Famous 18th Century British Inventors & Discoverers

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite 18th Century British Inventors & Discoverers

 1 George Stephenson

George Stephenson
Famous As: Father of Railways
Birthdate: June 9, 1781
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Wylam
Died: August 12, 1848

George Stephenson was a British mechanical and civil engineer. Stephenson is credited with pioneering rail transport which is widely regarded as one of the most prominent inventions of the 19th century. Regarded as the Father of Railways, George Stephenson is also credited with developing the standard rail gauge which is used by several railways around the world.

 2 Charles Babbage

Charles Babbage
Famous As: Father of the computer
Birthdate: December 26, 1791
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: London, England
Died: October 18, 1871
Charles Babbage, or the “father of the computer,” invented the prototype of the world’s first mechanical calculator, the Difference Engine. With the help of mathematician Ada Lovelace, he also created the Analytical Engine, the first general-purpose computer and a precursor of the modern computer, with its looping and sequential mechanism.

 3 Richard Arkwright

Richard Arkwright
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: December 23, 1732
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Preston, Lancashire, England
Died: August 3, 1792

Initially a wig-maker, Richard Arkwright later grew an interest in the spinning mechanism, building the Arkwright’s water frame, which used water power to produce cotton yarn. He soon became a name to reckon with in the textile industry, with many mills to his name. He was knighted for his feats.

Recommended Lists:

 4 Richard Trevithick

Richard Trevithick
Famous As: Pioneer of steam-powered road & rail transport
Birthdate: April 13, 1771
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Tregajorran, Cornwall, England
Died: April 22, 1833

Richard Trevithick was a British mining engineer and inventor. A pioneer of rail transport and steam-powered vehicles, Trevithick is credited with developing the first working railway steam locomotive and the first high-pressure steam engine. He was a highly respected figure in the fields of engineering and mining during the peak of his career.

 5 John Herschel

John Herschel
Famous As: Polymath
Birthdate: March 7, 1792
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Slough, Buckinghamshire, England
Died: May 11, 1871

The son of renowned astronomer William Herschel, John Herschel was educated at Eton and Cambridge and grew up to be a polymath. Apart from contributing to the field of photography, he was known for cataloguing and naming stars and satellites. He briefly also served as the Master of the Royal Mint.

 6 Humphry Davy

Humphry Davy
Famous As: Inventor of Davy Lamp
Birthdate: December 17, 1778
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Penzance, England
Died: May 29, 1829

Best remembered for his invention of the Davy lamp, a safety lamp for miners, Humphry Davy initially aspired to be a doctor but later deviated to chemistry. The Copley Medal winner had co-founded the Zoological Society of London. He also excelled in writing poetry and loved fishing.

 7 Henry Shrapnel

Henry Shrapnel
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: June 3, 1761
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bradford-on-Avon, England
Died: March 13, 1842
You May Like

 8 George Cayley

George Cayley
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: December 27, 1773
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Scarborough, England
Died: December 15, 1857

British engineer and inventor George Cayley was a pioneer of aeronautics and aviation. He designed the world’s first glider that could successfully carry a human being. He was also a prominent Whig and had contributed to the formation of what is now known as the University of Westminster.

 9 Rowland Hill

Rowland Hill
Famous As: Teacher
Birthdate: December 3, 1795
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kidderminster, England
Died: August 27, 1879

Born to a schoolmaster, Rowland Hill followed in his father’s footsteps to become a teacher and explored subjects such as astronomy and math. He is, however, best remembered for his reform of the postal system, including increasing the speed of letter transfer and introducing the prototype of the postage stamp.  

 10 James Hargreaves

James Hargreaves
Famous As: Weaver, carpenter and inventor who was was one of three men responsible for the mechanisation of spinning
Birthdate: December 13, 1720
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, England
Died: April 22, 1778

 11 David Brewster

David Brewster
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: December 11, 1781
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Jedburgh, Scotland
Died: February 10, 1868

David Brewster was a British scientist, inventor, and author. He conducted many experiments in physical optics, especially concerned with the study of the polarization of light. Fellow scientist William Whewell dubbed him the "father of modern experimental optics." He was also a pioneer in photography and invented an improved stereoscope. He wrote numerous works of popular science as well. 

