Famous 20th Century Engineers

Find out more about the greatest 20th Century Engineers, including Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Sundar Pichai, Steve Wozniak and Howard Hughes.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite 20th Century Engineers

 1 Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell
12
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.

 2 Claude Shannon

Claude Shannon
9
Famous As: Mathematician, Cryptographer
Birthdate: April 30, 1916
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Petoskey, Michigan, United States
Died: February 24, 2001

Claude Shannon was an electrical engineer, mathematician, and cryptographer. He is credited with publishing the article A Mathematical Theory of Communication which gave rise to the field of information theory. Hence, Shannon is considered the father of information theory. He is also credited with founding digital circuit design theory. During World War II, he contributed to the field of cryptanalysis.

 3 E. Sreedharan

E. Sreedharan
12
Famous As: Metro Man
Birthdate: June 12, 1932
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Palakkad, Kerala

E. Sreedharan is an Indian politician and engineer who played a key role in the construction of the Delhi Metro and the Konkan Railway. Nicknamed the Metro Man, Sreedharan was honored with the prestigious Padma Vibhushan Award for changing the face of Indian public transport. In 2003, E. Sreedharan was included in Time magazine's list of Asia's Heroes.

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 4 Gustave Eiffel

Gustave Eiffel
18
Famous As: Designer of Eiffel Tower and contributed to Statue of Liberty
Birthdate: December 15, 1832
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dijon, France
Died: December 27, 1923
The man behind the jewel that adorns Paris, the Eiffel Tower, French civil engineer Gustave Eiffel later earned the nickname “the magician of iron.” He revolutionized bridge-building by using compressed-air caissons, designed the Statue of Liberty, and built the first aerodynamic laboratory. He died while listening to Beethoven's 5th symphony.

 5 Rudolf Diesel

Rudolf Diesel
7
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.

 6 Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla
40
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.

 7 Fazlur Rahman Khan

Fazlur Rahman Khan
9
Famous As: Structural engineer
Birthdate: April 3, 1929
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Died: March 27, 1982

Fazlur Rahman Khan was a Bangladeshi-American architect and structural engineer. Regarded as the father of tubular designs, Khan is credited with designing several skyscrapers, including the Willis Tower and the John Hancock Center. Thanks to his ingenious use of structural systems, Khan is often referred to as the 20th century's greatest structural engineer and the Einstein of structural engineering.

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 8 John Bardeen

John Bardeen
6
Famous As: Engineer and Physicist
Birthdate: May 23, 1908
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin, United States
Died: January 30, 1991

American engineer, physicist and Nobel laureate John Bardeen is the only person who received the Nobel Prize in Physics twice. He shared the first Nobel with William Shockley and Walter Brattain in 1956 for inventing the transistor, and the second with Leon N Cooper and John Robert Schrieffer in 1972 for proposing the BCS theory, a microscopic theory of superconductivity.

 9 Steve Wozniak

Steve Wozniak
19
Famous As: Co-Founder of Apple Inc.
Birthdate: August 11, 1950
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: San Jose, California, United States

Widely recognized as one of the two important pioneers of the personal computer revolution, Steve Wozniak is credited with co-founding Apple Inc. along with Steve Jobs. Not surprisingly, he has been described as one of the men that changed the course of history through technology. Apart from being a programmer and technology entrepreneur, Steve Wozniak is also a well-known philanthropist.

 10 A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
4
Famous As: President of India (2002-07), Aerospace scientist
Birthdate: October 15, 1931
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, India
Died: July 27, 2015
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, India’s 11th president, had earlier been an aerospace scientist at DRDO and ISRO. Known as the “People’s President” and the “Missile Man of India,” he was instrumental in India's Pokhran-II nuclear tests. He died of a cardiac arrest while delivering a lecture at IIM Shillong.

 11 Bill Nye

Bill Nye
4
Famous As: Television Presenter
Birthdate: November 27, 1955
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States

Bill Nye is an American mechanical engineer, television presenter, and science communicator. He is known for hosting the live-action science program Bill Nye the Science Guy. He is credited with inventing a hydraulic resonance suppressor tube, which is used on the Boeing 747 airplanes. He also helped develop MarsDial, a sundial that became part of the Mars Exploration Rover missions.

 12 Grant Imahara

Grant Imahara
11
Famous As: Electrical engineer
Birthdate: October 23, 1970
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA

Grant Masaru Imahara, a Japanese-American electrical engineer, roboticist, television host and actor, began his career at Lucasfilm, where he got involved with several big budget films including Star War franchise. Later, he joined MythBusters as a member of Build Tea and was well-known for his contribution in it. His other important works include White Rabbit Project, BattleBots, Star Trek Continues etc.

