1815: A Renowned Lighthouse Designer Makes His World Debut in Scotland

January 11, 1815

David Stevenson, who would achieve widespread renown as a civil engineer and lighthouse designer, was born in Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh. By the time of his birth, his father Robert Stevenson (1772-1850) had begun to establish himself as a notable designer of lighthouses within Scotland. (This country officially became part of the United Kingdom in 1801.) David Stevenson and his brothers Alan Stevenson (1807-1865) and Thomas Stevenson (1818-1887) followed in their father’s footsteps when it came to the creation of lighthouses.

After completing his studies at the University of Edinburgh in the 1830s, David Stevenson launched his engineering career. In 1853, he became an engineer with the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB), which oversees the development and maintenance of lighthouses both throughout Scotland and on the Isle of Man. Between 1854 and 1880, he and his brother Thomas (also employed by NLB) collaborated on the designs for a large number of lighthouses.

David Stevenson also found time to help engineer Richard Henry Brunton (1841-1901) with his designs for lighthouses in Japan and in particular methods for safeguarding those structures against earthquakes. Stevenson’s accomplishments also extended to some noteworthy non-lighthouse engineering work. These projects included the widening of North Bridge in Edinburgh.

Stevenson died in the Scottish town of North Berwick in 1886 at the age of 71. His sons David Alan Stevenson (1854-1938) and Charles Alexander Stevenson (1855-1950) were likewise engineers who continued the family’s contributions to the development of Scottish lighthouses. At least one of David Stevenson’s nephews, however, did not pursue that part of the family’s legacy. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), who was Thomas’s son, instead became an acclaimed writer whose more famous works include Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on David Stevenson, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Stevenson_(engineer)

Additional information on the Stevenson family’s dynasty of lighthouse engineers is available at  https://www.nlb.org.uk/history/stevenson-engineers/

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