Famous 19th Century Inventors & Discoverers

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Find out more about the greatest 19th Century Inventors & Discoverers, including Adolphe Sax, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and Alfred Nobel
Vote for Your Favourite 19th Century Inventors & Discoverers
 1 
Thomas Edison
(Inventor of Phonograph, Motion Picture Camera and Early Version of the Electric Light Bulb)
Thomas Edison
38
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.

 2 
Orville Wright
(Co-inventor of First Successful Airplane)
Orville Wright
11
Birthdate: August 19, 1871
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Dayton, Ohio, United States
Died: January 30, 1948

Orville Wright was an aviation pioneer who alongside his brother, Wilbur, built and flew the world's first successful motor-operated airplane, the Wright Flyer, a heavier-than-air aircraft. The three-axis control system developed by the brothers remains standard on fixed-wing aircraft of all kinds. Orville also served on the board of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).

 3 
Alexander Graham Bell
(Inventor of Telephone & Co-Founder of 'American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T)')
Alexander Graham Bell
11
Birthdate: March 3, 1847
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: August 2, 1922

Alexander Graham Bell was a scientist, inventor, and engineer. He is credited with inventing the first functional telephone. He is also credited with co-founding America's major telephone company AT&T, which has been going strong since 1885. Bell's later life was marked by his groundbreaking work in aeronautics, hydrofoils, and optical telecommunications. He was also an ardent supporter of compulsory sterilization.

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 4 
George Washington Carver
(Agricultural scientist)
George Washington Carver
27
Birthdate: 1864
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Diamond, Missouri, United States
Died: January 5, 1943
Agricultural scientist George Washington Carver is best remembered for promoting crops that were alternative to cotton, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes. He invented ways to prevent soil depletion and developed scores of products made from peanuts, including paints and cosmetics. He won numerous honors, such as the Spingarn Medal.
 5 
Samuel Morse
(Inventor of Morse Code, Painter)
Samuel Morse
6
Birthdate: April 27, 1791
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Charlestown, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 2, 1872
 6 
Guglielmo Marconi
(Inventor of 'Radio' and Winner of 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics)
Guglielmo Marconi
8
Birthdate: April 25, 1874
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bologna, Italy
Died: July 20, 1937

Guglielmo Marconi was an Italian electrical engineer and inventor best remembered for his work on long-distance radio transmission. Marconi, who is credited with inventing the radio, was honored with the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in the field of wireless telegraphy. Also a businessman, Marconi founded the Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company in 1897. 

 7 
John Logie Baird
8
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.

 8 
Wilhelm Rontgen
(Mechanical engineer, Physicist)
Wilhelm Rontgen
5
Birthdate: March 27, 1845
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Lennep, Remscheid, Germany
Died: February 10, 1923

Wilhelm Rontgen was a German physicist and mechanical engineer. He is best remembered for producing and detecting X-rays for which he was honored with the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901. His discovery of X-rays remains one of the greatest achievements in the field of medical science.

 9 
Alfred Nobel
(Chemist)
Alfred Nobel
12
Birthdate: October 21, 1833
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Stockholm, Sweden
Died: December 10, 1896

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist, engineer, and inventor. A prolific inventor, he held 355 different patents. Most popular as the inventor of dynamite, he was concerned with how he would be remembered after his death and bequeathed his fortune to the Nobel Prize institution. A wide traveler, he was proficient in several languages.

 10 
Louis Braille
(Inventor of Braille)
Louis Braille
5
Birthdate: January 4, 1809
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Coupvray
Died: January 6, 1852
A 3-year-old Louis Braille accidentally injured himself in the eye while playing with a tool at his father’s harness shop. While the child lost his eyesight, his relentless spirit made him create a unique system made of dots and dashes, now known as the Braille, to help the blind read.
 11 
Lewis Howard Latimer
17
Birthdate: September 4, 1848
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chelsea, Massachusetts, United States
Died: December 11, 1928
Lewis Howard Latimer was born to former slaves and went on to become a skilled patent draftsman. He had worked with Alexander Graham Bell on the patent of his telephone, and with the Edison Electric Light Company. He had also invented a modification of the process of making carbon filaments. 
 12 
Rudolf Diesel
(Inventor of Diesel Engine)
Rudolf Diesel
4
Birthdate: March 18, 1858
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 29, 1913

Rudolf Diesel was a German mechanical engineer and inventor best remembered for inventing the Diesel engine. After Diesel's demise, his engine became an important substitution for the steam piston engine. The engine became widespread in applications, such as agricultural machines, submarines, ships, and trucks. His life inspired the 1942 biographical film Diesel, in which he was played by Willy Birgel.

