Knight, John Peake

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b. 1828
d. 1886
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English railway engineer, inventor of the first road traffic lights in Britain.
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Knight was initially employed as a clerk at the Midland Railway in Derby, and in 1846 he had a job in the audit office of the Brighton Railway. From 1854 to 1869 he was Superintendent of the South Eastern Railway and then became manager of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, a post he held until his death. During this period many improvements were put in hand, including the interlocking of signals, the block system, the incorporation of Westinghouse brakes (in 1878), Pullman cars (1877) and electric lighting.
In 1868 it was decided to erect the first set of traffic lights in London in Bridge Street, New Palace Yard, Westminster, and the authorities naturally sought the advice of an engineer familiar with railway practice. Thus John Knight was called in, and red and green lights mounted on the ends of semaphore arms were duly installed. Unfortunately, a fault in the gas supply of this set of lights caused an explosion which killed a police constable.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Lieutenant-Colonel, Engineer and Railway Volunteer Staff Corps 1870–86. Associate, Institution of Civil Engineers 1872. Legion of Honour 1878.
Further Reading
Obituary, 1886, The Engineer 62.
IMcN

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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