Famous 19th Century British Engineers

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 1 
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
(Civil Engineer)
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
14
Birthdate: April 9, 1806
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Portsmouth, England
Died: September 15, 1859

English civil engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, is considered "one of the most ingenious and prolific figures in engineering history." Considered a major figure of the Industrial Revolution, he built docks, a series of steamships, and many important bridges and tunnels. He was placed second in a BBC public poll to determine the "100 Greatest Britons" in 2002. 

 2 
John Logie Baird
12
Birthdate: August 13, 1888
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Helensburgh
Died: June 14, 1946

Scottish inventor, electrical engineer, and innovator, John Logie Baird, is best known for demonstrating a working TV system in 1926. He then went on to invent the first viable purely electronic color TV picture tube and founded the Baird Television Development Company. He was inducted into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame in 2015.

 3 
Robert Stephenson
(Engineer, Civil engineer, Politician)
Robert Stephenson
4
Birthdate: October 16, 1803
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Willington Quay
Died: October 12, 1859
English civil engineer and locomotive designer Robert Stephenson is remembered for his railroad bridges, the most notable of them being the Britannia Bridge. He was the only son of rail transport pioneer George Stephenson. He had also been a mining engineer in Colombia and was knighted in Belgium, France, and Norway.
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 4 
Joseph Bazalgette
(British Civil Engineer Who Created a Sewerage System for Central London)
Joseph Bazalgette
6
Birthdate: March 28, 1819
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Enfield, London, England
Died: March 15, 1891

British civil engineer Joseph Bazalgette was the man behind the development of the sewage system of London. He was later knighted for his achievements and had also served as the president of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Another notable work of his was the Hammersmith Bridge.

 5 
James Glaisher
(Meteorologists)
James Glaisher
4
Birthdate: April 7, 1809
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Rotherhithe, London, England
Died: February 7, 1903

Renowned meteorologist and aeronaut James Glaisher was a pioneer of balloon flights and had penned the iconic book Travels in the Air. He had also contributed to the formation of the Meteorological Society and the Aeronautical Society of Britain. The 2019 movie The Aeronauts depicts his exploits as a balloonist.

 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 
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.

 8 
Elihu Thomson
(Engineer, Inventor)
Elihu Thomson
3
Birthdate: March 29, 1853
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Manchester
Died: March 13, 1937

Elihu Thomson was an English-born American inventor and engineer. He is credited with founding major electrical companies in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 1882, Elihu Thomson founded the Thomson-Houston Electric Company which was renamed General Electric Company in 1892 after merging with the Edison General Electric Company. Thomson is also credited with inventing an arc-lighting system.

 9 
Oliver Heaviside
(Mathematician, Physicist, Engineer, Telegraphy)
Oliver Heaviside
3
Birthdate: May 18, 1850
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Camden Town
Died: February 3, 1925

Oliver Heaviside was an English mathematician and physicist. He invented a new technique for solving differential equations and independently developed vector calculus. He is also credited with rewriting Maxwell's equations in the form commonly used today. He formulated the telegrapher’s equations and invented the Heaviside step function as well. In 1922, he received the Faraday Medal.

 10 
Osborne Reynolds
(Physicist, Civil engineer, Engineer)
Osborne Reynolds
2
Birthdate: August 23, 1842
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Belfast
Died: February 21, 1912

Osborne Reynolds is best remembered for revolutionizing the fields of hydraulics and fluid dynamics. Born to a clergy father who was also a mathematician, Reynolds developed an interest in mechanics early in life. Reynolds was the first engineering professor at Owens College, Manchester, and also a Royal Society fellow.

 11 
John Ambrose Fleming
(British Electrical Engineer and Physicist Who Invented the First 'Thermionic Valve' or 'Vacuum Tube')
John Ambrose Fleming
3
Birthdate: November 29, 1849
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lancaster, Lancashire, England
Died: April 18, 1945

John Ambrose Fleming was an English electrical engineer and physicist. He is known for inventing the first thermionic valve or vacuum tube and designing the radio transmitter with which the first transatlantic radio transmission was made. Along with  Douglas Dewar and Bernard Acworth, he helped establish the Evolution Protest Movement. Fleming was also a noted photographer and artist. 

