Famous 19th Century British Engineers

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 1 Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel
11
Famous As: Civil Engineer
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 Joseph Bazalgette

Joseph Bazalgette
4
Famous As: Civil engineer
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.

 3 John Logie Baird

John Logie Baird
12
Famous As: Engineer
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.

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 4 Robert Stephenson

Robert Stephenson
4
Famous As: Engineer, Civil engineer, Politician
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.

 5 James Glaisher

James Glaisher
4
Famous As: Meteorologists
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

Richard Trevithick
3
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.

 7 John Ambrose Fleming

John Ambrose Fleming
3
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: November 29, 1849
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lancaster, 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. 

 

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 8 Oliver Heaviside

Oliver Heaviside
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Physicist, Engineer, Telegraphy
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.

 9 R. J. Mitchell

R. J. Mitchell
3
Famous As: Aeronautical engineer
Birthdate: May 20, 1895
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Butt Lane, Kidsgrove, England
Died: June 11, 1937

Aeronautical designer R. J. Mitchell joined Supermarine at age 21 and worked for them throughout his life. Remembered for designing sea planes, he was also the man behind the fighter aircraft Spitfire, which was used extensively during World War II. The film The First of the Few chronicled his life.

 10 Osborne Reynolds

Osborne Reynolds
2
Famous As: Physicist, Civil engineer, Engineer
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 Carl Wilhelm Siemens

Carl Wilhelm Siemens
2
Famous As: Electrical Engineer
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.

 12 Hubert Cecil Booth

Hubert Cecil Booth
3
Famous As: Engineer
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 Geoffrey de Havilland

Geoffrey de Havilland
3
Famous As: Aerospace engineer, Engineer, Test pilot, Aviator, Entrepreneur
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.

 14 Elihu Thomson

Elihu Thomson
3
Famous As: Engineer, Inventor
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.

 15 William George Armstrong, Baron Armstrong

William George Armstrong, Baron Armstrong
3
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: November 26, 1810
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
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

Hertha Ayrton
2
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: April 28, 1854
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Portsea Island, 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 John Charles Walsham Reith, 1st Baron Reith

John Charles Walsham Reith, 1st Baron Reith
4
Famous As: Broadcaster
Birthdate: July 20, 1889
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Stonehaven, Scotland
Died: June 16, 1971

Scottish broadcaster John Charles Walsham Reith, 1st Baron Reith is remembered for introducing the concept of independent public service corporations in Britain. He had also been the director-general of the BBC and the minister of information under Neville Chamberlain. He later headed the British Overseas Airways Corporation, too.

 18 John Chard

John Chard
4
Famous As: Engineer, Military personnel
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 Nevil Shute

Nevil Shute
3
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: January 17, 1899
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Ealing, Middlesex , England
Died: January 12, 1960

British-Australian novelist Nevil Shute was also an aeronautical engineer and had fought in World War I. Of the 25 books he had penned throughout his lifetime, On the Beach remains one of the most notable. Most of his works reflected his cynicism regarding humanity in a war-ravaged society.

 20 Henry Royce

Henry Royce
3
Famous As: 1st Baronet of Seaton and car designer who co-founded the Rolls-Royce automobile company
Birthdate: March 27, 1863
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: 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.

 21 Nigel Gresley

Nigel Gresley
3
Famous As: Engineer
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.

 22 Hugh Lofting

Hugh Lofting
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: January 14, 1886
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Maidenhead, United Kingdom
Died: September 26, 1947

Though a qualified civil engineer from MIT, Hugh Lofting is best remembered for writing the Dr. Dolittle series of children’s classics, which created a cult character and also inspired several movies. His only work for adults was the war poem Victory for the Slain, which depicted the futility of war.

 23 Joseph Whitworth

Joseph Whitworth
3
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: December 21, 1803
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Stockport, 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

Charles Algernon Parsons
2
Famous As: Engineer
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 Arthur Cotton

Arthur Cotton
3
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: May 15, 1803
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Combermere, Cheshire, England
Died: July 24, 1899

 26 Harry Ferguson

Harry Ferguson
2
Famous As: Mechanic
Birthdate: November 4, 1884
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dromore, Northern Ireland
Died: October 25, 1960

Known as the Mad Mechanic, Harry Ferguson was the man behind the invention of the modern tractor, popularly known as the Wee Grey Fergie. He was also the first Irish to build and fly his own plane. His legacy lives on in the Massey Ferguson brand of agricultural machinery.