 13 
Robert H. Goddard
5
Birthdate: October 5, 1882
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 10, 1945

The son of a machine shop owner, Robert H. Goddard grew up to become a pioneer of rocketry. Interested in physics and mechanics since childhood, he dreamed of space flight. He developed the world’s first rocket that ran on liquid fuel. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is named after him.

 14 
Nikola Tesla
(Inventor, Engineer & Futurist, Who Obtained Over 300 Patents)
Nikola Tesla
24
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.

 15 
Nicéphore Niépce
(Creator of World's First Permanent Photographic Image)
Nicéphore Niépce
3
Birthdate: March 7, 1765
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Chalon-sur-Saône
Died: July 5, 1833

Nicéphore Niépce revolutionized science by inventing heliography and made the first permanent photographic image. He had initially been part of Napoleon’s army but had to quit due to his failing health. The Niépce Prize is awarded to a photographer every year in France, in his honor.

 16 
Gottlieb Daimler
4
Birthdate: March 17, 1834
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Schorndorf, Germany
Died: March 6, 1900

Gottlieb Daimler was a German engineer, industrialist, and industrial designer. A pioneer of automobile development and internal combustion engines, Daimler is credited with inventing the liquid petroleum-fueled engine. In 1978, Gottlieb Daimler was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.

 17 
Dmitri Mendeleev
(Inventor of Periodic Table)
Dmitri Mendeleev
4
Birthdate: February 8, 1834
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Tobolsk
Died: February 2, 1907
Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev created the Periodic Law and his version of the Periodic Table of Elements that revolutionized the field of chemistry. His table was independent of German chemist Julius Lothar Meyer’s version of the table. Mendeleev also assisted in the development of the first oil refinery in Russia.
 18 
Louis Daguerre
3
Birthdate: November 18, 1787
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cormeilles-en-Parisis, France
Died: July 10, 1851
Remembered for his invention of the daguerreotype, or the first process of photography, which could develop pictures in just 20 to 30 minutes, Louis Daguerre had humble beginnings as revenue officer and then an opera scene painter. He was also instrumental in setting up the first diorama theater.
 19 
James Naismith
(The Inventor of the Game of 'Basketball')
James Naismith
5
Birthdate: November 6, 1861
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Almonte, Mississippi Mills, Canada
Died: November 28, 1939
Canadian-American physician and coach James Naismith is considered as the inventor of basketball. He authored the first basksetball rule book and established the University of Kansas basketball team. He served as the Kansas Jayhawks athletic director and coach, and trained legends such as Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith.
 20 
Charles Goodyear
(Inventor of Vulcanized Rubber)
Charles Goodyear
4
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.

 21 
Elisha Otis
(Inventor, Businessperson)
Elisha Otis
3
Birthdate: August 3, 1811
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Halifax, Vermont, United States
Died: April 8, 1861
 22 
Herman Hollerith
(Father of modern automatic computation)
Herman Hollerith
3
Birthdate: February 29, 1860
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Buffalo
Died: November 17, 1929
 23 
Cyrus McCormick
(Inventor of mechanical reaper)
Cyrus McCormick
3
Birthdate: February 15, 1809
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Shenandoah Valley
Died: May 13, 1884
 24 
John Harvey Kellogg
(Physician, Nutritionist and Director of the ‘Battle Creek Sanitarium’)
John Harvey Kellogg
4
Birthdate: February 26, 1852
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tyrone Township, Michigan, United States
Died: December 14, 1943
Physician, nutritionist, and businessman John Harvey Kellogg served as the director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, which was a combination of a European spa, a hydrotherapy center, a hospital, and a hotel. He believed in biologic living. However, he is best remembered as the inventor of corn flakes.
 25 
Adolphe Sax
(Inventor of Saxophone)
Adolphe Sax
4
Birthdate: November 6, 1814
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dinant
Died: February 7, 1894

The inventor of the saxophone, Belgian musician Adolphe Sax, was born to instrument-maker parents who had themselves re-designed the French horn. As a child, he was known as "the ghost" for his frequent brushes with death. He made many other instruments, which were included in the French army bands.

