Famous 20th Century Inventors & Discoverers

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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 Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper.
6
Famous As: Computer Scientist
Birthdate: December 9, 1906
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York City
Died: January 1, 1992
Computer scientist and U.S. Navy rear admiral Grace Hopper was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computing system. She pioneered the machine-independent programming language technique, and the FLOW-MATIC language used by her was later used to create COBOL. She received a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.
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 3 Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller.
5
Famous As: Architect
Birthdate: July 12, 1895
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Milton, Massachusetts, United States
Died: July 1, 1983

Buckminster Fuller was an American systems theorist, architect, designer, inventor, author, and futurist. He is credited with popularizing the geodesic dome, which resembles carbon molecules known as fullerenes. Fullerenes were named after Fuller for their resemblance to geodesic spheres. Fuller's work has influenced several personalities from different walks of life. His work has also inspired a couple of documentary films.

 4 Philo Farnsworth

Philo Farnsworth.
5
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: August 19, 1906
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Beaver, Utah, United States
Died: March 11, 1971

 5 Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr.
7
Famous As: Actress, Co-inventor of technology for spread spectrum
Birthdate: November 9, 1914
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Vienna
Died: January 19, 2000

Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-American actress whose early career was defined by her performance in the controversial Czech erotic film Ecstasy. Apart from gaining popularity as a beautiful Hollywood actress, Hedy Lamarr became known as an inventor after co-inventing frequency-hopping spread spectrum. Her career has inspired several works of art. She was also the inspiration behind the iconic character Catwoman.

 6 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. 

 7 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.

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 8 William Shockley

William Shockley.
4
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: February 13, 1910
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Died: August 12, 1989

American physicist, inventor and Nobel laureate William Bradford Shockley Jr received the Nobel Prize in Physics with John Bardeen and Walter Brattain in 1956 for their researches on semiconductors and for discovering the transistor effect while working at the Bell Labs. He later became a proponent of eugenics while serving as a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University.

 9 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.

 10 Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein.
6
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: March 14, 1879
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ulm, Germany
Died: April 18, 1955
Deemed as the most influential physicist of the 20th century, the German-born physicist Albert Einstein was one of the greatest minds to have ever lived. Even his name is now synonymous with the term genius. The father of Modern Physics is credited with developing the theory of relativity and explaining the photoelectric effect. The latter won him the Nobel Prize.

 11 Alan Turing

Alan Turing.
4
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: June 23, 1912
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London, England
Died: June 7, 1954

Regarded as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, Alan Turing was a distinguished mathematician and logician. During WWII, he successfully broke the challenging German Enigma machine codes thereby reducing the duration of war by a couple of years. The scientist, who was convicted for being gay, has been an inspiration for numerous films, plays and novels.

 12 Henry Ford

Henry Ford.
4
Famous As: Industrialist
Birthdate: July 30, 1863
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Greenfield Township, Michigan, United States
Died: April 7, 1947

Business magnate and founder of the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford is credited to have made the automobile an accessible conveyance for Americans in the 20th century. Following the success of his company, he became one of the richest and best-known people in the world. He also became known for his pacifism during the first years of World War I.

 13 Robert Noyce

Robert Noyce.
4
Famous As: Co-inventor of the integrated circuit
Birthdate: December 12, 1927
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Burlington
Died: June 3, 1990

 14 Leo Fender

Leo Fender.
3
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: August 10, 1909
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Anaheim, California, United States
Died: March 21, 1991

 15 Frank Whittle

Frank Whittle.
3
Famous As: Engineer, Inventor, Royal Air Force Air Officer
Birthdate: June 1, 1907
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Coventry, England
Died: August 9, 1996

Aviation engineer Frank Whittle entered the Royal Air Force as an apprentice and rose through the ranks to become a pilot. He invented the jet engine, though his idea of a plane that could fly at a phenomenal speed was initially laughed at. He was later knighted for his achievements.

 16 John von Neumann

John von Neumann.
4
Famous As: Mathematician, Computer Scientist
Birthdate: December 28, 1903
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: February 8, 1957
Hungarian-American scientist John von Neumann contributed to the development of game theory and the concept of self-replication. His work covered vast areas including math, economics, physics, and computer science. His research on nuclear physics led him to be part of the advisory committee of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

 17 Wernher Von Braun

Wernher Von Braun.
4
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.

 18 Charles Lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh.
9
Famous As: Aviator, Inventor & Author
Birthdate: February 4, 1902
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Died: August 26, 1974
Charles Lindbergh shot to fame after completing the first solo, and the longest, trans-Atlantic flight, in 1927. In his later years, his son’s highly publicized kidnapping and murder broke him completely. He also participated in World War II and worked on inventions that made flight navigation and heart surgeries easier.

 19 James Dyson

James Dyson.
6
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: May 2, 1947
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Cromer

James Dyson is a British industrial designer, inventor, entrepreneur, and landowner. He is credited with founding the popular technology company, Dyson Ltd. He is also credited with inventing the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner. Also known for his philanthropic activities, Dyson established the James Dyson Foundation to support engineering education and to inspire young people.

 20 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.

 21 Les Paul

Les Paul
4
Famous As: Guitarist, Banjoist, Inventor, Jazz musician, Jazz guitarist, Radio personality, Musical instrument maker
Birthdate: June 9, 1915
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Waukesha
Died: August 13, 2009

Jazz and country guitarist Les Paul developed his version of the solid-body electric guitar, which he named the Log. He is also credited with pioneering innovations such as multitrack recording, the eight-track tape recorder, and overdubbing. He won the Special Merit/Technical Grammy Award for his achievements.