 27 Richard Cobden

Richard Cobden
2
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: June 3, 1804
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Heyshott, United Kingdom
Died: April 2, 1865

 28 John Hopkinson

John Hopkinson
1
Famous As: Physicist
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.

 29 Percy Hobart

Percy Hobart
2
Famous As: Military Engineer
Birthdate: June 14, 1885
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Nainital, India
Died: February 19, 1957

 30 Alexander Parkes

Alexander Parkes
2
Famous As: Engineer who created the world's first plastic, which he called Parkesine
Birthdate: December 29, 1813
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Birmingham, England, United Kingdom
Died: June 29, 1890

 31 William Kennedy Dickson

William Kennedy Dickson
2
Famous As: Inventor, Film director, Film producer, Cinematographer, Actor, Photographer, Engineer
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.

 32 Henry Maudslay

Henry Maudslay
2
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.

 33 Sir Samuel White Baker

Sir Samuel White Baker
2
Famous As: English Explorer
Birthdate: July 8, 1821
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London, England
Died: December 30, 1893

 34 Thomas Sopwith

Thomas Sopwith
2
Famous As: Aircraft designer
Birthdate: January 18, 1888
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kensington, England
Died: January 27, 1989

 35 Joseph Bell

Joseph Bell
0
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: March 12, 1861
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Farlam, England
Died: April 15, 1912

 36 James Nasmyth

James Nasmyth
2
Famous As: Astronomer, Engineer
Birthdate: August 19, 1808
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Edinburgh
Died: May 7, 1890

 37 H. J. Round

H. J. Round
2
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: June 2, 1881
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kingswinford, England
Died: August 17, 1966

Often referred to as an unknown genius, Henry Joseph Round began his career at Marconi’s Company, serving as an assistant to Guglielmo Marconi, contributing greatly to the development of radio technology. Later, his observation of electroluminescence from solid state diode led to the discovery of the light-emitting diode. Awarded the Military Cross, he also contributed greatly to England’s World War I's efforts.

 38 John By

John By
1
Famous As: Military Engineer
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.

 39 C. H. Douglas

C. H. Douglas
1
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: January 20, 1879
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Edgeley, Metropolitan Borough of Stockport, England
Died: September 29, 1952

Recognized as the pioneer of the social credit economic reform movement, Major Clifford Hugh Douglas was an engineer by professional. His interest turned to economics when he noticed that the weekly total costs of goods was greater than the sums paid to workers, leading to his development of the social credit theory, which encompasses economics, political science, history, and accounting.

 40 Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti

Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti
2
Famous As: Electrical engineer
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.

 41 Weetman Dickinson Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdray

Weetman Dickinson Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdray
1
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: July 15, 1856
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Yorkshire, England
Died: May 1, 1927

 42 Thomas Brassey

Thomas Brassey
1
Famous As: Civil Engineer
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.

 43 Sir John Fowler, 1st Baronet

Sir John Fowler, 1st Baronet
2
Famous As: Civil engineer
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.

 44 Frederick W. Lanchester

Frederick W. Lanchester
1
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: October 23, 1868
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London, England
Died: March 8, 1946

 45 Dugald Clerk

Dugald Clerk
1
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: March 31, 1854
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: November 12, 1932

Scottish engineer Dugald Clerk is best known for his invention of the two-stroke engine, used widely in motorcycles and other machines. He also headed engineering research of the British Admiralty as its director and was knighted, too. He also co-established the intellectual property service provider Marks & Clerk.

 46 John Milne

John Milne
1
Famous As: Geologist
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.

 47 Claude Grahame-White

Claude Grahame-White
1
Famous As: Aviator
Birthdate: August 21, 1879
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Bursledon, England
Died: August 19, 1959

 48 James B. Francis

James B. Francis
1
Famous As: Civil engineer
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.

 49 James Henry Greathead

James Henry Greathead
1
Famous As: Civil Engineer
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.

 50 Rookes Evelyn Bell Crompton

Rookes Evelyn Bell Crompton
1
Famous As: Electrical Engineer
Birthdate: May 31, 1845
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Thirsk, 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.