Famous British Inventors

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 British Inventors

 1 
Tim Berners-Lee
(Inventor of the World Wide Web)

Tim Berners-Lee
4
Birthdate: June 8, 1955
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: London, England

Widely known as ten inventor of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee made the first communication between an HTTP client and server through the internet in 1989. He is associated with various organizations, such as the W3C and the World Wide Web Foundation, and has received the knighthood, too.

 2 
Charles Babbage
(Father of the computer)

Charles Babbage
4
Birthdate: December 26, 1791
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: London, England
Died: October 18, 1871
Charles Babbage, or the “father of the computer,” invented the prototype of the world’s first mechanical calculator, the Difference Engine. With the help of mathematician Ada Lovelace, he also created the Analytical Engine, the first general-purpose computer and a precursor of the modern computer, with its looping and sequential mechanism.

 3 
James Dyson
(Inventor of the dual cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner)

James Dyson
4
Birthdate: May 2, 1947
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Cromer, England

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.

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 4 

William Henry Perkin
4
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.

 5 
Frank Whittle
(Engineer, Inventor, Royal Air Force Air Officer)

Frank Whittle
3
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.

 6 

Richard Arkwright
3
Birthdate: December 23, 1732
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Preston, Lancashire, England
Died: August 3, 1792

Initially a wig-maker, Richard Arkwright later grew an interest in the spinning mechanism, building the Arkwright’s water frame, which used water power to produce cotton yarn. He soon became a name to reckon with in the textile industry, with many mills to his name. He was knighted for his feats.

 7 
Frederick Sanger
(Biochemist)

Frederick Sanger
3
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.

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 8 
Richard Trevithick
(Pioneer of steam-powered road & rail transport)

Richard Trevithick
4
Birthdate: April 13, 1771
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Tregajorran, Cornwall, England
Died: April 22, 1833

Richard Trevithick was a British mining engineer and inventor. A pioneer of rail transport and steam-powered vehicles, Trevithick is credited with developing the first working railway steam locomotive and the first high-pressure steam engine. He was a highly respected figure in the fields of engineering and mining during the peak of his career.

 9 
Clive Sinclair
(Entrepreneur, Engineer, Inventor, Computer scientist)

Clive Sinclair
3
Birthdate: July 30, 1940
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Surrey

A consumer electronics pioneer, entrepreneur Clive Sinclair began his business venture selling radio and amplifier kits. He went on to launch the word’s first pocket calculator and later also worked on products such as digital watches and pocket TV. He is a fan of poker and is a Mensa member.

 10 
Barnes Wallis
(Scientist)

Barnes Wallis
3
Birthdate: September 26, 1887
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Ripley, Derbyshire, England
Died: October 30, 1979

Barnes Wallis was an English engineer, inventor, and scientist. He played an important role during the Second World War by inventing the bouncing bomb which was used in Operation Chastise by the Royal Air Force to attack the dams of the Ruhr Valley. Barnes Wallis is also credited with inventing the earthquake bomb and his version of the geodetic airframe.

 11 
Joseph Swan
(Chemist, Physicist, Inventor)

Joseph Swan
3
Birthdate: October 31, 1828
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Sunderland
Died: May 27, 1914

Joseph Swan was an English chemist, physicist, and inventor known for being an independent early developer of a successful incandescent light bulb. He developed and supplied the first batch of incandescent lights used for illuminating houses and public buildings. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1894 and knighted by King Edward VII in 1904. 

 12 
John Herschel
(Polymath)

John Herschel
3
Birthdate: March 7, 1792
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Slough, Buckinghamshire, England
Died: May 11, 1871

The son of renowned astronomer William Herschel, John Herschel was educated at Eton and Cambridge and grew up to be a polymath. Apart from contributing to the field of photography, he was known for cataloguing and naming stars and satellites. He briefly also served as the Master of the Royal Mint.