 26 
William Murdoch
(Engineer)
William Murdoch
4
Birthdate: August 21, 1754
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lugar, Scotland
Died: November 15, 1839

Scottish engineer William Murdoch initially worked for the firm of Matthew Boulton and James Watt. He later made a host of inventions and was the first to use coal gas for illumination. He was also known for his work on steam energy and invented the oscillating engine and the D slide valve.

 27 
Henry Bessemer
(Inventor)
Henry Bessemer
3
Birthdate: January 19, 1813
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Charlton, England
Died: March 15, 1898
 28 
Otto Lilienthal
(German Aeronautical Engineer Who Completed Successful Glider Flights for the First Time)
Otto Lilienthal
3
Birthdate: May 23, 1848
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Anklam, Germany
Died: August 10, 1896
 29 
John Browning
(Firearms Designer)
John Browning
4
Birthdate: January 23, 1855
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ogden, Utah, United States
Died: November 26, 1926
 30 
Garrett Morgan
(Inventor)
Garrett Morgan
7
Birthdate: March 4, 1877
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, Kentucky, United States
Died: July 27, 1963

Garrett Morgan is remembered for inventing the Morgan safety hood, which served as a prototype for later gas masks. He also invented the T-shaped traffic signal and a range of hair-care products, such as hair straightening creams. An NAACP member, he also launched a newspaper to cater to African-Americans.

 31 
Ferdinand von Zeppelin
(A Pioneer in Development of Rigid Airship and Founder of Aircraft Manufacturing Company ‘Luftschiffbau Zeppelin’)
Ferdinand von Zeppelin
3
Birthdate: July 8, 1838
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany
Died: March 8, 1917
 32 
Francis Galton
(Polymath)
Francis Galton
4
Birthdate: February 16, 1822
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Birmingham
Died: January 17, 1911

Nineteenth-century polymath Francis Galton revolutionized science with his pathbreaking research on human intelligence and psychometrics. His books dealt with diverse topics such as correlational calculus, fingerprint analysis, and meteorology, and he also explored Africa. He left Cambridge without an honors degree, and yet ended up being knighted for his achievements.

 33 
Lee de Forest
(Father of Radio)
Lee de Forest
3
Birthdate: August 26, 1873
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S.
Died: June 30, 1961
 34 
George Westinghouse
(American Entrepreneur and Engineer Who Invented the ‘Railway Air Brake’)
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.

 35 
Clarence Birdseye
(Inventor, Engineer)
Clarence Birdseye
3
Birthdate: December 9, 1886
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: October 7, 1956
 36 
George Eastman
(Inventor of Roll Film)
George Eastman
4
Birthdate: July 12, 1854
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Waterville
Died: March 14, 1932

George Eastman revolutionized the world of photography with his Eastman Kodak Company and the roll film, which also came to be used in movies. Initially a banker, he later devoted himself to his camera company. A dedicated philanthropist, too, he contributed financially to music, dentistry, and medicine.

Joseph-Michel Montgolfier
3
Birthdate: August 26, 1740
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Annonay, France
Died: June 26, 1810

Joseph-Michel Montgolfier was a French aviation pioneer and balloonist. Along with his brother Jacques-Étienne, he invented the Montgolfière-style hot air balloon and launched the first confirmed piloted ascent by man in 1783. The first ascent carried Jacques-Étienne. The innovative brothers also invented a process to manufacture transparent paper. Joseph invented the self-acting hydraulic ram as well. 

