The first documented lighthouse was the Lighthouse of Alexandria, built in 200 BC on the island of Pharos by the Egyptian Emperor Ptolemy. Considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it is thought to have been 492 ft (150 metres) high – about three times taller than modern lighthouses.
Graphic reconstruction of the Lighthouse of Alexandria
Romans emperors built many lighthouses – called Pharos – to assist their navigators. After their conquest of Britain, beginning in 43 AD, they built two lighthouses at Dover. The surviving one is the oldest lighthouse in England and still stands in the Dover Castle grounds.
The world’s tallest brick lighthouse, the Lanterna at Genoa, was built in 1543. It still stands proud at 246 ft (75m) tall.
The world’s first stone lighthouse was the Smeaton Eddystone (pictured), built just south of Plymouth, England in 1756 by John Smeaton, the “Father of Civil Engineering.” It was lit with only 24 candles. The Eddystone lasted 47 years until it was floored by fire. It was then dismantled and built on a neighboring rock.
Despite navigation available by GPS (Global Positioning System), lighthouses are still in use. Modern lighthouses, however, are automated and they light up to the equivalent of 20 million candles, lit by high pressure xenon lamps reflected through huge Fresnel lenses.
The Yokohama Marine Tower, a 348 ft (106m) high steel tower at Yamashita Park, Yokohama is one of the highest lighthouses in the world. It is however, a fair amount shorter than the world’s highest lighthouse, the Jeddah Light in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – it stands 436 feet (133 m) high.
Also see: List of world’s tallest towers
Updated January 2013