 13 

Henry Fox Talbot
3
Birthdate: February 11, 1800
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Dorset, England
Died: September 17, 1877

Henry Fox Talbot was an English photography pioneer, inventor, and scientist. He is best remembered for inventing the calotype and salted paper processes that served as predecessors to photographic processes of the 20th century. He is also credited with inventing the photoglyphic engraving process. Henry Fox Talbot also played a major role in the progression of photography as an art.

 14 
John Harington
(English author)

John Harington
4
Birthdate: August 4, 1561
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kelston, United Kingdom
Died: November 20, 1612

Though a witty author, John Harington is better remembered as the inventor of the flush toilet. He was banished from the royal court for the cockiness of his language in his written works. He also earned a knighthood and later came to be known as Queen Elizabeth’s “saucy godson.”

 15 
Mark Shuttleworth
(Entrepreneur, Astronaut, Engineer, Inventor, Scientist, Blogger, Businessperson, Computer scientist)

Mark Shuttleworth
4
Birthdate: September 18, 1973
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Welkom

Mark Shuttleworth is a South African-British entrepreneur. He is credited with founding Canonical, the company that developed the popular Linux-based Ubuntu operating system. Mark Shuttleworth became the first African from an independent country and the first South African to travel to space; he traveled as a space tourist in 2002.

 16 
Hiram Maxim
(Inventor)

Hiram Maxim
3
Birthdate: February 5, 1840
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Sangerville
Died: November 24, 1916

 17 
Andre Geim
(Physicist)

Andre Geim
3
Birthdate: October 21, 1958
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Sochi, Russia

Andre Geim is a Russian-born Dutch-British physicist. He has been associated with the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester for several years. In 2010, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics jointly with Konstantin Novoselov in recognition of his work on graphene. He is also a recipient of the 2000 Ig Nobel Prize in Physics. 

 18 
Henry Bessemer
(Inventor)

Henry Bessemer
3
Birthdate: January 19, 1813
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Charlton, England
Died: March 15, 1898

 19 
John Boyd Dunlop
(Inventor, Entrepreneur)

John Boyd Dunlop
3
Birthdate: February 5, 1840
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Dreghorn
Died: October 23, 1921

 20 

Robert Watson-Watt
3
Birthdate: April 13, 1892
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Brechin, Scotland
Died: December 5, 1973

Robert Watson-Watt, often called the father of radar was a British physicist who did pioneering work in radio direction finding (RDF) and radar technology. He developed high-frequency direction finding (huff-duff) as a system for locating lightning. It was later introduced during the Second World War and played an instrumental role in intelligence, mainly in catching enemy radios while they transmitted.

 21 
Henry Shrapnel
(Inventor)

Henry Shrapnel
3
Birthdate: June 3, 1761
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bradford-on-Avon, England
Died: March 13, 1842

 22 
George Cayley
(Engineer)

George Cayley
3
Birthdate: December 27, 1773
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Scarborough, England
Died: December 15, 1857

British engineer and inventor George Cayley was a pioneer of aeronautics and aviation. He designed the world’s first glider that could successfully carry a human being. He was also a prominent Whig and had contributed to the formation of what is now known as the University of Westminster.

 23 
William Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong
(English Engineer and Industrialist Who is Regarded as the Inventor of Modern Artillery)

William Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong
3
Birthdate: November 26, 1810
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Died: December 27, 1900

The founder of the Armstrong Whitworth manufacturing company, William George Armstrong, also known as Baron Armstrong, redefined the design of guns and also invented the high-pressure hydraulic mechanism. Initially a lawyer, he later quit his practice to devote more time to engineering. He was also knighted for his feats.

 24 
James Hargreaves
(Weaver, carpenter and inventor who was was one of three men responsible for the mechanisation of spinning)

James Hargreaves
3
Birthdate: December 13, 1720
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, England
Died: April 22, 1778

 25 
David Brewster
(Scientist)

David Brewster
3
Birthdate: December 11, 1781
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Jedburgh, Scotland
Died: February 10, 1868

David Brewster was a British scientist, inventor, and author. He conducted many experiments in physical optics, especially concerned with the study of the polarization of light. Fellow scientist William Whewell dubbed him the "father of modern experimental optics." He was also a pioneer in photography and invented an improved stereoscope. He wrote numerous works of popular science as well. 

