Famous 19th Century Inventors & Discoverers

Find out more about the greatest 19th Century Inventors & Discoverers, including Adolphe Sax, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and Alfred Nobel

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 Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla
22
Famous As: Inventor
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.

 2 Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell
8
Famous As: Inventor of Telephone
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.

 3 Orville Wright

Orville Wright
4
Famous As: Co-inventor of First Successful Airplane
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).

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 4 George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver
23
Famous As: Scientist & Inventor
Birthdate: January 1, 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 John Logie Baird

John Logie Baird
6
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.

 6 Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison
31
Famous As: Inventor of Phonograph & Motion Picture Camera
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.

 7 Guglielmo Marconi

Guglielmo Marconi
7
Famous As: Inventor & Physicist
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. 

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 8 Louis Braille

Louis Braille
4
Famous As: Inventor of Braille
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.

 9 Wilhelm Rontgen

Wilhelm Rontgen
5
Famous As: Winner of First Nobel Prize in Physics
Birthdate: March 27, 1845
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Lennep, Rhine Province, 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.

 10 Lewis Howard Latimer

Lewis Howard Latimer
15
Famous As: Inventor
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. 

 11 Alfred Nobel

Alfred Nobel
11
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.

 12 Rudolf Diesel

Rudolf Diesel
4
Famous As: Inventor of Diesel Engine
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

Robert H. Goddard
4
Famous As: Physicist
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 Nicéphore Niépce

Nicéphore Niépce
3
Famous As: Creator of World's First Permanent Photographic Image
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.

 15 Gottlieb Daimler

Gottlieb Daimler
4
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: March 17, 1834
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Schorndorf
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.

 16 Louis Daguerre

Louis Daguerre
3
Famous As: Artist
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.

 17 Alexander Fleming

Alexander Fleming
4
Famous As: Biologist, Pharmacologist, Discovered Penicillin
Birthdate: August 6, 1881
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lochfield, Ayrshire, Scotland
Died: March 11, 1955

Alexander Fleming was a Scottish microbiologist and physician. He is credited with discovering penicillin, the world's first effective antibiotic substance; a discovery that changed the course of history. He also discovered lysozyme, an antimicrobial enzyme which forms part of the innate immune system. In 1999, Fleming was named in Time magazine's 100 Most Important People of the 20th century list.

 18 Dmitri Mendeleev

Dmitri Mendeleev
4
Famous As: Inventor of Periodic Table
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.

 19 James Naismith

James Naismith
4
Famous As: Invented Basketball
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

Charles Goodyear
3
Famous As: Inventor, Chemist, Engineer
Birthdate: December 29, 1800
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New Haven
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 Herman Hollerith

Herman Hollerith
3
Famous As: Father of modern automatic computation
Birthdate: February 29, 1860
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Buffalo
Died: November 17, 1929

 22 William Murdoch

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

 23 Cyrus McCormick

Cyrus McCormick
3
Famous As: Inventor of mechanical reaper
Birthdate: February 15, 1809
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Shenandoah Valley
Died: May 13, 1884

 24 Elisha Otis

Elisha Otis
3
Famous As: Inventor, Businessperson
Birthdate: August 3, 1811
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Halifax, Vermont, United States
Died: April 8, 1861

 25 Henry Bessemer

Henry Bessemer
3
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: January 19, 1813
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Charlton
Died: March 15, 1898

 26 Adolphe Sax

Adolphe Sax
4
Famous As: Inventor of Saxophone
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.

 27 Otto Lilienthal

Otto Lilienthal
3
Famous As: Aerospace engineer, Engineer, Aviator, Inventor
Birthdate: May 23, 1848
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Anklam
Died: August 10, 1896

 28 John Harvey Kellogg

John Harvey Kellogg
4
Famous As: Doctor, Inventor
Birthdate: February 26, 1852
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tyrone Township, Livingston County, Michigan
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.

 29 Joseph-Michel Montgolfier

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

 30 Lee de Forest

Lee de Forest
3
Famous As: Father of Radio
Birthdate: August 26, 1873
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S.
Died: June 30, 1961

 31 Francis Galton

Francis Galton
4
Famous As: Polymath
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.

 32 Garrett Morgan

Garrett Morgan
6
Famous As: Inventor
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.

 33 George Westinghouse

George Westinghouse
4
Famous As: Entrepreneur
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.

 34 Ferdinand von Zeppelin

Ferdinand von Zeppelin
3
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: July 8, 1838
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany
Died: March 8, 1917

 35 Clarence Birdseye

Clarence Birdseye
3
Famous As: Inventor, Engineer
Birthdate: December 9, 1886
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Brooklyn
Died: October 7, 1956

 36 Samuel Colt

Samuel Colt
4
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: July 19, 1814
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Died: January 10, 1862

 37 George Eastman

George Eastman
4
Famous As: Inventor of Roll Film
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.

 38 Edwin Howard Armstrong

Edwin Howard Armstrong
3
Famous As: Electrical engineer
Birthdate: December 18, 1890
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chelsea, New York, United States
Died: February 1, 1954

Edwin Howard Armstrong was an American inventor and electrical engineer. He is credited with developing the superheterodyne receiver system as well as the frequency modulation (FM) radio. During his illustrious career, Armstrong received several awards including the IEEE Medal of Honor, Franklin Medal, and Edison Medal. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1980.

 39 Reginald Aubrey Fessenden

Reginald Aubrey Fessenden
3
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: October 6, 1866
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: East Bolton, Canada
Died: July 22, 1932

 40 Emile Berliner

Emile Berliner
3
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: May 20, 1851
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Hanover
Died: August 3, 1929

 41 James Chadwick

James Chadwick
6
Famous As: Discoverer of Neutron
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

 42 Alberto Santos Dumont

Alberto Santos Dumont
4
Famous As: Brazilian aviator
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.

 43 Royal Rife

Royal Rife
4
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: May 16, 1888
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Elkhorn, Omaha, Nebraska, United States
Died: August 5, 1971

Royal Rife is best remembered for inventing an oscillating beam ray, which he claimed could cure diseases with its vibrations but which failed to cure people eventually. The optics engineer also absurdly claimed to have achieved magnifications of over 10 times more powerful than the best microscopes of modern times.

 44 William Henry Perkin

William Henry Perkin
4
Famous As: Chemist
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.

 45 Antonio Meucci

Antonio Meucci
4
Famous As: Inventor of voice-communication apparatus
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. 

 46 Vladimir K. Zworykin

Vladimir K. Zworykin
3
Famous As: engineer, physicist, inventor
Birthdate: July 17, 1888
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Murom
Died: July 29, 1982

 47 Richard Jordan Gatling

Richard Jordan Gatling
3
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: September 12, 1818
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Hertford County
Died: February 26, 1903

 48 Sandford Fleming

Sandford Fleming
4
Famous As: Engineer
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.

 49 Joseph Marie Jacquard

Joseph Marie Jacquard
3
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: July 7, 1752
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: August 7, 1834

 50 Hermann von Helmholtz

Hermann von Helmholtz
3
Famous As: Physicist and Physician
Birthdate: August 31, 1821
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Potsdam
Died: September 8, 1894

A descendant of Pennsylvania founder William Penn through his mother, Hermann von Helmholtz studied medicine, pushed by his father, in spite of being interested in the natural sciences. Best known for his law of conservation of energy, he coalesced the fields of medicine, physiology, math, and physics in his studies.