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Richard Henry Brunton


1841 - 1901

Civil engineer. Born in Muchalls (in the Parish of Fetteresso), the son of a retired sea captain, turned coastguard. Brunton began as an engineer, working on the railways of Aberdeen, Angus and then in England, before being recommended by the noted lighthouse engineering brothers David and Thomas Stevenson as Chief Lighthouse Engineer to the Japanese Government (1868). In this position, Brunton was responsible for founding the lighthouse service in Japan, supervising the construction of approximately 50 lighthouses around the Japanese coast and initiating a training school and system of lighthouse keepers all modelled on the Northern Lighthouse Board in Scotland. His achievement was remarkable because Japan was a closed society at the time, and this was all undertaken in just 8 years. Although the construction designs and light mechanisms he used were taken from the Stevensons, he had to adapt his building techniques for a country where earthquakes were prevalent. He used stabilising bars and in a few cases even constructed the entire lighthouse in metal. He also commissioned two light-ships and advised on the building of railways in Japan.

Brunton had a significant role in beginning the process of Westernisation in Japan; his training school eventually became Yokohama University and he was also responsible for the development of the harbour in that city, now a major international port. While in Japan, Brunton met Thomas Blake Glover (1838 - 1911) who helped open the country to trade.

On his return to Britain in 1876, Brunton passed into obscurity although worked for James Young's paraffin company for a time. He remains well-known in Japan as the Father of Japanese Lighthouses. He is buried in London.


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