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 Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison
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.

 2 Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell
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
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
Famous As: Agricultural scientist
Birthdate: December 31, 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
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 Guglielmo Marconi

Guglielmo Marconi
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. 

 7 Samuel Morse

Samuel Morse
Famous As: Inventor of Morse Code, Painter
Birthdate: April 27, 1791
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Charlestown, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 2, 1872
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 8 Alfred Nobel

Alfred Nobel
Famous As: Chemist
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.

 9 Wilhelm Rontgen

Wilhelm Rontgen
Famous As: Mechanical engineer, Physicist
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.

 10 Louis Braille

Louis Braille
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.

 11 Lewis Howard Latimer

Lewis Howard Latimer
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. 

 12 Rudolf Diesel

Rudolf Diesel
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
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 Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla
Famous As: Inventor, Engineer & Futurist, Who Obtained Over 300 Patents
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 Gottlieb Daimler

Gottlieb Daimler
Famous As: Engineer
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.

 16 Nicéphore Niépce

Nicéphore Niépce
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.

 17 Dmitri Mendeleev

Dmitri Mendeleev
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.

 18 Louis Daguerre

Louis Daguerre
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.

 19 James Naismith

James Naismith
Famous As: Inventer of 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
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 William Murdoch

William Murdoch
Famous As: Engineer
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.

 22 Elisha Otis

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

 23 Herman Hollerith

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

 24 Cyrus McCormick

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

 25 Adolphe Sax

Adolphe Sax
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.

 26 John Harvey Kellogg

John Harvey Kellogg
Famous As: Doctor, Inventor
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.

 27 Henry Bessemer

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

 28 John Browning

John Browning
Famous As: Firearms Designer
Birthdate: January 23, 1855
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ogden, Utah, United States
Died: November 26, 1926

 29 Otto Lilienthal

Otto Lilienthal
Famous As: Known for successful gliding experiments
Birthdate: May 23, 1848
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Anklam, Germany
Died: August 10, 1896

 30 Garrett Morgan

Garrett Morgan
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.

 31 Francis Galton

Francis Galton
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 George Westinghouse

George Westinghouse
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.

 33 Lee de Forest

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

 34 Clarence Birdseye

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

 35 Joseph-Michel Montgolfier

Joseph-Michel Montgolfier
Famous As: Aviator
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. 

 36 Ferdinand von Zeppelin

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

 37 George Eastman

George Eastman
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 Samuel Colt

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

 39 Hiram Maxim

Hiram Maxim
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: February 5, 1840
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Sangerville
Died: November 24, 1916

 40 Edwin Howard Armstrong

Edwin Howard Armstrong
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.

 41 Ambrose Burnside

Ambrose Burnside
Famous As: United States Senator from Rhode Island (1875-81)
Birthdate: May 23, 1824
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Liberty, Indiana, United States
Died: September 13, 1881

 42 James Chadwick

James Chadwick
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

 43 Emile Berliner

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

 44 Alberto Santos Dumont

Alberto Santos Dumont
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.

 45 William Henry Perkin

William Henry Perkin
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.

 46 Reginald Aubrey Fessenden

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

 47 Sandford Fleming

Sandford Fleming
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.

 48 Antonio Meucci

Antonio Meucci
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. 

 49 Vladimir K. Zworykin

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

Often referred to as the Father of the Television, Russian-American engineer Vladimir K. Zworykin is remembered for inventing the kinescope picture tube, also known as the cathode-ray tube, used in the television. He was associated with the Radio Corporation of America, and his other creations included the iconoscope camera.

 50 Igor Sikorsky

Igor Sikorsky
Famous As: Aviator
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.