 

 12 
Hubert Cecil Booth
3
Birthdate: July 4, 1871
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris
Died: January 14, 1955

Civil engineer Hubert Cecil Booth had designed everything from Ferris wheels to bridges, but the product that he is most remembered for is the vacuum cleaner, which he invented to introduce a hygienic method of dust removal. He had also designed Navy ships. He rejected the knighthood offered to him.

 13 
Carl Wilhelm Siemens
(German-British Electrical Engineer and Businessman)
Carl Wilhelm Siemens
2
Birthdate: April 4, 1823
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Gehrden, Germany
Died: November 19, 1883

German-British inventor and electrical engineer, who revolutionized the steel-making and glass-making industries, is best remembered for using the Siemens-Martin process to create the regenerative furnace. His achievements earned him accolades such as the Albert Medal. He was a Fellow of The Royal Society and was knighted shortly before his death.

 14 
Geoffrey de Havilland
(Aerospace engineer, Engineer, Test pilot, Aviator, Entrepreneur)
Geoffrey de Havilland
3
Birthdate: July 27, 1882
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: High Wycombe
Died: May 21, 1965

Aviation pioneer and aircraft designer Geoffrey de Havilland is best remembered for his double-engine warplane Mosquito and the jet airliner Comet. He was part of the Royal Flying Corps and had been knighted for his achievements. He was also the founder of the De Havilland Aircraft Company.

 15 
William Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong
(English Engineer and Industrialist Who is Regarded as the Inventor of Modern Artillery)
William Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong
3
Birthdate: November 26, 1810
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Died: December 27, 1900

The founder of the Armstrong Whitworth manufacturing company, William George Armstrong, also known as Baron Armstrong, redefined the design of guns and also invented the high-pressure hydraulic mechanism. Initially a lawyer, he later quit his practice to devote more time to engineering. He was also knighted for his feats.

 16 
Hertha Ayrton
(British Engineer, Mathematician, Physicist and Inventor Known for Her Work With the 'Electric Arcs')
Hertha Ayrton
2
Birthdate: April 28, 1854
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Portsea, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
Died: August 26, 1923

Hertha Ayrton was a British engineer,  physicist, mathematician, and inventor. She is remembered for her work on electric arcs and ripple marks in sand and water, for which she was awarded the Hughes Medal by the Royal Society. As a woman in the 19th century, she had to face innumerable struggles in her career. She was also a passionate suffragist. 

 17 
George Cayley
(British Engineer, Inventor and Aviator Known for Designing First Successful Human Glider)
George Cayley
3
Birthdate: December 27, 1773
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Scarborough, Yorkshire, 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.

 18 
John Chard
(Engineer, Military personnel)
John Chard
4
Birthdate: December 21, 1847
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Plymouth
Died: November 1, 1897

Royal Engineers army officer John Chard was one of the 11 men to receive the Victoria Cross for defeating a Zulu army of 4,000 warriors at the battle of Rorke's Drift, with a British army of 135. His handwritten account of the war was later auctioned off for £175,000.

 19 
Henry Royce
(British Engineer and Co-founder of the 'Rolls-Royce')
Henry Royce
3
Birthdate: March 27, 1863
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Alwalton, Huntingdonshire, England
Died: April 22, 1933

Famous for his designs of car and airplane engines, fifteen years old Frederick Henry Royce learned engineering through hands-on during his apprenticeship at Great Northern Railway Company rather than through education. At twenty-one, he started his own engineering business, manufacturing electrically driven cranes, dynamos, and motors, eventually drawing the attention of C.S. Rolls, co-founding the Rolls Royce Company with him.

 20 
Nigel Gresley
(Engineer)
Nigel Gresley
3
Birthdate: June 19, 1876
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Edinburgh
Died: April 5, 1941

Nigel Gresley designed some of Britain’s most famous steam locomotive engines. He also invented the Gresley conjugated valve gear, which smoothened the running of engines. His A4 Mallard was the world’s fastest steam locomotive. He later won honors such as the CBE and was also knighted.

