Famous 19th Century Civil Engineers

Find out more about the greatest 19th Century Civil Engineers, including M. Visvesvaraya, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Gustave Eiffel, John Monash and Robert Stephenson.

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

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 1 M. Visvesvaraya

M. Visvesvaraya
6
Famous As: Civil Engineer
Birthdate: September 15, 1860
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Muddenahalli, Chikballapur, Kingdom of Mysore (now in Karnataka)
Died: April 14, 1962
Sir M. Visvesvaraya is remembered for his role in revolutionizing the flood-protection system in Hyderabad and worked as the chief engineer of the Krishna Raja Sagara dam near Mysore. He received the knighthood and the Bharat Ratna. His birthday is celebrated as Engineers' Day in India, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka.

 2 Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel
4
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. 

 3 Gustave Eiffel

Gustave Eiffel
15
Famous As: Designer of Eiffel Tower and contributed to Statue of Liberty
Birthdate: December 15, 1832
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dijon, France
Died: December 27, 1923
The man behind the jewel that adorns Paris, the Eiffel Tower, French civil engineer Gustave Eiffel later earned the nickname “the magician of iron.” He revolutionized bridge-building by using compressed-air caissons, designed the Statue of Liberty, and built the first aerodynamic laboratory. He died while listening to Beethoven's 5th symphony.
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 4 John Monash

John Monash
6
Famous As: Civil engineer
Birthdate: June 27, 1865
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Melbourne, Australia
Died: October 8, 1931

John Monash was an Australian military commander during World War I. He played a major role in the Gallipoli campaign, which took place from February 1915 to January 1916 on the Gallipoli peninsula. John Monash is widely regarded as the most popular commander in Australian history and one of the most prominent allied generals of World War I.

 5 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.

 6 Robert Stephenson

Robert Stephenson
3
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.

 7 Joseph Strauss

Joseph Strauss
3
Famous As: Engineer
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.

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 8 John A. Roebling

John A. Roebling
3
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: June 12, 1806
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Mühlhausen, Germany
Died: July 22, 1869

 9 Fritz Todt

Fritz Todt
3
Famous As: Engineer, Politician, Civil engineer, Architect
Birthdate: September 4, 1891
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Pforzheim
Died: February 8, 1942

Fritz Todt was a German civil engineer and architect. A senior Nazi, Todt oversaw the construction of Reichsautobahnen, a controlled-access highway, and also served as the Reich Minister for Armaments and Ammunition. Before the start of the Second World War, Todt initiated a military-engineering company called Organisation Todt that oversaw the construction of many Nazi concentration camps. 

 10 Phineas Gage

Phineas Gage
4
Famous As: Construction Foreman
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.

 11 Emily Warren Roebling

Emily Warren Roebling
3
Famous As: Lady Who Guided The Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.
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.

 12 Washington Roebling

Washington Roebling
5
Famous As: Civil Engineer
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.

 13 George Meade

George Meade
4
Famous As: Army Officer
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. 

 14 Robert Stevenson

Robert Stevenson
3
Famous As: Civil engineer
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.

 15 Marc Isambard Brunel

Marc Isambard Brunel
3
Famous As: Engineer
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.

 16 George Washington Goethals

George Washington Goethals
3
Famous As: Civil engineer
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.

 17 Osborne Reynolds

Osborne Reynolds
3
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.

 18 Henry Ossian Flipper

Henry Ossian Flipper
3
Famous As: Military Leader
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.

 19 Pier Luigi Nervi

Pier Luigi Nervi
3
Famous As: Engineer, Architect, Civil engineer, University teacher
Birthdate: June 21, 1891
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Sondrio
Died: January 9, 1979

 20 Othmar Herman Ammann

Othmar Herman Ammann
3
Famous As: Civil engineer
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.

 21 John Bradfield

John Bradfield
3
Famous As: Designer of Sydney Harbour Bridge
Birthdate: December 26, 1867
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Brisbane, Queensland
Died: September 23, 1943

John Bradfield was an Australian engineer remembered for envisioning the Sydney Harbour Bridge; he oversaw the design and the construction of the bridge, which is now considered a major landmark in Sydney. He was also associated with many other notable projects, such as the Cataract Dam, Brisbane's Story Bridge, and Burrinjuck Dam. He received many prestigious awards during his lifetime.

 22 James B. Eads

James B. Eads
3
Famous As: Engineer
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.

 23 Pierre Charles L'Enfant

Pierre Charles L'Enfant
6
Famous As: Engineer
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.

 24 William Mahone

William Mahone
3
Famous As: General
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.

 25 John Frank Stevens

John Frank Stevens
2
Famous As: Civil Engineer
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.

 26 Milutin Milanković

Milutin Milanković
3
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: May 28, 1879
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Dalj, Croatia
Died: December 12, 1958

 27 Hugh Lofting

Hugh Lofting
3
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.

 28 Giovanni Battista Caproni

Giovanni Battista Caproni
3
Famous As: Civil engineer, Aerospace engineer, Engineer
Birthdate: July 3, 1886
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Arco
Died: October 27, 1957

 29 Montgomery C. Meigs

Montgomery C. Meigs
3
Famous As: Army Officer
Birthdate: May 3, 1816
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Augusta, Georgia, United States
Died: January 2, 1892

Montgomery C. Meigs was an American civil engineer and US Army officer who played an important role during and after the Civil War, serving as Quartermaster General of the US Army. His work as Quartermaster General is widely regarded as an important factor in the Union victory in the Civil War. Meigs is also credited with masterminding Arlington National Cemetery.    

