18th Century Engineers

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Find out more about the greatest 18th Century Engineers, including James Watt, George Stephenson, Richard Trevithick, David Brewster and William Roy.
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 1 
James Watt
(Inventor of Steam Engine)
James Watt
17
Birthdate: January 19, 1736
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Died: August 25, 1819
Eighteenth-century Scottish inventor James Watt developed the Newcomen steam engine, by inventing the Watt steam engine, which brough about the Industrial Revolution in Britain and the world. He also co-owned the firm Boulton and Watt and laid down concepts such as horsepower and the watt, the SI unit of power.
 2 
George Stephenson
(Father of Railways)
George Stephenson
10
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.

 3 
William Murdoch
(Scottish Engineer and Inventor Who Was the First to Make Extensive Use of Coal Gas for Illumination)
William Murdoch
7
Birthdate: August 21, 1754
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lugar, Scotland
Died: November 15, 1839

Scottish engineer William Murdoch initially worked for the firm of Matthew Boulton and James Watt. He later made a host of inventions and was the first to use coal gas for illumination. He was also known for his work on steam energy and invented the oscillating engine and the D slide valve.

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 4 
Thomas Telford
(Civil Engineer)
Thomas Telford
5
Birthdate: August 9, 1757
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Eskdale, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
Died: September 2, 1834

Scottish civil engineer Thomas Telford had begun his career as a mason at 14, having lost his father in infancy. A self-taught architect, he was responsible for building many structures, including the Caledonian Canal and the Menai Suspension Bridge. Named The Colossus of Roads, he symbolized the Scottish Enlightenment.

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 5 
John Smeaton
(Civil Engineer)
John Smeaton
3
Birthdate: June 8, 1724
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Austhorpe, Leeds, England
Died: October 28, 1792

John Smeaton was the first person to claim to be a civil engineer. One of his best-known creations was the Eddystone Lighthouse. He was also the first to use hydraulic lime in concrete. He not only won the Copley Medal but was also made a Fellow of The Royal Society.

 6 
Richard Trevithick
(Pioneer of steam-powered road & rail transport)
Richard Trevithick
3
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.

 7 
Robert Stevenson
(Civil engineer)
Robert Stevenson
2
Birthdate: June 8, 1772
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: July 12, 1850

Glasgow-born civil engineer Robert Stevenson initially built lighthouses as part of the Scottish Lighthouse Board. Apart from constructing the Bell Rock Lighthouse in Scotland, he also invented the hydrophore and flashing lights. He was also the grandfather of writer Robert Louis Stevenson. He is part of the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame.

 8 
Marc Isambard Brunel
(French-British Engineer Who Constructed the 'Thames Tunnel')
Marc Isambard Brunel
3
Birthdate: April 25, 1769
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Hacqueville, Normandy, France
Died: December 12, 1849

French-British engineer Marc Isambard Brunel is best known for constructing the Thames Tunnel and had been the chief engineer of New York City. He had also spent time in a debtor’s prison for his association with loss-making projects. He was the father of renowned engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

 9 
John Loudon McAdam
(Civil engineer, Engineer)
John Loudon McAdam
3
Birthdate: September 21, 1756
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Ayr, Scotland
Died: November 26, 1836

Scottish engineer John Loudon McAdam introduced the world to the macadam road surface, which was more economical and effective than all previous road-construction methods. He suggested that roads should be constructed at an elevated level for better drainage. He also became Britain’s Surveyor-General of Metropolitan Roads.

 10 
Pierre Charles L'Enfant
(French-American Military Engineer Who Designed the Basic Plan for Washington, D.C.)
Pierre Charles L'Enfant
5
Birthdate: August 2, 1754
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: June 14, 1825
Born to a famous French painter in Paris, Pierre Charles L'Enfant later joined the rebels in American Revolutionary War. While working as a military engineer in the U.S., he changed his name from Pierre to Peter. He was hired by George Washington to design the L'Enfant Plan for establishing Washington D.C.
 11 
Matthew Boulton
(Businessperson, Engineer)
Matthew Boulton
4
Birthdate: September 3, 1728
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Birmingham, England
Died: August 17, 1809

British manufacturer and engineer Matthew Boulton is best remembered as the financier of Scottish engineer James Watt’s pathbreaking steam engine. His Soho Manufactory initially produced metal parts, and he later stepped into John Roebuck’s shoes to partner with Watt, after Roebuck went bankrupt. He also established the Soho Mint.