 21 
Arthur Cotton
(Engineer)
Arthur Cotton
3
Birthdate: May 15, 1803
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Combermere, Cheshire, England
Died: July 24, 1899
 22 
Richard Cobden
(Politician)
Richard Cobden
2
Birthdate: June 3, 1804
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Heyshott, United Kingdom
Died: April 2, 1865
 23 
Joseph Whitworth
(British Engineer, Entrepreneur, Inventor and Philanthropist Who Devised the 'British Standard Whitworth System')
Joseph Whitworth
3
Birthdate: December 21, 1803
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Stockport, Cheshire, England
Died: January 22, 1887

Mechanical engineer Joseph Whitworth is best remembered for devising the British Standard Whitworth system for screw threads. He contributed a lot to the development of Owens College, introduced a scholarship, and left most of his fortunes to the people of Manchester. He was also made a baronet of the U.K.

 24 
Charles Algernon Parsons
(Anglo-Irish Engineer Best Known for His Invention of the 'Compound Steam Turbine')
Charles Algernon Parsons
2
Birthdate: June 13, 1854
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: London, England
Died: February 11, 1931

Copley Medal-winning engineer Charles Algernon Parsons revolutionized marine transport with his invention of a multi-stage steam turbine. His other inventions include a mechanical reducing gear. Apart from being named a Fellow of the Royal Society, he was also knighted and awarded an Order of Merit for his contributions.

 25 
William Kennedy Dickson
(Inventor, Film director, Film producer, Cinematographer, Actor, Photographer, Engineer)
William Kennedy Dickson
2
Birthdate: August 3, 1860
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: France
Died: September 28, 1935

William Kennedy Dickson was a Scottish inventor best remembered for his association with Thomas Alva Edison. Dickson invented a motion picture camera when he was working under Thomas Edison. William Kennedy Dickson is also credited with directing The Dickson Experimental Sound Film which was the first film to use the Kinetophone.

 26 
Alexander Parkes
(Engineer who created the world's first plastic, which he called Parkesine)
Alexander Parkes
2
Birthdate: December 29, 1813
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Birmingham, England, United Kingdom
Died: June 29, 1890
 27 
John Hopkinson
(British Physicist and Electrical Engineer Who Invented the Three-Wire System for Electricity Distribution)
John Hopkinson
1
Birthdate: July 27, 1849
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Manchester, England
Died: August 27, 1898

The son of a mechanical engineer, John Hopkinson followed in his father’s footsteps. Remembered for his research on alternating current, the British engineer and physicist developed the three-wire system for distributing electricity. He died in a mountaineering accident in the Alps, along with three of his six children.

 28 
Percy Hobart
(Military Engineer)
Percy Hobart
2
Birthdate: June 14, 1885
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Nainital, India
Died: February 19, 1957
 29 
Sir Samuel White Baker
(English Explorer)
Sir Samuel White Baker
2
Birthdate: July 8, 1821
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London, England
Died: December 30, 1893
 30 
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.

 31 
Thomas Sopwith
(Aircraft designer)
Thomas Sopwith
2
Birthdate: January 18, 1888
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kensington, England
Died: January 27, 1989
 32 
Joseph Bell
(Engineer)
Joseph Bell
0
Birthdate: March 12, 1861
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Farlam, England
Died: April 15, 1912
 33 
James Nasmyth
(Astronomer, Engineer)
James Nasmyth
2
Birthdate: August 19, 1808
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Edinburgh
Died: May 7, 1890
 34 
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.

 35 
Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti
(British Electrical Engineer and Inventor)
Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti
2
Birthdate: April 9, 1864
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Liverpool, England
Died: January 13, 1930

Electrical engineer and inventor Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti was the son of a photographer father and a pianist mother. He had invented an arc light by 13 and an alternator at 18. He contributed to the development of the alternating current (AC) system in Britain and also promoted electrical generating plants.

 36 
Thomas Brassey
(Civil Engineer)
Thomas Brassey
1
Birthdate: November 7, 1805
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Buerton
Died: December 8, 1870

Initially a surveyor, Thomas Brassey later built some of the most well-known railway lines of the world. The British contractor contributed to the Grand Junction Railway, Canada’s Grand Trunk Railway, and the Crimean Railway. He later also became a Liberal MP and a governor of Victoria, Australia.

Weetman Dickinson Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdray
1
Birthdate: July 15, 1856
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Yorkshire, England
Died: May 1, 1927
 38 
Sir John Fowler, 1st Baronet
2
Birthdate: July 15, 1817
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Wadsley, England
Died: November 20, 1898

Civil engineer Sir John Fowler, 1st Baronet is best remembered for constructing the London Metropolitan Railway and for co-constructing Scotland’s Forth Bridge. He had also worked in Egypt and was the youngest to serve as the president of the Institution of Civil Engineers. His works also included locomotives and hydro-electric schemes.

