featuring Smeaton’s book “A description of the construction of the Eddystone Lighthouse with Stone”

David Sellers

David Sellers

retired

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David Sellers

David Sellers, was a chartered civil engineer, working on sewerage and flood defence projects. Since retiring as flood risk manager for Leeds City Council, he has been able to devote more time to his passion for the History of Astronomy. He is the author of several books on the subject, is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, and vice-chair of the UK-based Society for the History of Astronomy.

For more information please contact:

Joanne Topping

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