Famous British Inventors & Discoverers

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Before you go on to read this section, thank Sir Timothy John Berners Lee for had it not been for this supremely talented British computer scientist, you wouldn’t have had World Wide Web! It was Berners Lee whose pioneering work led to the foundation of the modern computing system and internet. But British contribution to inventions and discoveries does not limit to World Wide Web alone. The English men are responsible for great many discoveries and invention that have made the world a better place to live in. Be it Roger Bacon’s magnifying glass or Michael Faraday’s electric transformer, John Ambroise Fleming’s vacuum diode or Rowland Hill’s postage stamp, George William Manby’s fire extinguisher or Sir Isaac Newton’s reflecting telescope, Stephen Perry’s rubber band or Joseph Priestley’s soda water, each of their inventions has greatly influenced our lifestyle and made living stress-free. Talking about discoveries, British explorers contributed greatly to the development of modern society that we know of today. So whether it is Sir Walter Raleigh or Henry Hudson, Sir Francis Drake or Captain James Cook, each of them and many more discovered new lands and routes for current and future generation travellers and explorers. Check this section to know about the life and works of famous British inventors and discoverers.
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 1 
Tim Berners-Lee
(Computer Scientist and Inventor of the World Wide Web)
Tim Berners-Lee
6
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 
John Logie Baird
8
Birthdate: August 13, 1888
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Helensburgh
Died: June 14, 1946

Scottish inventor, electrical engineer, and innovator, John Logie Baird, is best known for demonstrating a working TV system in 1926. He then went on to invent the first viable purely electronic color TV picture tube and founded the Baird Television Development Company. He was inducted into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame in 2015.

 3 
George Stephenson
(Father of Railways)
George Stephenson
5
Birthdate: June 9, 1781
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Wylam
Died: August 12, 1848

George Stephenson was a British mechanical and civil engineer. Stephenson is credited with pioneering rail transport which is widely regarded as one of the most prominent inventions of the 19th century. Regarded as the Father of Railways, George Stephenson is also credited with developing the standard rail gauge which is used by several railways around the world.

 4 
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.
 5 
James Dyson
(Founder of ‘Dyson Ltd’ and Inventor of the Dual Cyclone Bagless Vacuum Cleaner)
James Dyson
6
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.

 6 
Edd China
(Television Presenter)
Edd China
4
Birthdate: May 9, 1971
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England
Edd China is best known as the host of the Discovery Channel show Wheeler Dealers. He has also been part of Fifth Gear and Top Gear. He established Cummfy Banana Limited. After racing a motorized sofa at 148 km/h, China set a Guinness record for the fastest furniture.
 7 
Frank Whittle
(British Pilot and Aviator Best Known for Inventing the 'Turbojet Engine')
Frank Whittle
4
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.

 8 
Francis Galton
(Polymath)
Francis Galton
4
Birthdate: February 16, 1822
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Birmingham
Died: January 17, 1911

Nineteenth-century polymath Francis Galton revolutionized science with his pathbreaking research on human intelligence and psychometrics. His books dealt with diverse topics such as correlational calculus, fingerprint analysis, and meteorology, and he also explored Africa. He left Cambridge without an honors degree, and yet ended up being knighted for his achievements.

 9 
Henry Bessemer
(Inventor)
Henry Bessemer
3
Birthdate: January 19, 1813
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Charlton, England
Died: March 15, 1898
 10 
James Chadwick
(Discoverer of Neutron)
James Chadwick
6
Birthdate: October 20, 1891
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bollington
Died: July 24, 1974

Best remembered as a Nobel laureate who discovered neutron, Sir James Chadwick began his career at Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, where he worked with Ernest Rutherford to investigate the nature of atomic nucleus, a work that led to the epoch-making discovery. Credited with writing the final draft of the MAUD Report, he also headed the British team at the Manhattan Project

 11 
William Henry Perkin
(British Chemist Known for His Serendipitous Discovery of First Commercial Synthetic Organic Dye, 'Mauveine')
William Henry Perkin
5
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.

 12 
Richard Trevithick
(Pioneer of steam-powered road & rail transport)
Richard Trevithick
3
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.

 13 
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.

 14 
Richard Arkwright
(English Industrialist and Inventor)
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.

 15 
Hiram Maxim
(Inventor)
Hiram Maxim
3
Birthdate: February 5, 1840
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Sangerville
Died: November 24, 1916
 16 
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.

 17 
Barnes Wallis
(English Scientist and Engineer Known for Inventing the ‘Bouncing Bomb’ and ‘Earthquake Bomb’)
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.

 18 
Jethro Tull
(Agricultural Pioneer)
Jethro Tull
4
Birthdate: March 30, 1674
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Basildon
Died: February 21, 1741

A pioneer of modern British agriculture, Jethro Tull made many inventions, such as a horse-drawn mechanism for sowing seeds. Though he was trained to be a lawyer, he chose to work on his father’s farm instead. His studies on agriculture were later released as The New Horse Houghing Husbandry.

 19 
Mark Shuttleworth
(Entrepreneur, Astronaut, Engineer, Inventor, Scientist, Blogger, Businessperson, Computer scientist)
Mark Shuttleworth
6
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.