 39 
Frederick W. Lanchester
1
Birthdate: October 23, 1868
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London, England
Died: March 8, 1946
 40 
Claude Grahame-White
1
Birthdate: August 21, 1879
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Bursledon, England
Died: August 19, 1959
 41 
John Milne
(British Geologist and Mining Engineer Who Developed the Modern Seismograph)
John Milne
1
Birthdate: December 30, 1850
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Liverpool, England
Died: July 31, 1913

John Milne was a British mining engineer and geologist. He is credited with co-founding the Seismological Society of Japan which raised money for the invention of seismographs. John Milne and his team went on to invent the horizontal pendulum seismograph which allowed him to detect various kinds of earthquake waves.

 42 
James B. Francis
(British-American Civil Engineer, Who Invented the 'Francis Turbine')
James B. Francis
1
Birthdate: May 18, 1815
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Oxfordshire, England
Died: September 18, 1892

Best remembered as the inventor of the Francis turbine, civil engineer James B. Francis initially helped build the Stonington Railway. At 22, he became the chief engineer of Proprietors of the Locks and Canals on the Merrimack River, and stayed with it for 40 years, as a prominent waterpower engineer.

 43 
James Henry Greathead
(British Mechanical and Civil Engineer Who Improved the Tunneling Shield and the Basic Tool of Underwater Tunneling)
James Henry Greathead
1
Birthdate: August 6, 1844
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Grahamstown, South Africa
Died: October 21, 1896

James Henry Greathead was a civil and mechanical engineer best remembered for his work on the Liverpool overhead railway, Winchester Cathedral, and the London Underground railways. He is also credited with inventing the Greathead Shield, Greathead Injector Hydrant, and Greathead Grouting Machine.

 44 
R. E. B. Crompton
(British Inventor and Pioneer in Electrical Development)
R. E. B. Crompton
1
Birthdate: May 31, 1845
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Sion Hill, Thirsk, Yorkshire, England
Died: February 15, 1940

Crompton & Co. founder Rookes Evelyn Bell Crompton was a skilled electrical engineer. After his military career in India, Crompton focused on inventions and developed arc lamps and other electrical equipment. It is believed his Porchester Gardens residence was the first private house to be completely lit by electricity.

 45 
Benjamin Baker
(Civil Engineer)
Benjamin Baker
1
Birthdate: March 31, 1840
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Frome, Somerset, England
Died: May 19, 1907

Victorian-era civil engineer Benjamin Baker initially assisted John Fowler and later became his partner. His best-known work had been the bridge on the Firth of Forth in Scotland. He had also contributed to the first Aswan dam. Knighted for his achievements, he had also penned several papers on engineering.

 46 
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.

 47 
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.

 48 
Fleeming Jenkin
(Scottish Engineer and Inventor of the 'Cable Car' or 'Telpherage')
Fleeming Jenkin
1
Birthdate: March 25, 1833
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Dungeness, England
Died: June 12, 1885

After a 10-year stint as an engineer working to construct and install submarine telegraph cables, Fleeming Jenkin published reports establishing the ohm as the unit of electrical resistance. He is also remembered as the inventor of the cable car and taught at institutes such as the University of Edinburgh.

 49 
George Grove
(British Engineer, Writer and Founding Editor of 'Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians')
George Grove
1
Birthdate: August 13, 1820
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London, England
Died: May 28, 1900

Although the son of a meat seller and fishmonger, George Grove grew up appreciating music and literature. Although he began his career as a civil engineer, his passion for music drove him to write the iconic Dictionary of Music and Musicians. He also served the Royal College of Music as its first director.

 50 
William Froude
(British Engineer and First to Formulate Reliable Laws for the Resistance That Water Offers to Ships)
William Froude
8
Birthdate: November 28, 1810
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Devon, England
Died: May 4, 1879

British engineer and naval architect William Froude made significant contributions to the field of hydrodynamics. He revolutionized ship design by working on a method of studying scale models. He thus became the first person to devise laws that explained the resistance offered to ships by water.