 38 
Samuel Colt
(Inventor)
Samuel Colt
4
Birthdate: July 19, 1814
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Died: January 10, 1862
 39 
Igor Sikorsky
(Aviator)
Igor Sikorsky
4
Birthdate: May 25, 1889
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kiev, Ukraine
Died: October 26, 1972

Igor Sikorsky was a Russian-American aviator known for his pioneering contributions to the development of both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Born in Russia, he immigrated to US as a young man and founded the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation in 1923. He is also credited for developing the first of Pan American Airways' ocean-crossing flying boats. 

 40 
Hiram Maxim
(Inventor)
Hiram Maxim
3
Birthdate: February 5, 1840
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Sangerville
Died: November 24, 1916
 41 
Ambrose Burnside
(United States Senator from Rhode Island (1875-81))
Ambrose Burnside
4
Birthdate: May 23, 1824
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Liberty, Indiana, United States
Died: September 13, 1881
 42 
Richard Jordan Gatling
3
Birthdate: September 12, 1818
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Hertford County
Died: February 26, 1903
 43 
Alberto Santos Dumont
(Brazilian aviator)
Alberto Santos Dumont
4
Birthdate: July 20, 1873
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Santos Dumont
Died: July 23, 1932
Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos Dumont was born to an affluent coffee plantation owner and studied engineering in France. He was the man behind the first public flight in a winged aircraft in Europe. Later, the use of planes in warfare made him so depressed that he committed suicide.
 44 
John Stith Pemberton
(Inventor of Coca-Cola)
John Stith Pemberton
4
Birthdate: July 8, 1831
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Knoxville, Georgia, United States
Died: August 16, 1888

John Pemberton was an American pharmacist best remembered for his invention of Coca-Cola. A Confederate States Army veteran, Pemberton suffered from a wound sustained during the Battle of Columbus. The injury led him to experiment with different kinds of toxins and painkillers, which in turn helped him invent the recipe to make Coca-Cola.

 45 
James Chadwick
(Discoverer of Neutron)
James Chadwick
6
Birthdate: October 20, 1891
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bollington
Died: July 24, 1974

Best remembered as a Nobel laureate who discovered neutron, Sir James Chadwick began his career at Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, where he worked with Ernest Rutherford to investigate the nature of atomic nucleus, a work that led to the epoch-making discovery. Credited with writing the final draft of the MAUD Report, he also headed the British team at the Manhattan Project

 46 
Sandford Fleming
(Scottish Canadian Engineer and Inventor of 'Worldwide Standard Time')
Sandford Fleming
4
Birthdate: January 7, 1827
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kirkcaldy, Scotland
Died: July 22, 1915
Hailed as the Father of Standard Time, Canadian engineer ,Sandford Fleming, promoted worldwide standard time zones, a prime meridian, and the use of the 24-hour clock. He also designed Canada's first postage stamp and founded the Royal Canadian Institute in 1849. Fleming gained the reputation as one of the primary railway engineers and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1897.
 47 
Emile Berliner
(Inventor)
Emile Berliner
3
Birthdate: May 20, 1851
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Hanover, Germany
Died: August 3, 1929
Reginald Aubrey Fessenden
3
Birthdate: October 6, 1866
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: East Bolton, Canada
Died: July 22, 1932
 49 
Antonio Meucci
(Inventor of voice-communication apparatus)
Antonio Meucci
4
Birthdate: April 13, 1808
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Florence
Died: October 18, 1889
Italian inventor Antonio Meucci was born into poverty and had to work part-time as a gate-keeper to support his studies. While working as a stage technician, he invented a pipe telephone. He later invented an electromagnetic telephone-like device, credited by many as the world’s first telephone. 
 50 
William Henry Perkin
(British Chemist Known for His Serendipitous Discovery of First Commercial Synthetic Organic Dye, 'Mauveine')
William Henry Perkin
5
Birthdate: March 12, 1838
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: London, England
Died: July 14, 1907

William Henry Perkin is best remembered for his chance discovery of the dye mauveine, made of aniline purple. He had apparently discovered the dye while attempting to synthesize quinine. The Royal Medal-winning British chemist also studied salicyl alcohol and flavoring agents and synthesized the first artificial perfume.