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.

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 1 Orville Wright

Orville Wright
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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
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Famous As: Scientist & Inventor
Birthdate: January 1, 1864
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Diamond, Missouri, U.S.
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 Les Paul

Les Paul
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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

 4 Garrett Morgan

Garrett Morgan
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Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: March 4, 1877
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, Kentucky, United States
Died: July 27, 1963

 5 Lewis Howard Latimer

Lewis Howard Latimer
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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. 

 6 George Westinghouse

George Westinghouse
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Famous As: Entrepreneur
Birthdate: October 6, 1846
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Central Bridge, New York, United States
Died: March 12, 1914

 7 Jack Parsons

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

George Eastman
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Famous As: Inventor of Roll Film
Birthdate: July 12, 1854
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Waterville
Died: March 14, 1932

 9 Robert H. Goddard

Robert H. Goddard
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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 Howard Hughes

Howard Hughes
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Famous As: Entrepreneur, Investor
Birthdate: December 24, 1905
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Humble, Texas, US
Died: April 5, 1976

A multi-talented personality, Howard Hughes was one of the richest person of his time. A business tycoon, he made big investments in films and aviation industry. Passionate about flying, he set numerous flying records, and also risked his own life in process. Howard Hughes who inherited his family business and became millionaire at the age of 18, was later on troubled with mental illness and turned recluse.

 11 Lonnie Johnson

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

 12 Royal Rife

Royal Rife
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Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: May 16, 1888
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Elkhorn, Omaha, Nebraska, United States
Died: August 5, 1971

 13 John Lilly

John Lilly
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Famous As: Neuroscientist
Birthdate: January 6, 1915
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States
Died: September 30, 2001

 14 Hiram Bingham III

Hiram Bingham III
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Famous As: Academic, explorer and politician
Birthdate: November 19, 1875
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Honolulu
Died: June 6, 1956

 15 Robert Moog

Robert Moog
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Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: May 23, 1934
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: August 21, 2005

 16 Percy Spencer

Percy Spencer
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Famous As: engineer, inventor
Birthdate: July 9, 1894
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Maine
Died: September 8, 1970

 17 Granville Woods

Granville Woods
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Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: April 23, 1856
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Columbus, Ohio, United States
Died: January 30, 1910

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.

 18 Gary Fisher

Gary Fisher
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Famous As: Sport cyclist, Inventor
Birthdate: November 5, 1950
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Oakland

 19 Wallace Carothers

Wallace Hume Carothers
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Famous As: Inventor of Neoprene & Nylon
Birthdate: April 27, 1896
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Burlington, Iowa, United States
Died: April 29, 1937

 20 George Carruthers

George Carruthers
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Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: October 1, 1939
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Died: December 20, 2020

 21 Lyda D. Newman

Lyda Newman
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Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: 1885 AD
Birthplace: Ohio, United States

 22 Charles Lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh
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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.

 23 John DeLorean

John DeLorean
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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.

 24 Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison
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Famous As: Inventor, Businessman
Birthdate: February 11, 1847
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Milan
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.

 25 Thomas Massie

Thomas Massie
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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.

 26 Lori Greiner

Lori Greiner
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Famous As: Television personality
Birthdate: December 9, 1969
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

 27 Gary Burghoff

Gary Burghoff
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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 William Moulton Marston

William Moulton Marston
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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.

 29 John G. Trump

John G. Trump
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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.

 30 Mike Lindell

Mike Lindell
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Famous As: Entrepreneur
Birthdate: June 28, 1961
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mankato, Minnesota, U.S.

 31 Rodney Mullen

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

 32 Eli Whitney

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

 33 Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil
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Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: February 12, 1948
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

 34 John Harvey Kellogg

John Harvey Kellogg
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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.

 35 Samuel Morse

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

 36 Philo Farnsworth

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

 37 Martin Cooper

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

 38 Dean Kamen

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

 39 Tom Scholz

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

 40 Steve Wozniak

Steve Wozniak
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Famous As: Co-founder of Apple Computer (Apple Inc.)
Birthdate: August 11, 1950
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: San Jose, California, U.S.

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.

 41 Paul Winchell

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

 42 William Shockley

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

 43 Willis Carrier

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

 44 Moondog

Moondog
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: May 26, 1916
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Marysville,United States
Died: September 8, 1999

 45 Gummo Marx

Gummo Marx
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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

 46 Malcom McLean

Malcom McLean
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Famous As: Shipowner
Birthdate: November 14, 1913
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: North Carolina
Died: May 25, 2001

 47 Robert Fulton

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

 48 Mickey Thompson

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

 49 John McCarthy

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

 50 Robert Noyce

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