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George Henry Slight

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George Henry Slight ( -1934)

1934 Obituary [1]

GEORGE HENRY SLIGHT was responsible for the construction and maintenance of the remarkable series of lighthouses along the coast of Chile and for various inventions in connexion with light signalling. His father and grandfather were also lighthouse engineers, and the latter was associated with the Bell Rock lighthouse.

Mr. Slight was born in Edinburgh, and served an apprenticeship from 1873 to 1878 under Sir James N. Douglass, F.R.S., M.I.Mech.E., at Trinity House workshops, Blackwall, London, where he was employed on the manufacture of light- and fog-signalling apparatus, buoys, beacons, and marine engines.

He remained as an improver until 1882, when he joined Messrs. John Elder and Company, Fairfield.

In 1884 he went to sea with Peninsular and Oriental Steam Ship Company, and later became a draughtsman at the London office of the company's superintendent engineer. He was appointed engineering superintendent for the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses in 1886.

In 1892 he was invited by the Chilean President, Admiral don Jorge Montt, to construct a number of lighthouses for the Government. At that time there were only 12 lighthouses in Chile, but the number had increased to 80 when Mr. Slight retired in 1918.

His greatest achievement was the construction of a lighthouse on the notorious Evangelistas Rocks, west of the Straits of Magellan. This feat had been previously declared impossible by experts, but the lighthouse was completed in 1896. Mr. Slight and his colleagues were practically isolated from civilization during the building operations, owing to the dangerous nature of the coast, and the heavy seas.

Other notable lights for which he was responsible were those erected at Dungeness (Chile), Isla Huafo, and Cape Raper. In each case the rocks were some hundreds of miles from any base of operations and any approach to them was of an extremely hazardous nature. For the construction of the last-named lighthouse, a light railway was built from an inland harbour 5 miles away; the railway was probably unique in that 80 per cent of its length was on a continuous viaduct. The line took three years to build, and the Cape Raper light was shown four months later.

Mr. Slight also introduced a service of buoys and sea marks along the coast. On his retirement he went into business and represented the Swedish A.G.A. Company, manufacturers in Chile of oxygen and acetylene for industrial use, and of the associated equipment. He introduced into Chile the unattended lights using dissolved acetylene, and successfully applied the system to the lighting of the Straits of Magellan.

His death occurred in Santiago on 26th June 1934.

He had been a Member of the Institution since 1892.

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