 22 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.

 23 Virginia Apgar

Virginia Apgar.
4
Famous As: Physician and Anesthesiologist
Birthdate: June 7, 1909
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Westfield, New Jersey, United States
Died: August 7, 1974

 24 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.

 25 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.

 26 William Moulton Marston

William Moulton Marston.
9
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: May 9, 1893
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Saugus, Massachusetts
Died: May 2, 1947
Psychologist William Moulton Marston, also known as “Charles Moulton,” is remembered for inventing a precursor of the lie detector, along with his wife, Elizabeth Holloway. He was also a comic book author, who created the superheroine Wonder Woman. He was in a polyamorous relationship with his wife and Olive Byrne.

 27 Gary Burghoff

Gary Burghoff.
11
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 24, 1943
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bristol, Connecticut

Gary Burghoff is an American actor who is credited with originating the popular role of Charlie Brown in the 1967 Broadway musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. He is also known for originating the role of Walter Eugene O'Reilly in the 1970 black comedy war movie MASH and the popular TV series of the same name.

 28 John G. Trump

John G. Trump
11
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: August 21, 1907
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: February 21, 1985

Better known as former U.S. president Donald Trump’s uncle, John G. Trump was an MIT physicist and engineer. Though he had initially aspired to be an architect and join his brother Fred’s real-estate business, John later concentrated on his research that led to the invention of high-voltage generators.

 29 Edwin H. Land

Edwin H. Land.
3
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: May 7, 1909
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bridgeport
Died: March 1, 1991

 30 Shiva Ayyadurai

Shiva Ayyadurai.
11
Famous As: Inventor of Email
Birthdate: December 2, 1963
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Tamil Nadu

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.

 31 Edward Teller

Edward Teller.
4
Famous As: physicist
Birthdate: January 15, 1908
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: September 9, 2003

Edward Teller was one of the famous "Martians,” or eminent Hungarian scientists who had migrated to the U.S. A prominent chemical engineer and nuclear physicist, he was part of the team that created the world’s first atomic bomb and also designed the first hydrogen bomb, or thermonuclear bomb.

 32 Ernest Lawrence

Ernest Lawrence.
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: August 8, 1901
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Canton, South Dakota, United States
Died: August 27, 1958

 33 Tom Scholz

Tom Scholz
4
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: March 10, 1947
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Toledo, Ohio, United States

 34 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

 35 Paul Winchell

Paul Winchell
4
Famous As: Actor, Inventor, Voice actor, Television actor
Birthdate: December 21, 1922
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York City
Died: June 24, 2005

 36 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.

 37 John Bardeen

John Bardeen.
3
Famous As: Nobel Laureate in Physics
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.

 38 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.

 39 Bill Lear

Bill Lear
3
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: June 26, 1902
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hannibal, Missouri, United States
Died: May 14, 1978

 40 Igor Sikorsky

Igor Sikorsky.
4
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. 

 41 Erno Rubik

Erno Rubik.
8
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: July 13, 1944
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Budapest

A professor of design and architecture, Erno Rubik is the man behind the Rubik’s Cube. The Hungarian inventor himself took a month to solve his Rubik’s Cube puzzle, before marketing it worldwide as a popular game. He later also invented Rubik’s Magic and now promotes problem solving and mathematics. 

 42 John McCarthy

John McCarthy
4
Famous As: Mathematician, Computer scientist, Engineer, University teacher
Birthdate: September 4, 1927
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Boston
Died: October 24, 2011

 43 Sergei Korolev

Sergei Korolev
6
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: January 1, 1907
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Zhytomyr, Ukraine
Died: January 14, 1966

 44 David Baszucki

David Baszucki.
4
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.

 45 Mickey Thompson

Mickey Thompson
4
Famous As: Inventor, Racing driver
Birthdate: December 7, 1928
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Alhambra
Died: March 16, 1988

The first American racing driver to exceed 400 mph, Mickey Thompson was also an important auto racing builder and promoter, known for forming sanctioning bodies like SCORE International and Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group. A hot rodder from the very beginning, he won many track and dragster championships, later establishing Mickey Thompson Equipment Co. to manufacture high performance equipment for racers.

 46 Max Fleischer

Max Fleischer
3
Famous As: Animator
Birthdate: July 19, 1883
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kraków, Poland
Died: September 25, 1972

 47 Frederick Sanger

Frederick Sanger.
3
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: August 13, 1918
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Rendcomb
Died: November 19, 2013

Frederick Sanger remains one of only two people to have won the Nobel Prize twice in the same category. The British biochemist is remembered for his ground-breaking work on nucleic acids and the insulin molecule. The son of a Quaker medical missionary, Sanger, too, grew up believing in Quakerism.

 48 Ray Tomlinson

Ray Tomlinson.
3
Famous As: Inventor of the First Email System
Birthdate: April 23, 1941
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Amsterdam, New York, U.S.
Died: March 5, 2016

 49 Charles H. Townes

Charles H. Townes.
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: July 28, 1915
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Greenville, South Carolina, U.S.
Died: January 27, 2015

 50 Gerald Bull

Gerald Bull
3
Famous As: Aerospace engineer, Engineer, Inventor
Birthdate: March 9, 1928
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ontario
Died: March 22, 1990

Gerald Vincent Bull was a Canadian artillery expert, known for designing Project Babylon supergun for the Government of Iraq. His idea was to do away with the conventional rockets by firing satellites into orbit from a 156m-long barrel embedded inside a hill. However, his assassination within two years of the start of the project put an end to it.