 13 Jim Lovell

Jim Lovell
11
Famous As: Astronaut
Birthdate: March 25, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

Retired American astronaut Jim Lovell commanded the iconic Apollo 13 mission and was one of the first three human beings to fly to the Moon, orbit it, and get back to Earth. He had also been a US Navy captain. Following his retirement, Lovell launched a restaurant in Lake Forest.

 14 John DeLorean

John DeLorean
8
Famous As: Inventor, Engineer
Birthdate: January 6, 1925
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States
Died: March 19, 2005

John DeLorean was an American inventor and engineer. Highly regarded for his work at General Motors, John DeLorean was an influential figure in the US automobile industry. He is credited with founding the popular American automobile manufacturer, The DeLorean Motor Company. DeLorean’s life inspired a couple of documentary films, including Framing John DeLorean where he was played by Alec Baldwin.

 15 Wernher Von Braun

Wernher Von Braun
8
Famous As: Aerospace Engineer
Birthdate: March 23, 1912
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Wyrzysk, Poland
Died: June 16, 1977

German-born American aerospace engineer and space architect, Wernher Von Braun, worked in Nazi Germany's rocket development program as a young man. After World War II, he moved to the United States where he became a pioneer of rocket and space technology in the nation. In his later career, he became director of the newly formed Marshall Space Flight Center.

 16 Vitalik Buterin

Vitalik Buterin
16
Famous As: Computer scientist
Birthdate: January 31, 1994
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kolomna, Russia

 17 Vladimir Komarov

Vladimir Komarov
7
Famous As: Test pilot
Birthdate: March 16, 1927
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
Died: April 24, 1967

Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov was the first from his country to fly into space twice. He died when his Soyuz 1 capsule crashed while re-entering the Earth, due to a parachute failure, on April 24, 1967, which made him the first human to die in a space flight.

 18 Linus Torvalds

Linus Torvalds
12
Famous As: Software Engineer, Main developer of the Linux kernel
Birthdate: December 28, 1969
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Helsinki, Finland
Finnish software engineer Linus Torvalds developed the open-source software Linux kernel, the Git system, and the scuba dive planning software Subsurface. Named to Time 100 and inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame, he has also written an autobiography. He is married to Finnish karate champion Tove Torvalds.

 19 John Monash

John Monash
4
Famous As: Civil engineer
Birthdate: June 27, 1865
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Melbourne, Australia
Died: October 8, 1931

John Monash was an Australian military commander during World War I. He played a major role in the Gallipoli campaign, which took place from February 1915 to January 1916 on the Gallipoli peninsula. John Monash is widely regarded as the most popular commander in Australian history and one of the most prominent allied generals of World War I.

 20 Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla
4
Famous As: Astronaut
Birthdate: March 17, 1962
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Karnal, Haryana, India
Died: February 1, 2003
Astronaut Kalpana Chawla became the first Indian-origin woman to go to space in the 1997 STS-87 mission. She and the other crew members of the Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 mission died when the shuttle exploded before reaching Earth. The Indian weather satellite MetSat-1 was renamed Kalpana-1 in her honor.

 21 Elon Musk

Elon Musk
58
Famous As: CEO of Tesla
Birthdate: June 28, 1971
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Pretoria, South Africa

Entrepreneur, engineer and industrial designer, Elon Musk, is famous as founder of the electronic payment firm PayPal, and the SpaceX spacecraft company. He is also the CEO of Tesla Motors. Elon Musk has plans to revolutionize transportation on earth as well as to space through futuristic technology.

 22 Amar Bose

Amar Bose
13
Famous As: Entrepreneur
Birthdate: November 2, 1929
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: July 12, 2013

Amar Bose was an American academic, entrepreneur, sound engineer, and electrical engineer. Bose served as a professor at MIT for more than 45 years. He is also credited with founding a manufacturing company called Bose Corporation where he served as the chairman. In 2008, Amar Bose was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. 

 23 Guglielmo Marconi

Guglielmo Marconi
5
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. 

 24 Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein
5
Famous As: Science Fiction Writer
Birthdate: July 7, 1907
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Butler, Missouri, United States
Died: May 8, 1988

Robert A. Heinlein was an American author, naval officer, and aeronautical engineer. Heinlein is credited with pioneering a literary subgenre called hard science fiction as he was among the first to stress the importance of scientific accuracy in fiction. Robert A. Heinlein is one of the most influential science-fiction writers of all time.

