John L. McAdam

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John McAdam was a Scottish engineer who was largely responsible for transforming road building into a science.

As a youth, McAdam worked for an uncle in New York and managed to amass a considerable fortune. He returned to Scotland in 1783, and pursued other interests, including the development of a durable road surface. He held the position of turnpike trustee in several municipalities in Scotland and England.

His process involved laying a base of large stones and topping them with crushed stone and gravel. The built-up road bed allowed drainage and a slightly convex surface helped to assure runoff. No bonding agent was used; the materials were forced into place by a large weighted roller at the time of construction, and later kept in place by the weight of road traffic.

Most new roads in Europe in the mid-19th century were constructed in this manner, as well as many in the United States.

The term "macadam" came to be applied to a variety of other road surfaces in later years.

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