Famous 19th Century Civil Engineers

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Find out more about the greatest 19th Century Civil Engineers, including M. Visvesvaraya, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Gustave Eiffel, John Monash and Robert Stephenson.
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 1 
M. Visvesvaraya
(Civil Engineer)
M. Visvesvaraya
10
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
(Civil Engineer)
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
4
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
(French Civil Engineer Known for His Contribution to Building the ‘Statue of Liberty’ and ‘Eiffel Tower’)
Gustave Eiffel
15
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
(One of the Best Allied Generals of the First World War & the Most Famous Commander in Australian History)
John Monash
6
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
(British Civil Engineer Who Created a Sewerage System for Central London)
Joseph Bazalgette
4
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
(Engineer, Civil engineer, Politician)
Robert Stephenson
3
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 
John A. Roebling
3
Birthdate: June 12, 1806
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Mühlhausen, Germany
Died: July 22, 1869
 8 
Joseph Strauss
(American Structural Engineer Who Revolutionized the Design of 'Bascule Bridges')
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.

 9 
Fritz Todt
(Engineer, Politician, Civil engineer, Architect)
Fritz Todt
3
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 
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.

 11 
Washington Roebling
(American Civil Engineer Who Supervised the Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge)
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.

 12 
Robert Stevenson
(Civil engineer)
Robert Stevenson
3
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.

 13 
Marc Isambard Brunel
(French-British Engineer Who Constructed the 'Thames Tunnel')
Marc Isambard Brunel
5
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.

 14 
William Mahone
(Former United States Senator from Virginia (1881 - 1887))
William Mahone
3
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.

 15 
George Washington Goethals
(Former 1st Governor of Panama Canal Zone (1914 - 1917))
George Washington Goethals
3
Birthdate: June 29, 1858
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
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.

 16 
Osborne Reynolds
(Physicist, Civil engineer, Engineer)
Osborne Reynolds
3
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.

 17 
Henry Ossian Flipper
(Military Leader)
Henry Ossian Flipper
3
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.

 18 
Pier Luigi Nervi
(Engineer, Architect, Civil engineer, University teacher)
Pier Luigi Nervi
3
Birthdate: June 21, 1891
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Sondrio
Died: January 9, 1979
 19 
Pierre Charles L'Enfant
(French-American Military Engineer Who Designed the Basic Plan for Washington, D.C.)
Pierre Charles L'Enfant
6
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.
 20 
James Buchanan Eads
(American Civil Engineer and Inventor Best Known for His 'Triple-Arch Steel Bridge' Over the Mississippi River)
James Buchanan Eads
3
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.

 21 
John Bradfield
(Designer of Sydney Harbour Bridge)
John Bradfield
3
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 
John Frank Stevens
(American Civil Engineer Who Built the Great Northern Railway in the United States)
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.

 23 
Giovanni Battista Caproni
(Civil engineer, Aerospace engineer, Engineer)
Giovanni Battista Caproni
3
Birthdate: July 3, 1886
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Arco
Died: October 27, 1957
 24 
Montgomery C. Meigs
(United States Army Officer and Civil Engineer)
Montgomery C. Meigs
3
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.    

 25 
Ivar Kreuger
(Businessperson, Civil engineer)
Ivar Kreuger
3
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. 

 26 
Nora Stanton Blatch Barney
(Civil Engineer, Architect, Women’s Rights Activists)
Nora Stanton Blatch Barney
2
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.

 27 
Octave Chanute
(American Civil Engineer and Aviation Pioneer Known for Designing and Building the 'Hannibal Bridge')
Octave Chanute
3
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.

Juan de la Cierva, 1st Count of la Cierva
3
Birthdate: September 21, 1895
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Murcia, Spain
Died: December 9, 1936
 29 
Benjamin Wright
(American Civil Engineer Who Was Chief Engineer of the Erie Canal and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal)
Benjamin Wright
4
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).

 30 
Ralph Modjeski
(Polish-American Civil Engineer)
Ralph Modjeski
2
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.

 31 
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.