 12 
Lazare Carnot
(Mathematician, Politician, Engineer, Officer, Physicist)
Lazare Carnot
3
Birthdate: May 13, 1753
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nolay
Died: August 2, 1823

Lazare Carnot was a French physicist, mathematician, and politician. His role in the Napoleonic Wars and French Revolutionary Wars earned him the sobriquet Organizer of Victory. Carnot is credited with developing innovative defensive designs for forts, such as the Carnot wall which served as a defensive mechanism against infantry and artillery attack.

 13 
William Playfair
(Economist, Mathematician, Engineer, Statistician)
William Playfair
3
Birthdate: September 22, 1759
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Dundee
Died: February 11, 1823

Scottish engineer and political economist William Playfair is best-remembered as the inventor of statistical graphs and secret agent for Great Britain during its war with France. He published the first data graphs in his book The Commercial and Political Atlas. He used line, area and bar charts to represent the economy of 18th Century England and introduced the pie chart.

 14 
Benjamin Wright
(Civil engineer)
Benjamin Wright
1
Birthdate: October 10, 1770
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Wethersfield, Connecticut, United States
Died: August 24, 1842

Benjamin Wright was an American civil engineer best remembered for his work as a chief engineer. He is credited with overseeing the design and construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Erie Canal. In 1969, Benjamin Wright was declared the Father of American Civil Engineering by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

William Henry Ashley
2
Birthdate: 1778 AD
Birthplace: Powhatan County, Virginia, United States
Died: March 26, 1838
 16 
Abraham-Louis Breguet
2
Birthdate: January 10, 1747
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Died: September 17, 1823

Abraham-Louis Breguet was a French horologist who made several innovations in watchmaking in the course of his illustrious career. Widely regarded as the leading watchmaker of his generation, Breguet's clients included members of the European nobility and leading public figures in France. Counted among the greatest horologists of all time, Abraham-Louis Breguet is credited with founding the popular Breguet company.

 17 
Jacques de Vaucanson
(Inventor, Engineer)
Jacques de Vaucanson
2
Birthdate: February 24, 1709
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Grenoble
Died: November 21, 1782

Jacques de Vaucanson was a French artist and inventor. He is credited with creating impressive and innovative automata. De Vaucanson was also the first inventor to design an automatic loom. His ideas for the automation of the weaving process were later perfected by Joseph Marie Jacquard, who created the Jacquard machine.    

 18 
Claude Chappe
(Inventor)
Claude Chappe
2
Birthdate: December 25, 1763
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Brûlon, Sarthe, France
Died: January 23, 1805
 19 
Joseph Bramah
(Civil engineer, Engineer)
Joseph Bramah
2
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.

 20 
James Brindley
(civil engineer, engineer)
James Brindley
2
Birthdate: 1716 AD
Birthplace: Derbyshire
Died: September 27, 1772
 21 
William Hyde Wollaston
(Chemist, Physicist, Engineer, Metallurgist)
William Hyde Wollaston
2
Birthdate: August 6, 1766
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Norfolk
Died: December 22, 1828

William Hyde Wollaston was a pioneer of powder metallurgy and the first to develop malleable platinum from its ore. He is also credited with the discoveries of palladium and rhodium. A Fellow of the Royal Society, he dictated his last Bakerian lecture, as he was too ill to deliver it.

 22 
Henry Maudslay
(English Machine Tool Innovator, Tool and Die Maker Who is Considered a Founding Father of Machine Tool Technology)
Henry Maudslay
2
Birthdate: August 22, 1771
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Woolwich, London, 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.

 23 
Józef Bem
(Engineer)
Józef Bem
2
Birthdate: March 14, 1794
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tarnów, Poland
Died: December 10, 1850
 24 
Wolfgang von Kempelen
(Author and inventor, known for his chess-playing "automaton" hoax The Turk and for his speaking machine)
Wolfgang von Kempelen
2
Birthdate: January 23, 1734
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bratislava, Slovakia
Died: March 26, 1804

Known as an eccentric thinker, Wolfgang von Kempelen is best remembered for his automatic chess-playing machine The Turk and his speaking machine. The Turk eventually turned out to be a hoax, designed by Kempelen to impress Maria Theresa, the Austrian Empress, and had human chess players operating it.

