The Lighthouse Stevensons: The Extraordinary Story of the Building of the Scottish Lighthouses by the Ancestors of Robert Louis Stevenson
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Of the hundred thousand or so people employed on the sea in the 1750s, between 30% to 40% would not have survived to see old age. In the most challenging locales, the land was only maybe 100 meters wide at low tide and mostly submerged during high tide. And as I see lighthouses on my visit, I will have a great appreciation for the effort and ingenuity and hardship involved. The early parts of the book that covered the history of getting lighthouse construction started despite political and cultural resistance was the most interesting.
And even some sailors didn't want them - they were accustomed to short, dangerous lives, and trying to make sailing safer seemed like messing with God's plans. Stevenson was also known for developing city infrastructure, including railway lines, bridges such as Scotland’s Regent Bridge (1814) and monuments such as the Melville Monument in Edinburgh (1821).
When the lights come out at sundown along the shores of Scotland, I am proud to think they burn more brightly for the genius of my father!
His discovery to use interlocking granite blocks (to hold up to forceful winds), and the use of new lamps and lenses over their predecessor- candles, was a huge move forward.One of the men who should have been in the third generation is Robert Louis Stevenson, the famous author, who defied his father's wishes and become an author. The Lighthouse Stevensons is a story of high endeavour, beautifully told; indeed, this is one of the most celebrated works of historical biography in recent memory. I once watched a documentary about the building of the Bell Rock Lighthouse, which is partially covered during high tide. Most notable was his invention of intermittent flashing lights – marking the lighthouse as the first to use red and white flashing lights – for which he received a gold medal from the King of the Netherlands. Of course, the famous Stevenson family were responsible but thankfully RLS decided that the life of an engineer was not for him.
But Stevenson first trained as an engineer under his dad's direction, and he used his experience visiting and working at lighthouse sites for some of the activity and descriptions in his novels, such as "Kidnapped.The book is written for the layperson, so it includes both history and technology, and it attempts to go fairly light on the tech side, but while still explaining the extraordinary achievements. For everyone who has heard of 'Lighthouse Stevensons' a thousand or more will recognise the name [Robert] Louis Stevenson. Between the three brothers, he arguably made the biggest impact in lighthouse engineering, with his meteorological Stevenson screen and lighthouse designs ushering in a new era of lighthouse creation. Although most well-known for his lighthouses, Robert also engineered bridges, roads, and railways, among other things. The author did a really good job striking a balance between writing about the lighthouses and about the men (the women in their lives really didn't feature much at all beyond Louis' grandmother) who built them.