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.
American inventor, mechanical engineer and an accomplished tennis and golf player, Frederick Winslow Taylor, regarded as the father of scientific management, sought to improve industrial efficiency. His approach on scientific management, referred to as Taylorism, has significantly influenced development of industrial engineering and production management. His monograph, The Principles of Scientific Management, laid out his views on principles of scientific management.
Granville Woods was 10 when he began working at a machine shop, while continuing his studies at a night school. He grew up to become a steam locomotive engineer and earned the nickname the Black Edison for his countless inventions, most of which were related to electrical systems for railways.
Best known for creating the Gantt Chart, a management tool used for scheduling tasks, mechanical engineer Henry Gantt had been a disciple and colleague of Frederick W. Taylor. He also prepared ground for the Human Relations School of management and spoke about the social responsibility of business.
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.
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.
French mathematician and physicist Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis proposed what is now known as Coriolis force. While teaching at the École Polytechnique, Paris, he extended the scope of kinetic energy. His On the Calculation of Mechanical Action remains his most significant book. His name remains inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.
Nigel Gresley designed some of Britain’s most famous steam locomotive engines. He also invented the Gresley conjugated valve gear, which smoothened the running of engines. His A4 Mallard was the world’s fastest steam locomotive. He later won honors such as the CBE and was also knighted.
Swedish scientist and engineer Gustaf de Laval is remembered for his pioneering contribution to the development of high-speed turbines and the de Laval nozzle. He also made milk-cream separators and milking machines. Apart from being a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, he was also named to the Swedish parliament.
Swedish-born American naval engineer and inventor John Ericsson is most remembered for designing and building the first armoured turret warship and developing the screw propeller. The warship – USS Monitor – is credited for keeping the Union (North) Navy stay protected during the American Civil War. His other inventions include the torpedo technology and solar machine.
Copley Medal-winning engineer Charles Algernon Parsons revolutionized marine transport with his invention of a multi-stage steam turbine. His other inventions include a mechanical reducing gear. Apart from being named a Fellow of the Royal Society, he was also knighted and awarded an Order of Merit for his contributions.
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.
Mechanical engineer Joseph Whitworth is best remembered for devising the British Standard Whitworth system for screw threads. He contributed a lot to the development of Owens College, introduced a scholarship, and left most of his fortunes to the people of Manchester. He was also made a baronet of the U.K.
While he initially apprenticed under a lock maker, he later joined the factory of Sir Marc Isambard Brunel, where he invented scores of machines, the most notable of them being the metal lathe. He also developed plane surfaces to aid his workmen at his factory. He was married to inventor Joseph Bramah's housemaid.
Gustaf Dalén was an industrialist, engineer, and inventor. The AGA cooker and the Dalén light are among his most prominent inventions. He was a long-term CEO of the AGA company. He received over 100 patents during his lifetime. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1912 for his invention of a special kind of automatic regulator.
Elmer Ambrose Sperry is best remembered for inventing gyroscopic compasses and stabilizers, which revolutionized navigation technology back in his time. His products had been of great use to the U.S. Navy. His illustrious career had witnessed him gain over 400 patents through his eight manufacturing companies.
Known as the father of the refrigerator, American inventor, mechanical engineer and physicist Jacob Perkins made several useful mechanical inventions. He created improved nail machines and some of the best steel plates for engraving, invented a bathometer, became the first person in Britain to use a uniflow steam engine, and most notably built the world’s first working vapor-compression refrigeration system.
Scottish engineer Dugald Clerk is best known for his invention of the two-stroke engine, used widely in motorcycles and other machines. He also headed engineering research of the British Admiralty as its director and was knighted, too. He also co-established the intellectual property service provider Marks & Clerk.
Nathanael Greene Herreshoff was a distinguished naval architect and yacht designer, whose influence on boat building remains unrivaled to these days. Credited with producing the first modern multihull and the first successful fin-keel yacht, he used innovative ideas and lightest possible materials while building his boats. His boats defended the America’s Cup six times from 1893 to 1920.