 25 
David Bushnell
(Inventor)
David Bushnell
4
Birthdate: August 30, 1740
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Connecticut, United States
Died: 1824 AD
 26 
Jacob Perkins
(American Inventor, Mechanical Engineer and Physicist Known for His Inventing of 'Refrigerator')
Jacob Perkins
2
Birthdate: July 9, 1766
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Newburyport, Massachusetts, United States
Died: July 30, 1849

Known as the father of the refrigerator, American inventor, mechanical engineer and physicist Jacob Perkins made several useful mechanical inventions. He created improved nail machines and some of the best steel plates for engraving, invented a bathometer, became the first person in Britain to use a uniflow steam engine, and most notably built the world’s first working vapor-compression refrigeration system.

 27 
Robert Stirling
(Clergyman)
Robert Stirling
2
Birthdate: October 25, 1790
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Perthshire, Scotland
Died: June 6, 1878

Apart from being a clergyman, Robert Stirling was also an inventor and engineer, who created the famed Stirling engine. He was posthumously named to the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame. His inventions also included optical devices. While his grandfather invented the threshing machine, his father, too, made agricultural machinery.

 28 
John Rennie the Elder
(Civil Engineer)
John Rennie the Elder
2
Birthdate: June 7, 1761
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Phantassie, Scotland
Died: October 4, 1821

John Rennie the Elder was a Scottish civil engineer considered a pioneer in the use of structural cast iron. He designed many bridges, canals, docks, and warehouses. As a young boy, he spent much time in the workshop of Andrew Meikle, a prominent mechanical engineer, and learned from him. He then went on to establish his own engineering practice.  

 29 
John By
(Military Engineer)
John By
1
Birthdate: August 7, 1779
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lambeth,London, England
Died: February 1, 1836

One of the major figures behind the development of the city of Ottawa, military engineer John By had created the Rideau Canal, which connected Lake Ontario and the Ottawa River. He was also charged with over-running the costs for the project but was eventually acquitted of all charges.

 30 
Jean-Baptiste Biot
(Mathematician, Physicist, Astronomer, Civil engineer, Engineer, Professor)
Jean-Baptiste Biot
2
Birthdate: April 21, 1774
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris
Died: February 3, 1862

Jean-Baptiste Biot was a French physicist, mathematician, and astronomer. He was a co-discoverer of what became known as the Biot-Savart law of magnetostatics. He is also credited with establishing the reality of meteorites. He made major contributions to the fields of optics and magnetism as well. Cape Biot in eastern Greenland is named in his honor. 

 31 
Balthasar Neumann
(Architect and military artillery engineer who developed a refined brand of Baroque architecture)
Balthasar Neumann
2
Birthdate: January 27, 1687
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Cheb, Czechia
Died: August 19, 1753
 32 
William Roy
(Cartographer, Engineer, Geographer)
William Roy
1
Birthdate: May 4, 1726
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Carluke
Died: July 1, 1790

William Roy was a Scottish surveyor, military engineer, and antiquarian. An innovator, Roy was successful in applying newly emerging technologies and new scientific discoveries to the geodetic mapping of Great Britain, which is often called Roy's Map of Scotland. William Roy also played a major role in the establishment of the Ordnance Survey, Great Britain's national mapping agency.

 33 
Menno van Coehoorn
1
Birthdate: 1641
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Lettinga-State, Netherlands
Died: March 17, 1704

Dutch soldier Menno van Coehoorn served the forces of William III, prince of Orange. Known for his book on siege strategies, he had written the widely translated volume New Fortress Construction in a Flat or Low Terrain. A skilled military engineer, too, he built a number of forts for several Dutch cities.

 34 
William Strickland
2
Birthdate: 1788
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Navesink, New Jersey, United States
Died: April 6, 1854

Known for his pioneering written work on railroad construction, engineer and architect William Strickland was also one of the leaders of the 19th-century Greek Revival style of architecture. He designed structures such as the US Mint, contributed to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, and was also one of the first American lecturers of architecture.

