Famous American Inventors & Discoverers

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Man's quest for knowledge — to know the unknown and explore the undiscovered — has taken him places. Thanks to his insatiable appetite for wisdom and never-ending curiosity, today we know of things, places, and phenomenon erstwhile unknown to men. It is to this fine lot of inventors and discoverers that we owe our enlightenment to. Talking about pioneers, America has been lucky enough to home a world of famous inventors and discoverers who have staked claims to the loftiest discoveries and inventions of the land. From Alexander Graham Bell and George Eastman to Thomas Alva Edison and Henry Ford and from Neil Armstrong and Richard Byrd to William Clark and Matthew Henson, the world has seen, known and lauded a gamut of enterprising Americans who enlightened the world with their findings. It is because of them that the world is a much better place today. We look at the timeline, trivia, and interesting facts on some of the most famous American inventors and discoverers in the biographies below.
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 1 
Nikola Tesla
(Inventor, Engineer & Futurist, Who Obtained Over 300 Patents)
Nikola Tesla
24
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 
Benjamin Franklin
(One of the Founding Fathers of the United States)
Benjamin Franklin
7
Birthdate: January 17, 1706
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 17, 1790

Benjamin Franklin is considered one of the founding fathers of the United States as he was a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He was a writer, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, an accomplished diplomat and much more. He is a key figure in the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity.

 3 
Thomas Edison
(Inventor of Phonograph, Motion Picture Camera and Early Version of the Electric Light Bulb)
Thomas Edison
39
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.

 4 
Orville Wright
(Co-inventor of First Successful Airplane)
Orville Wright
11
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).

 5 
Alexander Graham Bell
(Inventor of Telephone & Co-Founder of 'American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T)')
Alexander Graham Bell
11
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.

 6 
George Washington Carver
(American Agricultural Scientist and Inventor Who Promoted Alternative Crops to Cotton and Methods to Prevent Soil Depletion)
George Washington Carver
27
Birthdate: 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.
 7 
Buckminster Fuller
6
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.

 8 
Samuel Morse
(Inventor of Morse Code, Painter)
Samuel Morse
6
Birthdate: April 27, 1791
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Charlestown, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 2, 1872
 9 
Philo Farnsworth
7
Birthdate: August 19, 1906
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Beaver, Utah, United States
Died: March 11, 1971
 10 
Hedy Lamarr
(Actress Best Known for Her Films 'Algiers', 'Lady of the Tropics' & 'Boom Town')
Hedy Lamarr
8
Birthdate: November 9, 1914
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
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.

 11 
Lewis Howard Latimer
17
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 
Joy Mangano
(American Inventor and Entrepreneur Known for Inventions Such as the Self-Wringing Miracle Mop)
Joy Mangano
6
Birthdate: February 1, 1956
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: East Meadow, New York, United States

Before she turned her peculiar inventions into a billion-dollar business empire, Joy Mangano had worked as an airline assistant and a waitress. Her best-known invention has been the Miracle Mop, a self-wringing mop made of plastic. She has also penned a memoir and has inspired the 2015 film Joy.

 13 
Wernher Von Braun
(Known as Father of Rocket Science)
Wernher Von Braun
4
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.

 14 
James Naismith
(The Inventor of the Game of 'Basketball')
James Naismith
5
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.
 15 
Linus Torvalds
(Finnish Software Engineer Who is the Main Developer of the 'Linux' Operating System)
Linus Torvalds
4
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.
 16 
Robert H. Goddard
5
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.

 17 
David Baszucki
(Entrepreneur)
David Baszucki
4
Birthdate: January 20, 1963
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Canada

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.

 18 
Charles Lindbergh
(Remembered for Making the First Nonstop Solo Flight Across the Atlantic)
Charles Lindbergh
11
Birthdate: February 4, 1902
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States
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 
John Harvey Kellogg
(Physician, Nutritionist and Director of the ‘Battle Creek Sanitarium’)
John Harvey Kellogg
4
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.
 20 
Les Paul
(Jazz Guitarist and One of the Pioneers of the Solid-Body Electric Guitar)
Les Paul
4
Birthdate: June 9, 1915
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Waukesha, Wisconsin, United States
Died: August 12, 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.

 21 
John DeLorean
(Engineer Known for His Work at 'General Motors' & Founder of the 'DeLorean Motor Company')
John DeLorean
10
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.

