Famous 19th Century American Engineers

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Vote for Your Favourite 19th Century American Engineers

 1 
Frederick Winslow Taylor
(Mechanical Engineer)

Frederick Winslow Taylor
10
Birthdate: March 20, 1856
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: March 21, 1915

American inventor, mechanical engineer and an accomplished tennis and golf player, Frederick Winslow Taylor, regarded as the father of scientific management, sought to improve industrial efficiency. His approach on scientific management, referred to as Taylorism, has significantly influenced development of industrial engineering and production management. His monograph, The Principles of Scientific Management, laid out his views on principles of scientific management.

 2 
Nikola Tesla
(Inventor, Engineer & Futurist, Who Obtained Over 300 Patents)

Nikola Tesla
40
Birthdate: July 10, 1856
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Smiljan, Croatia
Died: January 7, 1943

Inventor, engineer and futurist, Nikola Tesla, is best remembered for his contribution to the development of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system. A prolific inventor, he had around 300 patents for his inventions. Even though he earned a considerable amount of money, he had poor money management skills and died a poor man.

 3 
Phineas Gage
(Construction Foreman)

Phineas Gage
4
Birthdate: July 9, 1823
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Grafton County, New Hampshire, United States
Died: May 21, 1860

Phineas Gage was a railroad construction foreman. He is best remembered for surviving an accident which destroyed much of the left frontal lobe of his brain; during the accident, a large iron rod was driven through his head. Gage's personality was said to have changed after the accident, which contributed immensely to studies about the brain's role in determining personality.

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 4 
Thomas Edison
(Inventor of Phonograph & Motion Picture Camera)

Thomas Edison
206
Birthdate: February 11, 1847
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Milan, Ohio, United States
Died: October 18, 1931

Described as America’s greatest inventor, Thomas Edison’s legacy is an everlasting one. He was the first to help make the incandescent light bulb commercially viable, even though he was not the first inventor of it. Quadruplex telegraph, phonograph, motion picture camera and the alkaline storage battery are some the many innovations that made him a worldwide phenomenon and an icon.

 5 
George Pullman
(Engineer)

George Pullman
3
Birthdate: March 3, 1831
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Brocton, New York, United States
Died: October 19, 1897

One of his parents’ 10 children, George Pullman initially took over his father’s carpentry business and secured contracts with New York for the Erie Canal project. The founder of the Pullman sleeping car and a company town, Pullam was criticized for using the military to violently end the 1894 Pullman Strike.

 6 
Granville Woods
(Inventor)

Granville Woods
4
Birthdate: April 23, 1856
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Columbus, Ohio, United States
Died: January 30, 1910

Granville Woods was 10 when he began working at a machine shop, while continuing his studies at a night school. He grew up to become a steam locomotive engineer and earned the nickname the Black Edison for his countless inventions, most of which were related to electrical systems for railways.

 7 
Edwin Howard Armstrong
(Electrical engineer)

Edwin Howard Armstrong
4
Birthdate: December 18, 1890
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chelsea, New York, United States
Died: February 1, 1954

Edwin Howard Armstrong was an American inventor and electrical engineer. He is credited with developing the superheterodyne receiver system as well as the frequency modulation (FM) radio. During his illustrious career, Armstrong received several awards including the IEEE Medal of Honor, Franklin Medal, and Edison Medal. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1980.

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 8 
Charles F. Kettering
(Inventor, Engineer & Businessman)

Charles F. Kettering
4
Birthdate: August 29, 1876
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Loudonville, Ohio
Died: November 25, 1958

Charles F. Kettering was an American engineer, inventor, and businessman. Kettering is credited with founding Delco Electronics Corporation. Holder of 186 patents, Kettering is also credited with the invention of Freon refrigerant for air conditioning and refrigeration systems. Over the course of his career, Charles F. Kettering won prestigious awards like the IEEE Edison Medal, Hoover Medal, and Franklin Medal. 

 9 
Henry Gantt
(Engineer)

Henry Gantt
3
Birthdate: May 20, 1861
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Calvert County
Died: November 23, 1919

Best known for creating the Gantt Chart, a management tool used for scheduling tasks, mechanical engineer Henry Gantt had been a disciple and colleague of Frederick W. Taylor. He also prepared ground for the Human Relations School of management and spoke about the social responsibility of business.