 35 
Henry Miller Shreve
1
Birthdate: October 21, 1785
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Jersey, United States
Died: March 6, 1851
 36 
Samuel Bentham
(Engineer)
Samuel Bentham
1
Birthdate: January 11, 1757
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: England
Died: May 31, 1831

Mechanical engineer and naval architect Samuel Bentham was responsible for Russia’s victory over a Turkish force, using shell guns on warships. He had also visited China to study ship designs and had served as the inspector of English naval works. He was the younger brother of philosopher Jeremy Bentham.

 37 
Luigi Vanvitelli
1
Birthdate: May 12, 1700
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Naples, Italy
Died: March 1, 1773
 38 
William Nicholson
(Chemist and inventor)
William Nicholson
1
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.

 39 
Matthew Murray
(British Engineer Known for Designing and Building the First Commercially Viable Steam Locomotive)
Matthew Murray
6
Birthdate: 1765 AD
Birthplace: Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Died: February 20, 1826

After quitting school at 14, Matthew Murray apprenticed to be a blacksmith or a whitesmith. He then worked for a Leeds-based flax spinner and later established his own factory, developing innovations in the domain of steam engines. His locomotives for collieries were the first to be commercially successful.

 40 
Andrew Meikle
(Engineer)
Andrew Meikle
1
Birthdate: May 5, 1719
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Scotland, United Kingdom
Died: November 27, 1811
 41 
Guillaume Henri Dufour
1
Birthdate: September 15, 1787
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Konstanz, Germany
Died: July 14, 1875
 42 
William Fairbairn
(Civil engineer)
William Fairbairn
1
Birthdate: February 19, 1789
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Kelso, Scotland
Died: August 18, 1874

William Fairbairn is remembered for his pioneering use of wrought iron for building bridges, ship hulls, and beams. Apart from inventing the Lancashire boiler, he also served as the president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. He also introduced proper and systematic investigations of the collapse of structures.

 43 
Henry Bell
(Engineer)
Henry Bell
1
Birthdate: April 7, 1767
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Torphichen, Scotland
Died: March 14, 1830
 44 
Fredrik Henrik af Chapman
(Shipbuilder, Engineer and Artist)
Fredrik Henrik af Chapman
0
Birthdate: September 9, 1721
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Gothenburg, Sweden
Died: August 19, 1808
A prominent shipbuilder, a scientist, a Swedish navy officer (vice-admiral) and an author, Fredrik Henrik af Chapman is regarded as the world’s first naval architect and the first person to use scientific methods for shipbuilding. As an author his 1775 book Tractat om Skepps-Byggeriet (Treatise on Shipbuilding) is considered an important work in modern naval architecture.
Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt
1
Birthdate: November 14, 1668
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Genoa, Italy
Died: November 16, 1745

Baroque architect Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt was also a military engineer and influenced 18th-century European architecture to a great extent. Known for his unique architectural decoration, he designed some of the most impactful buildings of his era, such as the Belvedere in Vienna, the Schönborn Castle, and the Mirabell Palace.

 46 
Edward John Dent
(Watchmaker)
Edward John Dent
1
Birthdate: August 19, 1790
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London, England
Died: March 8, 1853
 47 
William Hedley
(Engineer)
William Hedley
1
Birthdate: July 13, 1779
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Newburn, Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Died: January 9, 1843
 48 
John Montresor
(Military engineer who served as an ensign in the 48th Regiment of Foot on the expedition to Fort Duquesne)
John Montresor
0
Birthdate: April 22, 1736
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Gibraltar
Died: May 31, 1799
 49 
Arthur Woolf
(British Engineer Famous for Inventing a High-Pressure 'Compound Steam Engine')
Arthur Woolf
1
Birthdate: 1766
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Camborne, England
Died: October 16, 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.

 50 
Claude Antoine, comte Prieur-Duvernois
(French Engineer and a Politician During and After the French Revolution)
Claude Antoine, comte Prieur-Duvernois
1
Birthdate: December 22, 1763
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Côte-d'Or, France
Died: August 11, 1832
Claude Antoine, comte Prieur-Duvernois, was a French engineer and politician during and after the French Revolution. He was also a member of the Committee of Public Safety, which ruled Revolutionary France during the Jacobin dictatorship. Commonly known as Prieur de la Côte-d'Or, Prieur set up a wallpaper factory in Paris and received a pension from Napoleon’s government in 1811.