 22 
Robert Fulton
(American engineer & inventor)
Robert Fulton
5
Birthdate: November 14, 1765
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Little Britain, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Died: February 24, 1815
 23 
Leo Fender
(Inventor)
Leo Fender
5
Birthdate: August 10, 1909
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Anaheim, California, United States
Died: March 21, 1991
 24 
Robert Noyce
(Co-inventor of the integrated circuit)
Robert Noyce
4
Birthdate: December 12, 1927
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Burlington
Died: June 3, 1990

American engineer Robert Noyce, who co-invented the integrated circuit, later gained the nickname the Mayor of Silicon Valley. The co-founder of Intel and Fairchild Semiconductor, Noyce is also said to have given Silicon Valley its name with his invention that included a silicon microchip. He was also a swimming champion.

 25 
John Browning
(Firearms Designer)
John Browning
4
Birthdate: January 23, 1855
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ogden, Utah, United States
Died: November 26, 1926
 26 
Eli Whitney
(American inventor)
Eli Whitney
11
Birthdate: December 8, 1765
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Westborough
Died: January 8, 1825
 27 
Garrett Morgan
(Inventor)
Garrett Morgan
7
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.

 28 
Jack Parsons
(Researcher)
Jack Parsons
6
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.

 29 
Douglas Engelbart
4
Birthdate: January 25, 1925
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Portland, Oregon, United States
Died: July 2, 2013
 30 
Virginia Apgar
(Physician and Anesthesiologist)
Virginia Apgar
4
Birthdate: June 7, 1909
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Westfield, New Jersey, United States
Died: August 7, 1974
 31 
Martin Cooper
(A Pioneer in Wireless Communications Industry and Inventor of First Cellular Mobile Phone)
Martin Cooper
4
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.
 32 
George Westinghouse
(American Entrepreneur and Engineer Who Invented the ‘Railway Air Brake’)
George Westinghouse
4
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 
Edward Teller
(physicist)
Edward Teller
4
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.

 34 
George Eastman
(Inventor of Roll Film)
George Eastman
4
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.

 35 
Charles Goodyear
(Inventor of Vulcanized Rubber)
Charles Goodyear
4
Birthdate: December 29, 1800
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New Haven, Connecticut, United States
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.

 36 
William Moulton Marston
9
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.
 37 
Samuel Colt
(Inventor)
Samuel Colt
4
Birthdate: July 19, 1814
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Died: January 10, 1862
 38 
Paul Winchell
(Actor, Inventor, Voice actor, Television actor)
Paul Winchell
4
Birthdate: December 21, 1922
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York City
Died: June 24, 2005
 39 
Elisha Otis
(Inventor, Businessperson)
Elisha Otis
3
Birthdate: August 3, 1811
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Halifax, Vermont, United States
Died: April 8, 1861
 40 
Igor Sikorsky
(Aviator)
Igor Sikorsky
4
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 
Herman Hollerith
(Father of modern automatic computation)
Herman Hollerith
3
Birthdate: February 29, 1860
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Buffalo
Died: November 17, 1929
 42 
Cyrus McCormick
(Inventor of mechanical reaper)
Cyrus McCormick
3
Birthdate: February 15, 1809
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Shenandoah Valley
Died: May 13, 1884
 43 
John G. Trump
(Scientist)
John G. Trump
12
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.

 44 
Ambrose Burnside
(United States Senator from Rhode Island (1875-81))
Ambrose Burnside
4
Birthdate: May 23, 1824
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Liberty, Indiana, United States
Died: September 13, 1881
 45 
Gummo Marx
(Actor, Comedian, Inventor)
Gummo Marx
4
Birthdate: October 23, 1892
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States
Died: April 21, 1977
 46 
John Stith Pemberton
(Inventor of Coca-Cola)
John Stith Pemberton
4
Birthdate: July 8, 1831
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Knoxville, Georgia, United States
Died: August 16, 1888

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.

 47 
Henry J. Heinz
(Businessperson)
Henry J. Heinz
4
Birthdate: October 11, 1844
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: South Side (Pittsburgh) Birmingham, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: May 14, 1919
 48 
Lee de Forest
(Father of Radio)
Lee de Forest
3
Birthdate: August 26, 1873
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S.
Died: June 30, 1961
 49 
Tom Scholz
(Musician)
Tom Scholz
4
Birthdate: March 10, 1947
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Toledo, Ohio, United States
 50 
John Lilly
(Physician, Neuroscientist, Psychoanalyst and Inventor of 'Isolation Tank')
John Lilly
4
Birthdate: January 6, 1915
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States
Died: September 30, 2001

Born to rich Catholic parents, John Lilly spent his childhood treating science as a hobby. While studying medicine, he performed gruelling medical experiments on himself. He later invented isolating floatation tanks, studied bottlenose dolphins, and researched on psychedelic drug-induced near-death experiences. He also explored yoga and human consciousness.