Mechanical engineer and naval architect Samuel Bentham was responsible for Russia’s victory over a Turkish force, using shell guns on warships. He had also visited China to study ship designs and had served as the inspector of English naval works. He was the younger brother of philosopher Jeremy Bentham.
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.
Simon Lake was an American inventor who is credited with building the first submarines to operate extensively in the open sea. His first two submarines, Argonaut and Protector, were sold to Russia as US Congress refused to buy them. Later, he built many more submarines and obtainined over two hundred patents for advances in naval design.
After quitting school at 14, Matthew Murray apprenticed to be a blacksmith or a whitesmith. He then worked for a Leeds-based flax spinner and later established his own factory, developing innovations in the domain of steam engines. His locomotives for collieries were the first to be commercially successful.
Best known for inventing the cylinder lock named after him, Linus Yale Jr. was a descendant of the benefactor of Yale University. While working in his father’s lock shop, Yale introduced many innovative designs for bank locks. He also put to use his painting skills in drawing lock designs.
Ventilation, heating system, and air conditioning pioneer David Crosthwait was one of the first African-American men to excel in science. Throughout his illustrious career, he managed to gain 80 international patents. He later taught at Purdue University and was presented with an honorary doctorate by the same university.
Amos Whitney was in his early teens when he apprenticed at a machine company. He is best remembered for his manufacturing company Pratt & Whitney, which he set up with Francis A. Pratt. He had designed a number of innovative machine parts for sewing machines, guns, and typewriters.
Mechanical engineer Daniel Gooch scripted history by becoming the first person to lay transatlantic cables successfully. He headed Great Western Railway as its locomotive superintendent and developed locomotive such as the North Briton. He was made a baronet for his achievements and had also represented Cricklade as a Conservative MP.
Known as successful businesswoman, Catherine Anselm Gleason had many firsts to her credit. The first woman to study engineering at Cornell University, she later became the first female to become receiver of a bankrupt company and successfully restored it. Later, she also became the first female president of a national bank, and member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Francis A. Pratt spent his early days as an apprentice at a machine shop. He later met Amos Whitney, with whom he set up the manufacturing firm Pratt & Whitney. Apart from developing the Lincoln miller, Pratt also contributed to inventing machine parts for sewing machines, guns, and other industries.
Born to a weaver, Joseph Clement himself initially worked as a weaver and learned metal work. He began building power looms and then moved to London, where he worked with top engineering firms. His best achievement was his collaboration with Charles Babbage in building Babbage’s Difference Engine.
British engineer Arthur Woolf was a pioneer of the compound steam engine. Starting his career as a carpenter, he later worked for Joseph Bramah. While working at a London brewery, he began working with steam power and ended up inventing the Woolf high-pressure compound engine, almost twice efficient as James Watt’s engine.
Inventor George Henry Corliss is remembered for developing the Corliss steam engine, thus introducing innovative features, such as the Corliss valve, to the existing steam engine models. Initially a general store owner, he had also developed various new types of sewing machines, before diverting his focus to steam engines.
Mechanical engineer, manufacturer, entrepreneur and inventor William Sellers is best-remembered for developing the United States standard screw thread. Many of its details were given in his paper A System of Screw Threads and Nuts, presented to the Franklin Institute. He served as president of Franklin Institute and led the leading machine tool firm William Sellers & Co. for years.
Born to a blacksmith, David Wilkinson grew up to be a skilled machine parts manufacturer. A mechanical engineer, he built a lathe for turning iron and brass, which helped the U.S. government manufacture firearms. He is also said to have built the first steamboat in the U.S.
One of the founders of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Alexander Lyman Holley set up the first American steel plant using the Bessemer process technology, for Corning, Winslow & Company. Ten of his 15 American patents were related to the Bessemer process. He also received the Bessemer Gold Medal.