 32 
Práxedes Mateo Sagasta
(Civil Engineer)
Práxedes Mateo Sagasta
2
Birthdate: July 21, 1825
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Torrecilla en Cameros, Spain
Died: January 5, 1903
 33 
John Rennie the Elder
(Scottish Civil Engineer Who Designed Many Bridges, Canals, Docks and Warehouses)
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.  

 34 
Henry Croft
(Member of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly for Cowichan)
Henry Croft
1
Birthdate: January 15, 1856
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Darling Point, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died: July 28, 1917
 35 
Leonardo Torres y Quevedo
(Spanish Mathematician and Civil Engineer Who Was a Pioneer in the Development of the Automated Calculation Machines)
Leonardo Torres y Quevedo
2
Birthdate: December 28, 1852
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Santa Cruz de Iguña, Spain
Died: December 18, 1936

Leonardo Torres y Quevedo was a Spanish mathematician and civil engineer. He was a pioneer in the development of the automated calculation machines and radio control. Torres is also credited with inventing a chess automaton and the Whirlpool Aero Car, which is located in Niagara Falls. 

 36 
John By
(British Military Engineer Best Known for Having Supervised the Construction of the Rideau Canal)
John By
2
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.

 37 
Henry Darcy
(French Engineer Who Made Several Important Contributions to Hydraulics)
Henry Darcy
2
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.

 38 
John Scott Russell
(Scottish Civil Engineer, Naval Architect and Shipbuilder Best Known for Researches in Ship Design)
John Scott Russell
2
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.

 39 
Jean-Baptiste Biot
(Mathematician, Physicist, Astronomer, Civil engineer, Engineer, Professor)
Jean-Baptiste Biot
3
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. 

 40 
Thomas Brassey
(Civil Engineer)
Thomas Brassey
2
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.

 41 
Sir John Fowler, 1st Baronet
(British Civil Engineer Who Helped Design and Build the Underground London Metropolitan Railway)
Sir John Fowler, 1st Baronet
2
Birthdate: July 15, 1817
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Wadsley, Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire, 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.

 42 
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.

 43 
Dankmar Adler
(American Architect and Civil Engineer Best Known for His Fifteen-Year Partnership with 'Louis Sullivan')
Dankmar Adler
2
Birthdate: July 3, 1844
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Stadtlengsfeld, Thuringia, Germany
Died: April 16, 1900

Dankmar Adler was a German-born American civil engineer and architect best remembered for his 15-year association with Louis Sullivan. Along with Sullivan, Adler is credited with designing important edifices, such as the Chicago Stock Exchange Building, the Wainwright Building in Missouri, and the Guaranty Building in New York.

 44 
James B. Francis
(British-American Civil Engineer, Who Invented the 'Francis Turbine')
James B. Francis
2
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.

 45 
Benjamin Baker
(British Civil Engineer Best Known for His Work on the Forth Bridge)
Benjamin Baker
2
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 
James Henry Greathead
(British Mechanical and Civil Engineer Who Improved the Tunneling Shield and the Basic Tool of Underwater Tunneling)
James Henry Greathead
2
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.

 47 
Guillaume Henri Dufour
2
Birthdate: September 15, 1787
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Konstanz, Germany
Died: July 14, 1875
 48 
George Grove
(British Engineer, Writer and Founding Editor of 'Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians')
George Grove
2
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.

 49 
Herman Haupt
(American Civil Engineer and Railroad Construction Engineer Known for His Work on the 'Hoosac Tunnel' in Massachusetts)
Herman Haupt
2
Birthdate: March 26, 1817
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: December 14, 1905

Civil and railroad engineer Herman Haupt is best remembered for constructing the Hoosac Tunnel in Massachusetts. After losing his father at 12, he worked part-time to pay for his education and later joined the Military Academy. One of his best-known works is General Theory of Bridge Construction.

 50 
Jules Dupuit
(French Engineer and Economist Who Was One of the First to Analyze the Cost-Effectiveness of Public Works)
Jules Dupuit
2
Birthdate: May 18, 1804
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Fossano, Italy
Died: September 5, 1866

Nineteenth-century French civil engineer and economist Jules Dupuit ascertained the economic issues associated with public works. He pioneered the use of the diminishing marginal utility curve, while finding out the optimum cost for using a bridge, and also explained what later came to be known as consumer surplus.