 25 Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong
4
Famous As: First Person To Walk On The Moon
Birthdate: August 5, 1930
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Wapakoneta, Ohio, United States
Died: August 25, 2012

The first person to walk on the Moon, Neil Armstrong was an astronaut and aeronautical engineer. Prior to his trip to the Moon, he became NASA's first civilian astronaut to fly in space. After resigning from NASA, he taught in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. He was a Presidential Medal of Freedom awardee.

 26 Sundar Pichai

Sundar Pichai
23
Famous As: CEO of Google Inc
Birthdate: June 10, 1972
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India

Sundar Pichai is the CEO of Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc. An alumnus of IIT, Stanford and Wharton, Pichai has come a long way, from innovating Google’s products such as Chrome, Google Drive and Google Apps to leading the software giant and being one of the most sought-after names in the tech industry.

 27 Lisa Nowak

Lisa Nowak
14
Famous As: Astronaut, Engineer
Birthdate: May 10, 1963
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States

Former NASA astronaut and U.S. Navy captain Lisa Nowak was part of the STS-121 mission. She made headlines when she apparently attempted to kidnap Air Force captain Colleen Shipman, who was getting into a relationship with astronaut William Oefelein, who had previously dated Nowak. Nowak was subsequently dismissed from NASA.

 28 Gordon Cooper

Gordon Cooper
5
Famous As: Officer, Astronaut, Test pilot, Aerospace engineer, Engineer, Aviator
Birthdate: March 6, 1927
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Shawnee
Died: October 4, 2004

Part of the seven Project Mercury astronauts, Gordon Cooper manned a 34-hour space mission, becoming the first American to stay for a day in space. As part of the Gemini 5 mission, he and his co-pilot proved it was possible for astronauts to survive a mission to the Moon and back.

 29 Julie Payette

Julie Payette
11
Famous As: Governor General of Canada
Birthdate: October 20, 1963
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Canadian engineer and astronaut Julie Payette has been the Governor General of Canada from 2017 to 2021. She was initially a research scientist and then joined the Canadian Space Agency, eventually completing two spaceflights. Payette resigned as governor general after a workplace review accused her of workplace harassment.

 30 Ferdinand Porsche

Ferdinand Porsche
4
Famous As: Founder of Porsche Automobile Company
Birthdate: September 3, 1875
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: ratislavice nad Nisou, Liberec, Czechia
Died: January 30, 1951

Ferdinand Porsche was an Austrian-German automotive engineer. He is credited with founding one of the most popular car companies in the world, Porsche AG. He is also credited with creating the Lohner-Porsche mixed hybrid, the first gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle. During World War II, Porsche was a prominent contributor to the German war effort.

 31 Guido van Rossum

Guido van Rossum
13
Famous As: Creator of the Python programming language
Birthdate: January 31, 1956
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Haarlem, Netherlands
Dutch programmer Guido van Rossum is known as the inventor of the Python programming language. He has also worked with Google and Dropbox earlier. In November 2020, he announced he announced his decision to join the Developer Division of Microsoft. He has won several honors, such as the NLUUG Award.

 32 Jack Kilby

Jack Kilby
9
Famous As: Inventor of integrated circuit
Birthdate: November 8, 1923
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Jefferson City
Died: June 20, 2005

Nobel Prize-winning engineer Jack Kilby is best remembered for his contribution to the development of the integrated circuit. Born to an electrical engineer, he had his first brush with gadgets as an amateur radio operator. Initially a Texas Instruments employee, he later also taught at the Texas A&M University.

 33 John Carmack

John Carmack
8
Famous As: Chief technology officer, Aerospace engineer, Programmer, Computer scientist
Birthdate: August 20, 1970
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kansas City

Computer-game developer John Carmack introduced pioneering innovations in the 3-D game arena. He specializes in first-person shooter games, such as Quake and Doom. The id Software founder had spent a year in a juvenile home and had later dropped out of university to become a freelance programmer.

 34 Ma Huateng

Ma Huateng
12
Famous As: CEO of Tencent
Birthdate: October 29, 1971
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Chaoyang, Shantou

Chinese business magnate Ma Huateng, or Pony Ma, is best known as the founder, chairman, and CEO of the technology giant Tencent. His company owns the messaging app WeChat. One of CEOWORLD’s Most Powerful People in the World, he was a delegate of the 12th National People's Congress.