 26 
Thomas Savery
(engineer, inventor)

Thomas Savery
3
Birthdate: 1650 AD
Birthplace: Modbury
Died: April 30, 1715

 27 
James Dewar
(Chemist)

James Dewar
3
Birthdate: September 20, 1842
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kincardine, Scotland
Died: March 27, 1923

James Dewar was a British chemist and physicist best known for his invention of the vacuum flask. He conducted considerable research into the liquefaction of gases and atomic and molecular spectroscopy. He also wrote papers on the qualities of hydrogen and organic chemistry. He was awarded the Albert Medal of the Royal Society of Arts and the Rumford Medal. 

 28 
Benjamin Thompson
(Physicist and Inventor)

Benjamin Thompson
3
Birthdate: March 26, 1753
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Woburn, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 21, 1814

 29 
Trevor Baylis
(Swimmer, Inventor)

Trevor Baylis
3
Birthdate: May 13, 1937
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London

 30 

Joseph Whitworth
3
Birthdate: December 21, 1803
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Stockport, England
Died: January 22, 1887

Mechanical engineer Joseph Whitworth is best remembered for devising the British Standard Whitworth system for screw threads. He contributed a lot to the development of Owens College, introduced a scholarship, and left most of his fortunes to the people of Manchester. He was also made a baronet of the U.K.

 31 
John Shepherd-Barron
(Inventor, Military personnel)

John Shepherd-Barron
3
Birthdate: June 23, 1925
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Shillong
Died: May 15, 2010

 32 

Charles Algernon Parsons
3
Birthdate: June 13, 1854
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: London, England
Died: February 11, 1931

Copley Medal-winning engineer Charles Algernon Parsons revolutionized marine transport with his invention of a multi-stage steam turbine. His other inventions include a mechanical reducing gear. Apart from being named a Fellow of the Royal Society, he was also knighted and awarded an Order of Merit for his contributions.

 33 
Jim Marshall
(British inventor)

Jim Marshall
3
Birthdate: July 29, 1923
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London, England
Died: April 5, 2012

 34 

John Ambrose Fleming
3
Birthdate: November 29, 1849
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lancaster, England
Died: April 18, 1945

John Ambrose Fleming was an English electrical engineer and physicist. He is known for inventing the first thermionic valve or vacuum tube and designing the radio transmitter with which the first transatlantic radio transmission was made. Along with  Douglas Dewar and Bernard Acworth, he helped establish the Evolution Protest Movement. Fleming was also a noted photographer and artist. 

 

 35 
George Daniels
(watchmaker, non-fiction writer)

George Daniels
3
Birthdate: August 19, 1926
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London
Died: October 21, 2011

 36 
Samuel Crompton
(Inventor)

Samuel Crompton
3
Birthdate: December 3, 1753
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Firwood, England
Died: June 26, 1827

 37 
Ian Wilmut
(Biologist)

Ian Wilmut
3
Birthdate: July 7, 1944
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hampton Lucy, England

British biologist Ian Wilmut revolutionized embryology by leading the team of researchers who successfully created the first cloned mammal, the sheep named Dolly. A leading proponent of cryopreservation, he also implanted the first calf embryo, Frostie, in a surrogate cow. He was later knighted for his achievements.

 38 
William Friese-Greene
(Photographer, Inventor)

William Friese-Greene
3
Birthdate: September 7, 1855
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bristol
Died: May 5, 1921

William Friese-Greene was a British photographer and inventor. A pioneer of motion pictures, Friese-Greene is remembered for devising a series of cameras with which he shot moving pictures in London. Despite earning substantial amount of money throughout his career, Friese-Greene died in poverty as he spent his earnings on his inventions. His life inspired a biopic titled The Magic Box.