 20 
John Herschel
(British Polymath Known for His Invention of 'Blueprint')
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.

 21 
Humphry Davy
(Inventor of Davy Lamp)
Humphry Davy
5
Birthdate: December 17, 1778
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Penzance, England
Died: May 29, 1829

Best remembered for his invention of the Davy lamp, a safety lamp for miners, Humphry Davy initially aspired to be a doctor but later deviated to chemistry. The Copley Medal winner had co-founded the Zoological Society of London. He also excelled in writing poetry and loved fishing.

 22 
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. 

 23 
Henry Fox Talbot
(English Scientist, Inventor, and Pioneer Photographer Who Invented the ‘Salted Paper’ and ‘Calotype’ Processes)
Henry Fox Talbot
3
Birthdate: February 11, 1800
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Melbury, Dorset, England, United Kingdom
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.

 24 
Thomas Newcomen
(Inventor of Atmospheric Steam Engine)
Thomas Newcomen
3
Birthdate: 1664
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Dartmouth
Died: August 5, 1729
 25 
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.”

 26 
John Boyd Dunlop
(Inventor, Entrepreneur)
John Boyd Dunlop
3
Birthdate: February 5, 1840
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Dreghorn
Died: October 23, 1921
 27 
Andre Geim
(Dutch-British Physicist Known for His Discovery of 'Graphene')
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. 

 28 
Robert Watson-Watt
(British Pioneer of Radio Direction Finding and Radar Technology)
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.

 29 
Ian Wilmut
(British Embryologist Known for Creating a Cloned Sheep Named 'Dolly' From an Adult Sheep’s Somatic Cell)
Ian Wilmut
2
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.

 30 
George Cayley
(British Engineer, Inventor and Aviator Known for Designing First Successful Human Glider)
George Cayley
3
Birthdate: December 27, 1773
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Scarborough, Yorkshire, 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.

 31 
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.

 32 
Jock Lewes
(Military personnel)
Jock Lewes
0
Birthdate: December 21, 1913
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kolkata Calcutta, Bengal, British India
Died: December 31, 1941
 33 
Henry Shrapnel
(Inventor)
Henry Shrapnel
3
Birthdate: June 3, 1761
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bradford-on-Avon, England
Died: March 13, 1842
 34 
Thomas Savery
(engineer, inventor)
Thomas Savery
3
Birthdate: 1650 AD
Birthplace: Modbury
Died: April 30, 1715
 35 
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. 

 36 
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
 37 
Edmund Cartwright
3
Birthdate: April 24, 1743
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nottinghamshire
Died: October 30, 1823
 38 
Benjamin Thompson
(Physicist and Inventor)
Benjamin Thompson
3
Birthdate: March 26, 1753
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Woburn, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 21, 1814
 39 
Jim Marshall
(British inventor)
Jim Marshall
3
Birthdate: July 29, 1923
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London, England
Died: April 5, 2012
 40 
Joseph Whitworth
(British Engineer, Entrepreneur, Inventor and Philanthropist Who Devised the 'British Standard Whitworth System')
Joseph Whitworth
3
Birthdate: December 21, 1803
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Stockport, Cheshire, 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.

 41 
Trevor Baylis
(Swimmer, Inventor)
Trevor Baylis
3
Birthdate: May 13, 1937
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London
 42 
John Shepherd-Barron
(Inventor, Military personnel)
John Shepherd-Barron
3
Birthdate: June 23, 1925
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Shillong
Died: May 15, 2010
 43 
Charles Algernon Parsons
(Anglo-Irish Engineer Best Known for His Invention of the 'Compound Steam Turbine')
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.

 44 
John Ambrose Fleming
(British Electrical Engineer and Physicist Who Invented the First 'Thermionic Valve' or 'Vacuum Tube')
John Ambrose Fleming
3
Birthdate: November 29, 1849
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lancaster, Lancashire, 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. 

 

 45 
Harry Ferguson
(Inventor of Modern 'Tractor' and First Four-Wheel Drive 'Formula One' Car)
Harry Ferguson
4
Birthdate: November 4, 1884
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: County Down, Ireland
Died: October 25, 1960

Known as the Mad Mechanic, Harry Ferguson was the man behind the invention of the modern tractor, popularly known as the Wee Grey Fergie. He was also the first Irish to build and fly his own plane. His legacy lives on in the Massey Ferguson brand of agricultural machinery.

 46 
James Starley
(Inventor)
James Starley
2
Birthdate: April 21, 1830
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Albourne, England
Died: June 17, 1881
 47 
George Daniels
(watchmaker, non-fiction writer)
George Daniels
3
Birthdate: August 19, 1926
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London
Died: October 21, 2011
 48 
Oliver Lodge
(British Physicist, Inventor and Prinicpal Patent Holder and Developer of 'Radio')
Oliver Lodge
2
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.

 49 
William Friese-Greene
(Photographer, Inventor)
William Friese-Greene
2
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.

 50 
Samuel Crompton
(Inventor)
Samuel Crompton
3
Birthdate: December 3, 1753
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Firwood, England
Died: June 26, 1827