 12 Edmund Cartwright

Edmund Cartwright
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: April 24, 1743
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nottinghamshire
Died: October 30, 1823

 13 Benjamin Thompson

Benjamin Thompson
Famous As: Physicist and Inventor
Birthdate: March 26, 1753
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Woburn, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 21, 1814

 14 Samuel Crompton

Samuel Crompton
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: December 3, 1753
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Firwood, England
Died: June 26, 1827

 15 Sir William Congreve, 2nd Baronet

Sir William Congreve, 2nd Baronet
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: May 20, 1772
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England
Died: May 16, 1828

 16 Joseph Bramah

Joseph Bramah
Famous As: Civil engineer, Engineer
Birthdate: April 13, 1748
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Barnsley
Died: December 9, 1814

Joseph Bramah started his career as a cabinet maker and over time, revolutionized the lock-making industry with his pick-proof locks. Along with blacksmith Henry Maudslay, he changed the course of 19th-century British manufacturing. Best known for his hydraulic press, he also built water closets in Queen Victoria’s home.

 17 Peter Mark Roget

Peter Mark Roget
Famous As: Lexicographer
Birthdate: January 18, 1779
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Soho
Died: September 12, 1869

 18 John Wilkinson

John Wilkinson
Famous As: Pioneer in cast iron manufacturing
Birthdate: 1728 AD
Birthplace: Bridgefoot
Died: July 14, 1808

 19 Henry Maudslay

Henry Maudslay
Famous As: Innovator
Birthdate: August 22, 1771
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Woolwich, England
Died: February 14, 1831

While he initially apprenticed under a lock maker, he later joined the factory of Sir Marc Isambard Brunel, where he invented scores of machines, the most notable of them being the metal lathe. He also developed plane surfaces to aid his workmen at his factory. He was married to inventor Joseph Bramah's housemaid.

 20 Thomas Earnshaw

Thomas Earnshaw
Famous As: Watchmaker
Birthdate: February 4, 1749
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ashton-under-Lyne, England
Died: March 1, 1829

 21 William Sturgeon

William Sturgeon
Famous As: Physicist, Inventor
Birthdate: May 22, 1783
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Whittington
Died: December 4, 1850

William Sturgeon was an English physicist and inventor. He invented the first practical English electric motor and made the first electromagnets. A self-taught genius, he became a lecturer at the East India Company's Military Seminary at Addiscombe, Surrey. Along with John Peter Gassiot and Charles Vincent Walker, he was instrumental in founding the London Electrical Society in 1837. 

 22 Percivall Pott

Percivall Pott
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: January 6, 1714
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: London, England
Died: December 22, 1788

 23 William Thornton

William Thornton
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: May 20, 1759
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Died: March 28, 1828

British-American William Thornton was initially trained in medicine and that is when he began drawing and sketching as part of his medical notes. He later won a contest for the design of the Library Company of Philadelphia's new hall. He also designed the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

 24 Philip Astley

Philip Astley
Famous As: Equestrian
Birthdate: January 8, 1742
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Newcastle-under-Lyme, England
Died: January 27, 1814

 25 Henry Cort

Henry Cort
Famous As: Ironmaster
Birthdate: 1740 AD
Birthplace: Lancaster, England
Died: May 23, 1800

 26 Thomas Hancock

Thomas Hancock
Famous As: inventor, engineer
Birthdate: May 8, 1786
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Marlborough, Wiltshire
Died: March 26, 1865

 27 Benjamin Huntsman

Benjamin Huntsman
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: June 4, 1704
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Epworth, England
Died: June 20, 1776

 28 Alexander Gordon Laing

Alexander Gordon Laing
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: December 27, 1794
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: September 26, 1826

 29 Goldsworthy Gurney

Goldsworthy Gurney
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: February 14, 1793
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Treator, Padstow, England
Died: February 28, 1875

 30 Eleanor Coade

Eleanor Coade
Famous As: Businesswoman
Birthdate: June 3, 1733
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Exeter, Devon, England
Died: November 16, 1821

Eleanor Coade was a British businesswoman known for her astute entrepreneurial, business, and marketing skills. She manufactured Neoclassical statues, architectural decorations, and garden ornaments. She created stoneware for many famous buildings, including St George's Chapel, The Royal Pavilion, Brighton, and Carlton House. She was one of the few women to run a highly successful business in the Georgian era. 

