Famous American Inventors & Discoverers

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.

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 American Inventors & Discoverers

 1 Orville Wright

Orville Wright.
4
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).

 2 George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver.
22
Famous As: Scientist & Inventor
Birthdate: January 1, 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.

 3 Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper.
4
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.

 4 Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs.
4
Famous As: Co-founder of Apple
Birthdate: February 24, 1955
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: October 5, 2011
A college dropout, Steve Jobs, went on to be regarded as the Father of the Digital World. The founder/co-founder of Apple Inc, Pixar Animation Studios and NeXT Inc was a passionate visionary who was responsible for the development of iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPad and the iPhone which ushered in a new era in the computer, music and film industries.

 5 Bill Gates

Bill Gates.
4
Famous As: Co-Founder of Microssoft
Birthdate: October 28, 1955
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, United States

Leading American technologist, business leader and philanthropist, Bill Gates is the co-founder of the world’s largest software company, Microsoft. His passion for computers made him one of the richest in the world and through his charity foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he and his ex-wife, Melinda, use this money generously to help people world over live a better life.

 6 Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller.
4
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.

 7 Samuel Morse

Samuel Morse.
4
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: April 27, 1791
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Charlestown, Boston
Died: April 2, 1872
You May Like

 8 Philo Farnsworth

Philo Farnsworth.
4
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: August 19, 1906
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Beaver, Utah, United States
Died: March 11, 1971

 9 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.

 10 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. 

 11 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.

 12 Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison.
30
Famous As: Inventor, Businessman
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.

 13 Robert Fulton

Robert Fulton.
4
Famous As: American engineer & inventor
Birthdate: November 14, 1765
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Little Britain, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Died: February 24, 1815

 14 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.

 15 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.

 16 Eli Whitney

Eli Whitney.
9
Famous As: American inventor
Birthdate: December 8, 1765
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Westborough
Died: January 8, 1825

 17 John DeLorean

John DeLorean.
9
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.

 18 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

 19 Leo Fender

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

 20 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.

 21 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.

 22 Vint Cerf

Vint Cerf.
4
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: June 23, 1943
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New Haven, Connecticut, United States

 23 Douglas Engelbart

Douglas Engelbart
4
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: January 25, 1925
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Portland, Oregon, United States
Died: July 2, 2013

 24 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

 25 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.

 26 Charles Goodyear

Charles Goodyear
3
Famous As: Inventor, Chemist, Engineer
Birthdate: December 29, 1800
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New Haven
Died: July 1, 1860

 27 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.

 28 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.

 29 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.

 30 Herman Hollerith

Herman Hollerith.
3
Famous As: Father of modern automatic computation
Birthdate: February 29, 1860
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Buffalo
Died: November 17, 1929

 31 Martin Cooper

Martin Cooper
4
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: December 26, 1928
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

 32 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.

 33 Elisha Otis

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

 34 Cyrus McCormick

Cyrus McCormick.
3
Famous As: Inventor of mechanical reaper
Birthdate: February 15, 1809
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Shenandoah Valley
Died: May 13, 1884

 35 Dean Kamen

Dean Kamen.
4
Famous As: Inventor of Segway PT
Birthdate: April 5, 1951
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Rockville Centre, New York, United States

 36 Samuel Colt

Samuel Colt.
4
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: July 19, 1814
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Died: January 10, 1862

 37 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.

 38 George Eastman

George Eastman.
4
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.

 39 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.

 40 Tom Scholz

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

 41 Rodney Mullen

Rodney Mullen
9
Famous As: Skateboarder
Birthdate: August 17, 1966
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Gainesville, Florida, USA

 42 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

 43 Lee de Forest

Lee de Forest.
3
Famous As: Father of Radio
Birthdate: August 26, 1873
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S.
Died: June 30, 1961

 44 Willis Carrier

Willis Carrier
4
Famous As: Engineer, Inventor
Birthdate: November 26, 1876
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Angola, New York, United States
Died: October 7, 1950

 45 Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson
4
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: October 6, 1949
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mobile, Alabama, United States

Former NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson is best known for inventing the Super Soaker water gun, which became one of the most popular toys in the world, garnering sales amounting to more than a billion dollars since its invention. He has also been part of the US Air Force.

 46 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.

 47 Thomas Massie

Thomas Massie
6
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: January 13, 1971
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Huntington, West Virginia, United States

Conservative libertarian Republican Thomas Massie is the US Representative from Kentucky's 4th district. Born to a beer distributor, he studied mechanical engineering at MIT and also co-owned a start-up. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he earned Donald Trump’s ire when he opposed a stimulus package to boost the American economy.

 48 Steve Wozniak

Steve Wozniak.
5
Famous As: Co-founder of Apple Computer (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.

 49 Gummo Marx

Gummo Marx
4
Famous As: Actor, Comedian, Inventor
Birthdate: October 23, 1892
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States
Died: April 21, 1977

 50 John Pemberton

John Pemberton
4
Famous As: Pharmacist, Inventor, Chemist
Birthdate: July 8, 1831
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Georgia
Died: August 16, 1888