 35 Jack Parsons

Jack Parsons
6
Famous As: Researcher
Birthdate: October 2, 1914
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: June 17, 1952

Rocketry pioneer Jack Parsons is best remembered as one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He also co-established the Aerojet Engineering Corporation and developed the first rocket engine that used a propellant. He was also known for his multiple sexual affairs and sex cult rituals.

 36 Scott Kelly

Scott Kelly
11
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: February 21, 1964
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: City of Orange, New Jersey, United States

 37 Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison
206
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.

 38 Wilhelm Rontgen

Wilhelm Rontgen
4
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.

 39 David Baszucki

David Baszucki
5
Famous As: Entrepreneur
Birthdate: January 20, 1963
Sun Sign: Aquarius

David Baszucki is a Canadian-born American entrepreneur and inventor. He is credited with co-founding the Roblox Corporation, for which he also serves as the CEO. He is also credited with co-founding Knowledge Revolution, a company which was obtained by MSC Software in 1998. In 2017 and 2018, Baszucki was named one of the 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs by Goldman Sachs.

 40 Shiva Ayyadurai

Shiva Ayyadurai
12
Famous As: Entrepreneur
Birthdate: December 2, 1963
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Shiva Ayyadurai is an Indian-American engineer, scientist, and entrepreneur. He gained recognition after claiming to be the inventor of email, which is widely disputed even today. His claim is based on a software called EMAIL, which he wrote while studying at Livingston High School in the late-1970s. He is also known for his unfounded medical claims, including treatments for COVID-19.

 41 Steven Wilson

Steven Wilson
8
Famous As: Engineer, Guitarist, Audio engineer, Singer, Songwriter, Record producer
Birthdate: November 3, 1967
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Hemel Hempstead

 42 Deke Slayton

Deke Slayton
4
Famous As: Astronaut
Birthdate: March 1, 1924
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Sparta, Wisconsin, United States
Died: June 13, 1993

 43 Martin Cooper

Martin Cooper
5
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: December 26, 1928
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Electrical engineer Martin Cooper had initially served the U.S. Navy in the Korean War. He later joined Motorola and pioneered many inventions in wireless communications. The Charles Stark Draper Prize winner also invented the world’s first mobile phone and made the first cell phone call.

 44 Ursula Burns

Ursula Burns
5
Famous As: Businesswoman
Birthdate: September 20, 1958
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York

Ursula Burns made history when she became the CEO of Xerox, becoming the first African-American female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Raised by a working-class single mother, Burns grew up to graduate as a mechanical engineer. She has led the American STEM Education Coalition and served various corporate boards.

 45 Shahid Khan

Shahid Khan
9
Famous As: Business person
Birthdate: July 18, 1950
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan Punjab, Pakistan

 46 Sid Meier

Sid Meier
6
Famous As: Video game designer, Computer scientist
Birthdate: February 24, 1954
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Sarnia, Canada

Game designer Sid Meier soared to fame with the strategy game series Civilization. Initially a cash-register designer, he later co-founded the gaming company MicroProse. He met his wife at a Lutheran Church, where they both still sing. Apart from the AIAS Hall of Fame Award, he has also penned a memoir.

 47 Harold Camping

Harold Camping
3
Famous As: Radio personality, Civil engineer
Birthdate: July 19, 1921
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Boulder
Died: December 15, 2013

Californian evangelist and preacher Harold Camping made headlines when he incorrectly predicted the date of the Rapture, or the end of the world, to be May 21, 2011. Initially a civil engineer, Camping later came to be known for leading Family Radio, a Christian broadcast station, in its peak.

 48 Bernhard Caesar Einstein

Bernhard Caesar Einstein
4
Famous As: The son of Hans Albert Einstein
Birthdate: September 10, 1930
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Dortmund, Germany
Died: September 30, 2008

Swiss-American physicist and engineer Bernhard Caesar Einstein was better known as the only grandchild of Albert Einstein to have survived beyond childhood. While two of his biological brothers died in infancy, his parents adopted a girl child, too. He grew up to work on night vision and laser technology.

 49 Homer Hickam

Homer Hickam
5
Famous As: Aerospace Engineer
Birthdate: February 19, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Coalwood, West Virginia, United States

 50 Alan Parsons

Alan Parsons
6
Famous As: Composer, Musician, Record producer
Birthdate: December 20, 1948
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: London

Alan Parsons is an English musician, audio engineer, record producer, and songwriter. He is credited with forming a rock band named The Alan Parsons Project. Over the years, Parsons has won many prestigious awards including a Grammy Award for Best Immersive Audio Album. In the 2021, Parsons was made an OBE for services to music production and music.