 30 Sadi Carnot

Sadi Carnot
3
Famous As: President of France 1887 – 1894
Birthdate: August 11, 1837
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Limoges, July Monarchy France
Died: June 25, 1894

Integrity of French statesman Marie François Sadi Carnot led him to get elected as fourth president of the Third French Republic. He assumed office in 1887 at a critical juncture when the republic was almost openly attacked by General Boulanger. Carnot served as the President of France until he was assassinated by Italian anarchist Sante Geronimo Caserio in 1894.

 31 Ivar Kreuger

Ivar Kreuger
3
Famous As: Businessperson, Civil engineer
Birthdate: March 2, 1880
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Kalmar, Sweden
Died: March 12, 1932

Ivar Kreuger was a Swedish civil engineer, entrepreneur, industrialist, and financier. He is best remembered for building a global match empire and controlling almost three quarters of worldwide match production which earned him the nickname, Match King. Ivar Kreuger also founded and owned many other companies including Kreuger & Toll Byggnads AB. 

 32 Nora Stanton Blatch Barney

Nora Stanton Blatch Barney
2
Famous As: Civil Engineer, Architect, Women’s Rights Activists
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.

 33 Octave Chanute

Octave Chanute
3
Famous As: Civil engineer
Birthdate: February 18, 1832
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 23, 1910

Octave Chanute was a French-American aviation pioneer and civil engineer. He is credited with helping budding enthusiasts like the Wright brothers by providing them with help and advice. He also helped publicize their flying experiments. At the time of his death, Octave Chanute was referred to as the father of aviation.

 34 Benjamin Wright

Benjamin Wright
2
Famous As: Civil engineer
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).

 35 Juan de la Cierva, 1st Count of la Cierva

Juan de la Cierva, 1st Count of la Cierva
3
Famous As: Civil Engineer
Birthdate: September 21, 1895
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Murcia, Spain
Died: December 9, 1936

 36 Squire Whipple

Squire Whipple
1
Famous As: Civil Engineer
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.

 37 Ralph Modjeski

Ralph Modjeski
2
Famous As: Civil Engineer
Birthdate: January 27, 1861
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bochnia, Poland
Died: June 26, 1940

Born to actor Helena Modjeska, Polish-American engineer Ralph Modjeski was a talented pianist in his younger days. He later worked on the railroad bridge across the Mississippi and also re-designed the Quebec Bridge after a major disaster. Over his illustrious career, he had designed over 50 major bridges.

 38 Jean-Baptiste Biot

Jean-Baptiste Biot
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Physicist, Astronomer, Civil engineer, Engineer, Professor
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. 

 39 Práxedes Mateo Sagasta

Práxedes Mateo Sagasta
2
Famous As: Civil Engineer
Birthdate: July 21, 1825
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Torrecilla en Cameros, Spain
Died: January 5, 1903

 40 John C. H. Lee

John C. H. Lee
2
Famous As: Military engineer
Birthdate: August 1, 1887
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Junction City, Kansas, United States
Died: August 30, 1958

An army engineer, John C. H. Lee eventually became a lieutenant-general and presided over the ComZ during World War II. He also prepared the US troops for the Normandy Invasion. However, critics often accused him of leading a lavish lifestyle, splurging on hotels and food, amid war.

 41 Henry Croft

Henry Croft
1
Famous As: Member of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly for Cowichan
Birthdate: January 15, 1856
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Darling Point, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died: July 28, 1917

 42 Leonardo Torres y Quevedo

Leonardo Torres y Quevedo
2
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: December 28, 1852
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Besaya Valley, Spain
Died: December 18, 1936

 43 John Rennie the Elder

John Rennie the Elder
2
Famous As: Civil Engineer
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.  

 44 Henry Darcy

Henry Darcy
2
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: June 10, 1803
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Dijon, France
Died: January 3, 1858

French engineer Henry Darcy had a difficult childhood, having lost his father at 14. Raised by his mother, he later joined the École Polytechnique. He proposed Darcy’s law, which explains the flow of fluids in porous media. He also designed the water supply system of Dijon, his native city.

 45 John By

John By
2
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.

 46 José Echegaray

José Echegaray
2
Famous As: Civil Engineer
Birthdate: April 19, 1832
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Madrid, Spain
Died: September 14, 1916

Initially a math professor, José Echegaray later held several government posts. As the minister of finance, he developed the Banco de España. He later established himself as a prominent dramatist, with plays such as El gran Galeoto, and became the first Spanish to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

 47 John Scott Russell

John Scott Russell
2
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: May 9, 1808
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Parkhead, Glasgow, Scotland
Died: June 8, 1882

Glasgow-born civil engineer John Scott Russell is best remembered for his contribution to naval architecture. He was the first to build a naval battleship entirely made of iron, the HMS Warrior. His written works include the 3-volume The Modern System of Naval Architecture. He also discovered Russell's solitary wave.

 48 Thomas Brassey

Thomas Brassey
2
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.

 49 David B. Steinman

David B. Steinman
2
Famous As: Civil Engineer
Birthdate: June 11, 1886
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: August 21, 1960

Engineer David B. Steinman is remembered for his extensive study on aerodynamics and wind velocity, which resulted in stable bridges. He was responsible for designing around 400 bridges, which included the Mackinac Bridge. His work also took him to cities such as Lisbon and Istanbul.

 50 William Strickland

William Strickland
2
Famous As: Architect
Birthdate: October 31, 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.