 10 
George Westinghouse
(Entrepreneur)

George Westinghouse
4
Birthdate: October 6, 1846
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Central Bridge, New York, United States
Died: March 12, 1914

Inventor and entrepreneur George Westinghouse was mostly responsible for introducing the U.S. to alternating current (AC). Initially part of the army and the navy, the talented engineer began his journey of inventions with the rotary steam engine and went on to invent several products, such as air brakes.

 11 
Willis Carrier
(Engineer, Inventor)

Willis Carrier
5
Birthdate: November 26, 1876
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Angola, New York, United States
Died: October 7, 1950

 12 
Joseph Strauss
(Engineer)

Joseph Strauss
3
Birthdate: January 9, 1870
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Died: May 16, 1938

Best known for designing the Golden Gate Bridge, engineer Joseph Strauss specialized in movable bridges and developed the concepts of the bascule bridge and the vertical-lift bridge. Born to a pianist mother and a painter-writer father, he later also penned poems such as The Mighty Task is Done.

 13 
Charles Proteus Steinmetz
(Mathematician, Electrical engineer, Engineer, Scientist, Inventor)

Charles Proteus Steinmetz
4
Birthdate: April 9, 1865
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Wrocław
Died: October 26, 1923

 14 
George Meade
(Army Officer)

George Meade
4
Birthdate: December 31, 1815
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Cádiz, Spain
Died: November 6, 1872

George Meade was a civil engineer and United States Army officer best remembered for decisively defeating Robert E. Lee in the American Civil War. After the war, he played an important role during the Reconstruction era. As a civil engineer, George Meade was involved in the construction of many lighthouses. 

 15 
Emily Warren Roebling
(Lady Who Guided The Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.)

Emily Warren Roebling
3
Birthdate: September 23, 1843
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Cold Spring, New York
Died: February 28, 1903

Apart from being a socialite, Emily Warren Roebling was also a skilled engineer. She took over the reins of designing the Brooklyn Bridge when her husband, the chief engineer of the project, Washington Augustus Roebling, was rendered bedridden. She went against the grain and earned a law certificate, too.

 16 
Henry J. Kaiser
(Engineer, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist)

Henry J. Kaiser
3
Birthdate: May 9, 1882
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Sprout Brook
Died: August 24, 1967

 17 
Washington Roebling
(Civil Engineer)

Washington Roebling
5
Birthdate: May 26, 1837
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: July 21, 1926

Engineer Washington Roebling is largely remembered for co-designing the Brooklyn Bridge with his father, John Augustus. He also worked as part of the Union Army during the Civil War. A perfectionist, he was once found unconscious in a compressed-air chamber at work, and that affected him permanently.

 18 
Charles Goodyear
(Inventor of Vulcanized Rubber)

Charles Goodyear
3
Birthdate: December 29, 1800
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New Haven, Connecticut, United States
Died: July 1, 1860

Charles Goodyear was an American manufacturing engineer and self-taught chemist who developed vulcanized rubber. He invented the chemical process to manufacture pliable, moldable, and waterproof rubber which revolutionized the automobile industry. In 1976, Charles Goodyear was inducted posthumously into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

 19 

Auguste Piccard
3
Birthdate: January 28, 1884
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Basel, Switzerland
Died: January 28, 1963

Swiss-born Belgian physicist Auguste Piccard is best remembered for his research on the Earth’s upper stratosphere. He designed his own ships to explore the depth of the seas and also built balloons to study cosmic rays. His bathyscaphe remains one of his best-known inventions. He also co-discovered the magnetocaloric effect.

 20 
Henry Ford
(The Founder of the ‘Ford Motor Company’)

Henry Ford
16
Birthdate: July 30, 1863
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Springwells Township, Michigan, United States
Died: April 7, 1947

Business magnate and founder of the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford is credited to have made the automobile an accessible conveyance for Americans in the 20th century. Following the success of his company, he became one of the richest and best-known people in the world. He also became known for his pacifism during the first years of World War I.

 21 

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.