 39 
Oliver Lodge
(Physicist)

Oliver Lodge
3
Birthdate: June 12, 1851
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Penkhull, England
Died: August 22, 1940

Best known for developing the radio-wave detector named coherer, Oliver Lodge had also served as the first principal of Birmingham University. He was made a Knights Bachelor and had also been a Royal Institution lecturer. His inventions revolutionized early wireless telegraph technology, though they were replaced by modern instruments later.

 40 
Joseph Bramah
(Civil engineer, Engineer)

Joseph Bramah
2
Birthdate: April 13, 1748
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Barnsley
Died: December 9, 1814

Joseph Bramah started his career as a cabinet maker and over time, revolutionized the lock-making industry with his pick-proof locks. Along with blacksmith Henry Maudslay, he changed the course of 19th-century British manufacturing. Best known for his hydraulic press, he also built water closets in Queen Victoria’s home.

 41 
William Willett
(British Builder and a Promoter of 'British Summer Time')

William Willett
3
Birthdate: August 10, 1856
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Farnham, Surrey, England
Died: March 4, 1915

 42 
Alexander Parkes
(Engineer who created the world's first plastic, which he called Parkesine)

Alexander Parkes
3
Birthdate: December 29, 1813
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Birmingham, England, United Kingdom
Died: June 29, 1890

 43 
William Kennedy Dickson
(Inventor, Film director, Film producer, Cinematographer, Actor, Photographer, Engineer)

William Kennedy Dickson
3
Birthdate: August 3, 1860
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: France
Died: September 28, 1935

William Kennedy Dickson was a Scottish inventor best remembered for his association with Thomas Alva Edison. Dickson invented a motion picture camera when he was working under Thomas Edison. William Kennedy Dickson is also credited with directing The Dickson Experimental Sound Film which was the first film to use the Kinetophone.

 44 
Henry Maudslay
(Innovator)

Henry Maudslay
2
Birthdate: August 22, 1771
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Woolwich, England
Died: February 14, 1831

While he initially apprenticed under a lock maker, he later joined the factory of Sir Marc Isambard Brunel, where he invented scores of machines, the most notable of them being the metal lathe. He also developed plane surfaces to aid his workmen at his factory. He was married to inventor Joseph Bramah's housemaid.

 45 
Elihu Thomson
(Engineer, Inventor)

Elihu Thomson
3
Birthdate: March 29, 1853
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Manchester
Died: March 13, 1937

Elihu Thomson was an English-born American inventor and engineer. He is credited with founding major electrical companies in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 1882, Elihu Thomson founded the Thomson-Houston Electric Company which was renamed General Electric Company in 1892 after merging with the Edison General Electric Company. Thomson is also credited with inventing an arc-lighting system.

 46 
Carl Wilhelm Siemens
(Electrical Engineer)

Carl Wilhelm Siemens
2
Birthdate: April 4, 1823
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Gehrden, Germany
Died: November 19, 1883

German-British inventor and electrical engineer, who revolutionized the steel-making and glass-making industries, is best remembered for using the Siemens-Martin process to create the regenerative furnace. His achievements earned him accolades such as the Albert Medal. He was a Fellow of The Royal Society and was knighted shortly before his death.

 47 

Christopher Cockerell
2
Birthdate: June 4, 1910
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cavendish Avenue, London, England
Died: June 1, 1999

Known widely as the father of the Hovercraft, a unique combination of a boat and a plane, Christopher Cockerell was the son of a museum curator, who stunned his father by deciding to study engineering. His hovercraft later revolutionized the air-cushion technology. He also developed radar and radio aids during World War II.

 48 
Thomas Earnshaw
(Watchmaker)

Thomas Earnshaw
2
Birthdate: February 4, 1749
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ashton-under-Lyne, England
Died: March 1, 1829

 49 
Jock Lewes
(Military personnel)

Jock Lewes
0
Birthdate: December 21, 1913
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kolkata Calcutta, Bengal, British India
Died: December 31, 1941

 50 
Isaac Pitman
(Teacher)

Isaac Pitman
2
Birthdate: January 4, 1813
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Trowbridge, England
Died: January 22, 1897