 31 Richard Lovell Edgeworth

Richard Lovell Edgeworth
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: May 31, 1744
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bath, England
Died: June 13, 1817

 32 William Nicholson

William Nicholson
Famous As: Chemist and inventor
Birthdate: December 13, 1753
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: London, England
Died: May 21, 1815

William Nicholson is best remembered for discovering the electrolysis of water, which revolutionized the chemical industry. His inventions also include his own hydrometer and launched the first independent science journal. Inspired by his writer friend Thomas Holcroft, he also penned An Introduction to Natural Philosophy, his best-known written work.

 33 John Byrom

John Byrom
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: February 29, 1692
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Manchester, England
Died: September 26, 1763

 34 Jesse Ramsden

Jesse Ramsden
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: October 6, 1735
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Salterhebble, Halifax, England
Died: November 5, 1800

 35 John Blenkinsop

John Blenkinsop
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: 1783 AD
Birthplace: Leeds, England
Died: January 22, 1831

John Blenkinsop was an English inventor and mining engineer. He is credited with inventing steam locomotives and designing the first practical railway locomotive. At a time when inventors were content with locomotives drawing up to four times their weight, Blenkinsop continued working on engines that could draw up to 18 times their weight and eventually succeeded in building better locomotives.

 36 Alexander John Forsyth

Alexander John Forsyth
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: December 28, 1768
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Belhevie, Scotland
Died: June 11, 1843

 37 Thomas Mudge

Thomas Mudge
Famous As: Watchmaker
Birthdate: 1715 AD
Birthplace: Exeter, England
Died: November 14, 1794

 38 John Roebuck

John Roebuck
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: 1718 AD
Birthplace: Sheffield, England
Died: July 17, 1794

 39 John Wyatt

John Wyatt
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: March 31, 1700
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Thickbroom, England
Died: November 29, 1766

 40 Bryan Donkin

Bryan Donkin
Famous As: Developer
Birthdate: March 22, 1768
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Sandree, England
Died: February 27, 1855

 41 Ebenezer Kinnersley

Ebenezer Kinnersley
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: November 30, 1711
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: England
Died: July 4, 1778

 42 David Hartley, the Younger

David Hartley, the Younger
Famous As: Politician and inventor
Birthdate: 1732 AD
Birthplace: Bath, England
Died: December 19, 1813

 43 William Hedley

William Hedley
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: July 13, 1779
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Newburn, Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Died: January 9, 1843

 44 John Heathcoat

John Heathcoat
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: August 7, 1783
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Duffield, England
Died: January 18, 1861

John Heathcoat was an English inventor who improved the construction of the warp-loom in order to produce better-looking mitts. In 1808, he invented the machine to produce an exact imitation of handmade pillow lace. It was by far the most complex and expensive textile apparatus.

 45 Arthur Woolf

Arthur Woolf
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: October 31, 1766
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Camborne, England
Died: October 26, 1837

British engineer Arthur Woolf was a pioneer of the compound steam engine. Starting his career as a carpenter, he later worked for Joseph Bramah. While working at a London brewery, he began working with steam power and ended up inventing the Woolf high-pressure compound engine, almost twice efficient as James Watt’s engine.

 46 William Cockerill

William Cockerill
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: 1759 AD
Birthplace: Lancashire, England
Died: 1832 AD

 47 Thomas Boulsover

Thomas Boulsover
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: 1705 AD
Birthplace: Sheffield, England
Died: September 9, 1788

 48 William Radcliffe

William Radcliffe
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: 1761 AD
Birthplace: England
Died: May 20, 1842

William Radcliffe had his own powerloom weaving factory and invented a machine for improving the quality of cloth, though his mill was later destroyed by the Luddites. His iconic essay on the new technology of weaving was later published as a significant treatise of the Industrial Revolution.

 49 Chester Moore Hall

Chester Moore Hall
Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: December 9, 1703
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Leigh, Essex, England
Died: March 17, 1771

 50 Daniel Quare

Daniel Quare
Famous As: Clockmaker
Birthdate: 1648 AD
Birthplace: Somerset, England
Died: March 21, 1724