 22 

George Washington Goethals
2
Birthdate: June 29, 1858
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York City, New York
Died: January 21, 1928

George Washington Goethals was an American civil engineer and US-Army General remembered for his role as an overseer of the construction of the Panama Canal. He also served as the first Governor of the Panama Canal Zone from 1914 to 1917. Goethals has been honored with several tributes, including the Society of American Military Engineers' establishment of the Goethals Medal.

 23 
Edith Clarke
(Electrical Engineer)

Edith Clarke
2
Birthdate: February 10, 1883
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Howard County
Died: October 29, 1959

 24 
Harry Nyquist
(Physicist, Computer scientist, Engineer, Statistician, Mathematician)

Harry Nyquist
4
Birthdate: February 7, 1889
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kil Municipality
Died: April 4, 1976

Harry Nyquist was a Swedish electronic engineer and physicist best remembered for his contributions to communication theory. His work earned him many prestigious awards such as the IRE Medal of Honor, the Stuart Ballantine Medal, and the Rufus Oldenburger Medal. Harry Nyquist is also remembered for his association with Bell Telephone Laboratories.

 25 
Andrew Kehoe
(Spree killer)

Andrew Kehoe
4
Birthdate: February 1, 1872
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Tecumseh
Died: May 18, 1927

 26 

Frank J. Sprague
2
Birthdate: July 25, 1857
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Milford
Died: October 25, 1934

 27 
Clarence Birdseye
(Inventor, Engineer)

Clarence Birdseye
3
Birthdate: December 9, 1886
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Brooklyn
Died: October 7, 1956

 28 

Lillian Moller Gilbreth
3
Birthdate: May 24, 1878
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Oakland, California, United States
Died: January 2, 1972

 29 
Othmar Herman Ammann
(Civil engineer)

Othmar Herman Ammann
2
Birthdate: March 26, 1879
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Schaffhausen, Switzerland
Died: September 22, 1965

Swiss-American engineer Othmar Herman Ammann is best remembered for designing long suspension bridges, such as the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the George Washington Bridge. He also owned a firm in New York and had a long stint with the Port of New York Authority. He also designed part of the Lincoln Center.

 30 

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.

 31 

William Mahone
2
Birthdate: December 1, 1826
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Southampton County, Virginia, United States
Died: October 8, 1895

Engineer William Mahone wasn’t just a railway tycoon associated with the Norfolk–Petersburg Railroad but was also part of the Confederate Army. He was one of the major leaders of Virginia’s Readjusters, a coalition of African-Americans and financially backward whites. The US senator later sided with the Republican Party.

 32 
Elisha Gray
(Engineer)

Elisha Gray
3
Birthdate: August 2, 1835
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Barnesville
Died: January 21, 1901

 33 
Milton Bradley
(Publisher, Writer)

Milton Bradley
5
Birthdate: November 8, 1836
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Vienna, Maine, United States
Died: May 30, 1911

 34 
James B. Eads
(Engineer)

James B. Eads
2
Birthdate: May 23, 1820
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lawrenceburg, Indiana, United States
Died: March 8, 1887

Engineer James B. Eads spent most of his early life marine-salvaging along the Mississippi. Apart from building submarines, he also owned over 50 patents. He is best remembered for his triple-arch steel bridge over the Mississippi. He was the first American engineer to win the Royal Society of Arts’s Albert Medal.

 35 

Charles F. Brush
2
Birthdate: March 17, 1849
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Euclid, Ohio, United States
Died: June 15, 1929

 36 
John Frank Stevens
(Civil Engineer)

John Frank Stevens
2
Birthdate: April 25, 1853
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: West Gardiner, Maine, United States
Died: June 2, 1943

John Frank Stevens, who was mostly a self-taught engineer, worked on the Panama Canal as its chief engineer. Initially associated with the Great Northern Railway, he was later also sent to Russia as part of a team working on the Trans-Siberian Railway. He won awards such as the Hoover Medal.

 37 
Henry Ossian Flipper
(Military Leader)

Henry Ossian Flipper
6
Birthdate: March 21, 1856
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Thomasville, Georgia, United States
Died: April 26, 1940

Then first Black to have graduated from West Point’s Military Academy, Henry Ossian Flipper was born to slave parents. He also became the first African-American to command US Army troops. He was dismissed unjustly on embezzlement charges and later worked as a civil engineer. His name was cleared posthumously.

