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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
German aeronautical engineer Otto Lilienthal became the first known person to use gliders for a successful flight. A mechanical engineer, he owned a shop and flight factory and developed gliders, with which he completed around 2,000 flights. Lilienthal, however, died after breaking his back in a glider crash.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.