A list of great engineers who have made a significant breakthrough in the building and development of industry and infrastructure. From Archimedes who engineered the Archimedes screw and effective lever to Steve Wozniak who engineered a modern home computer. Includes civil, mechanical, electronic and industrial engineers.
1. Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806 – 1859) English engineer. Brunel was at the heart of many of the key building projects of the British industrial revolution. He built the Great Western Railway from Bristol to London and also developed powerful steamships. He also built the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol and the first tunnel under the River Thames.
2. Sir Henry Bessemer (1813 – 1898) English engineer, inventor, and businessman. Bessemer invented a more efficient method of producing steel – blowing air through molten pig iron, which reduced the cost and improved the quality of steel. He introduced many inventions and was also able to make them a practical and commercial success.
3. Alexander Bell (1847 – 1922) – Scottish inventor of the telephone and developments in understanding hearing. Bell oversaw the development and implementation of a practical long-distance telephone system through his company the Bell Telephone Company.
4. Archimedes (287 – 212 BC) Greek mathematician and engineer. Archimedes developed and improved the Archimedes screw for lifting up water from mines or wells. Archimedes also developed a way for sailors to use levers to lift heavy objects. He also was employed to build weapons of defence for the Greek city of Syracuse, such as improving the catapult
5. George Stephenson (1781 – 1848) Mechanical engineer, who developed the steam engine for use in trains. He was a key figure in building the 25 mile Stockton and Darlington railway. Stephenson also built the first intercity railway between Liverpool and Manchester – ushering in the ‘railway age’.
6. James Watt (1736 – 1819) Scottish engineer. Watt improved the Newcomen steam engine by adding a separate condensing chamber for the steam engine. This significantly increased the efficiency of the steam engine and was a key component of the industrial revolution.
7. Henry Ford (1864-1947). Pioneered the use of mass production for motor cars, helping to reduce the price and make cars affordable for the average American consumer. Ford was not the first to introduce the assembly line, but he introduced it on a mass scale and revolutionised the efficiency of building cars.
8. Gustave Eiffel (1832 – 1923) French civil engineer who designed and built the Eiffel Tower for the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1889. Eiffel also helped design the Statue of Liberty, which was given from the French to the US. Eiffel also built many key bridges for the French rail network, including the Garabit viaduct.
9. Steve Wozniak (1950 – ) American inventor, and electronics engineer who co-founded Apple Computers with Steve Jobs in the late 1970s. He was the primary electronics engineer who designed and developed the Apple II in 1977. This was a very important stage in developing a personal home computer.
10. Gottlieb Daimler (1834 – 1900) German engineer and industrialist. Daimler played a crucial role in developing a high-speed liquid petroleum fueled engine. The engine could be throttled creating variable speed and his engine led to the successful commercial production of motor cars powered by petrol.
11. James Dyson (1947 – ) British inventor and businessman who invented the bagless vacuum cleaner and successfully marketed and sold the innovative product. Has continued to sell innovate designs, such as Dyson hand-driers.
12. Richard Trevithick (1771 – 1833) British inventor and mining engineer who was a pioneer of steam-powered railroads. In 1803, he built the first successful steam locomotive which pulled iron along an ironworks, in Merthyr Tydfil.
13. Charles Babbage (1791 – 1871) – English inventor of the first mechanical computers. Babbage is considered the ‘father of computers’ for his pioneering work on mechanical computers.
14. Nikola Tesla (1856 –1943) Serbian/American engineer and inventor. Tesla worked on electromagnetism and AC current. Credited with many patents from electricity to radio transmission. His developments of alternating current (AC) and induction motor were licensed by Westinghouse Electric and formed the basis of their polyphase electrical distribution system.
15. Nikolaus Otto (1832 – 1891) was a German engineer who developed an effective internal combustion engine. Otto developed a four-stroke engine with spark plug. This represented a huge leap for non-coal based engines, and it was soon incorporated into practical motor cars.
16. Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 – 1519) Italian artist and Renaissance man. Da Vinci made many scientific discoveries and inventions. He was also employed to work as a military architect and engineer, devising methods to defend the city from naval attack
17. Barnes Wallis (1887 – 1979) British aeronautical engineer. He developed the use of geodetic airframe used in aircraft. He was best known for developing the ‘bouncing bomb’ used in the Dambusters raid of 1943.
18. Frank Whittle (1907 – 9 August 1996) British airforce officer and airforce engineer. Whittle developed the first workable designs for a jet aircraft, which used a gas turbine. On a shoe-string budget, and working very long days, he developed a working prototype. By 1942, the US airforce was producing its first jet planes, and British jet planes were developed shortly after.
19. J. Gutenberg (1395 – 1468) Inventor of the first printing press in Germany. Gutenberg adapted an old wine press and introduced moveable type to create a working printing press. He used his to press to create the first publishing firms, selling many copies of the mass-produced books, like the Gutenberg Bible.
20. Lillian Moller Gilbreth (1878 – 1972) American psychologist and civil engineer. She was the first female engineers to earn a PhD and contributed to the study of time, motion and fatigue in civil engineering.
21. Joseph Locke (1805 – 1860) English civil engineer. Locke was an important railway pioneer. He built the Grand Junction Railway which connected the Liverpool railway to Crewe and Birmingham. He developed new techniques for laying rails and was considered better at finishing projects than Stephenson.
22. Elon Musk (1971 – ) American entrepreneur, IT specialist and engineer. Musk made a fortune setting up Paypal. He has used his wealth to innovate pioneering engineering programmes such as solar-powered transport, battery cars and space craft. Also developed the Hyperloop which uses vertical take-off and landing.
23. Neil Armstrong (1930 – 2012) US Pilot and aeronautical engineer. He studied engineering through tuition paid for by the US Navy. He then graduated to NASA’s space travel programme. In 1969, Neil Armstrong became famous as the first man to successful land and walk on the moon.
24. Khufu (26th century BC) Khufu or Cheops was the Pharoah who comissioned and oversaw the building of the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, which included over two million large stone blocks. Even today, the engineering of this ancient wonder is not fully understood.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous Engineers”, Oxford, UK. www.biographyonline.net Published 8 July 2019.
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Learn all about how engineering projects have changed the course of history and added to human progress, from those who built the Great Pyramid in Egypt to the Industrial Revolution
Inventors – Famous inventors including Cai Lun, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Sir Isaac Newton, James Watt and Samuel Morse.
People of the Industrial Revolution (1750s to 1900) The great inventors, entrepreneurs and businessmen of the industrial revolution. Also includes the social activists of the era, such as Charles Dickens.
Inventions that changed the world – Famous inventions that made a great difference to the progress of the world, including aluminium, the telephone and the printing press.
Scientists – Famous scientists from Aristotle and Archimedes to Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin. Including mathematicians, biologists, physicists and chemists.