 38 
Peter Cooper Hewitt
(Electrical Engineer)

Peter Cooper Hewitt
2
Birthdate: May 5, 1861
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: August 25, 1921

 39 
Harley Earl
(Automotive designer)

Harley Earl
3
Birthdate: November 22, 1893
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: April 10, 1969

 40 
Elias Howe
(Former inventor best known for his creation of the modern lockstitch sewing machine)

Elias Howe
3
Birthdate: July 9, 1819
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Spencer, Massachusetts, United States
Died: October 3, 1867

 41 
Benjamin Lee Whorf
(Anthropologist, Linguist)

Benjamin Lee Whorf
3
Birthdate: April 24, 1897
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Winthrop, Massachusetts
Died: July 26, 1941

Benjamin Lee Whorf was a linguist cum fire prevention engineer. Along with his mentor Edward Sapir, he developed what is frequently called the “Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.” Even though he was a chemical engineer by profession, he developed an early interest in linguistics and presented several papers at linguistics conferences. Unfortunately, he died at the relatively young age of 44. 

 42 
John Garand
(Designer)

John Garand
3
Birthdate: January 1, 1888
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: St. Rémi, Quebec, Canada
Died: February 16, 1974

One of his parents’ 12 children, Canadian-born John Garand moved to the U.S. with his father and siblings after his mother’s death. He went from working in a textile mill as a child to creating the semi-automatic rifle M1 Garand, used widely by the U.S. military in World War II.

 43 
Gustave Whitehead
(Aerospace engineer, Engineer)

Gustave Whitehead
3
Birthdate: January 1, 1874
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Leutershausen
Died: October 10, 1927

 44 
John Philip Holland
(Former engineer who developed the first submarine to be formally commissioned by the US Navy, and the first Royal Navy submarine, Holland 1)

John Philip Holland
3
Birthdate: 1841 AD
Birthplace: Liscannor, Ireland
Died: August 12, 1914

 45 
Nora Stanton Blatch Barney
(Civil Engineer, Architect, Women’s Rights Activists)

Nora Stanton Blatch Barney
1
Birthdate: September 30, 1883
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Basingstoke
Died: January 18, 1971

One of the first female engineers in the US, Nora Stanton Blatch Barney was also a leading suffragist and the granddaughter of women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She was also the first woman to graduate in engineering from Cornell and sued the ASCE for denying her a full-membership.

 46 

David Dunbar Buick
2
Birthdate: September 17, 1854
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Arbroath, Scotland
Died: March 5, 1929

David Dunbar Buick was a Scottish-born American inventor best remembered for establishing the popular Buick Motor Company, which went on to become the basis of the General Motors empire. In 1974, Buick was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame for his immense contribution to the automobile industry in the United States of America.

 47 
Henry M. Leland
(Machinist)

Henry M. Leland
2
Birthdate: February 14, 1843
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Vermont, United States
Died: March 26, 1932

While initially working in the machine plants and firearms industries, Henry M. Leland gradually mastered the art of toolmaking and manufacturing. He later revolutionized the auto industry and was the man behind the car brands Cadillac and Lincoln. He introduced inventions such as the electric starter and the V-8 engine.

 48 
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).

 49 
Squire Whipple
(Civil Engineer)

Squire Whipple
1
Birthdate: September 16, 1804
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Hardwick, Massachusetts, USA
Died: March 15, 1888

Squire Whipple is remembered for introducing the first scientific bridge construction rules. Initially a surveyor, he later invented truss designs using iron and timber. His treatise An Elementary and Practical Treatise on Bridge Building was a seminal text in railroad engineering for many years and helped in wrought and cast-iron designs.

 50 
Alfred Vail
(Machinist)

Alfred Vail
2
Birthdate: September 25, 1807
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Morristown, New Jersey, United States
Died: January 18, 1859

Alfred Vail, along with Samuel F.B. Morse, revolutionized the American telegraph system. Though initially interested in theology, he changed his career path after meeting Morse. Some scholars believe Vail and Morse had both contributed equally for the development of the Morse code but was not valued.