25 Cool Engineers from History

Black and white photo of engineers

Engineering is a field that has shaped the world as we know it. From bridges to computers, engineers have been at the forefront of technological advancement. Here are 13 cool engineers from history who have made significant contributions to their fields and society as a whole.

Cool Engineers

#1 – Archimedes (287–212 BC)

Known for his work in mathematics and physics, Archimedes also made significant contributions to engineering. He designed innovative machines, including siege engines and the screw pump that bears his name – the Archimedes Screw.

#2 – Imhotep (c. 2650–2600 BC)

Often referred to as the first engineer in history, Imhotep was the architect behind the Step Pyramid, the earliest colossal stone building and earliest large-scale cut-stone construction.

#3 – Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806–1859)

A leading figure of the Industrial Revolution, Brunel built dockyards, the Great Western Railway, a series of steamships including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship, and numerous important bridges and tunnels.

#4 – Nikola Tesla (1856–1943)

Tesla’s contributions to electrical and electronic engineering include the development of alternating current electrical systems, the Tesla coil, and early radio wave experiments.

#5 – Thomas Edison (1847–1931)

With 1,093 patents to his name, Edison’s inventions include the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the practical electric light bulb.

One of Edison’s earliest inventions was the phonograph in 1877. This device could record and play back sound, a feat that was considered miraculous at the time. The invention brought him worldwide fame and the nickname “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” referring to his laboratory’s location in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

Edison’s most significant contribution to technology was the development of a practical electric light bulb. Despite popular belief, he did not invent the concept of an electric light bulb; however, he improved upon it significantly, creating a version that was practical for home use.

#6 – George Stephenson (1781–1848)

Known as the “Father of Railways,” Stephenson’s notable achievement was the design of the ‘Rocket’ locomotive and establishing rail gauge used by most of the world’s railways.

#7 – Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)

While he’s best known as an artist, da Vinci had a mind brilliantly inclined towards engineering and anatomy. His notebooks contain designs for flying machines, armored vehicles, and even a robotic knight.

#8 – Alexander Graham Bell (1847–1922)

The inventor of the telephone, Bell also made significant advancements in optical telecommunications, hydrofoils, and aeronautics.

In 1876, Bell was awarded the first U.S. patent for the invention of the telephone, a device that converted sound into an electrical signal via a microphone and sent it through a wire to another device that converted it back into sound. This invention revolutionized global communication and laid the foundation for the development of all future telecommunication devices. He also made significant contributions to the field of aeronautics with his development of the “Silver Dart,” one of Canada’s earliest aircrafts.

#9 – James Watt (1736–1819)

Watt improved the Newcomen steam engine, an enhancement that was fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution.

#10 – Hedy Lamarr (1914–2000)

Apart from being a famous Hollywood actress, Lamarr co-developed a “Secret Communications System” to help combat the Nazis in World War II. This technology was a precursor to secure Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth.

#11 – Marie Van Brittan Brown (1922–1999)

Brown invented the home security system and the closed circuit television system to control it, a forerunner to all modern home security technology.

#12 – Grace Hopper (1906–1992)

A computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral, Hopper was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer and developed the first compiler for a computer programming language.

#13 – Alan Turing (1912–1954)

Turing is considered the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. During World War II, he developed a machine that helped break the Enigma code.

#14 – Gustave Eiffel (1832–1923)

A French civil engineer, Eiffel is best known for designing the Eiffel Tower in Paris. He also contributed to the construction of the Statue of Liberty.

#15 – John Logie Baird (1888–1946)

A Scottish engineer and inventor who is known for inventing the mechanical television. He also made significant contributions to the development of the electro-mechanical television.

#16 – Robert H. Goddard (1882–1945)

An American engineer, physicist, and inventor who is credited with creating and building the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket, which he successfully launched in 1926.

#17 – Wernher von Braun (1912–1977)

Wernher von Braun was a German and later American aerospace engineer and space architect. He played a key role in the development of rocket technology in Germany during World War II and, after migrating to the United States post-war, he became a central figure in the birth of America’s space program. As the director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, von Braun oversaw development of the Saturn V rocket that eventually carried astronauts to the moon during the Apollo missions.

#18 – Karl Benz (1844–1929)

A German engine designer and car engineer, generally regarded as the inventor of the first automobile powered by an internal combustion engine.

#19 – Emily Roebling (1843–1903)

Stepping in for her ill husband, Emily oversaw the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. She became the first woman field engineer and technical leader of the project.

#20 – Elon Musk (1971–Present)

A modern-day industrial engineer known for co-founding PayPal, SpaceX, Neuralink, and Tesla Inc. His work with SpaceX in developing reusable rockets has revolutionized space exploration.

#21 – Sir Frank Whittle (1907–1996)

An English Royal Air Force engineer air officer who is credited with single-handedly inventing the turbojet engine.

#22 – Hertha Marks Ayrton (1854–1923)

A British engineer, mathematician, physicist, and inventor known for her work on electric arcs and ripples in sand and water.

#23 – Henry Ford (1863–1947)

While not the inventor of the automobile, Ford was the engineer who made it accessible to the masses through the creation of the assembly line process for mass production.

#24 – Sally Ride (1951–2012)

An American astronaut and physicist, Ride also developed the Mars Rover as part of her work at NASA. In 1978, Ride joined NASA’s astronaut corps, one of only six women selected out of 8,000 applicants. On June 18, 1983, she flew to space aboard the space shuttle Challenger, marking her historic journey as America’s first female astronaut.

Ride completed two space missions and spent more than 343 hours in space. Her second mission took place in 1984, also aboard the Challenger. After the Challenger disaster in 1986, Ride served on the Presidential Commission that investigated the tragedy.

After leaving NASA in 1987, Ride became a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego, and later started her own company, Sally Ride Science, to inspire young people, particularly girls, to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

#25 – Vint Cerf (1943–Present)

Co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the Internet. He is often referred to as one of the “fathers of the internet”.

These engineers, both past and present, have greatly influenced the world we live in today. They serve as inspirations for future engineers, proving that with innovation and determination, anything is possible.

Engineering News

There’s a wealth of information and exciting updates in the world of engineering. From the latest advancements in technology to fascinating projects and research from leading institutes around the globe, the field is constantly evolving and pushing boundaries. Whether you’re interested in civil, computer, chemical, or aerospace engineering, or simply a fan of innovation, there’s always something new to discover. There are even insights into the coolest jobs for civil engineers and recommendations for the best cities for engineers to live in. Stay tuned for more detailed features and fun stuff in engineering news that shapes our world and future.

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