American inventor, mechanical engineer and an accomplished tennis and golf player, Frederick Winslow Taylor, regarded as the father of scientific management, sought to improve industrial efficiency. His approach on scientific management, referred to as Taylorism, has significantly influenced development of industrial engineering and production management. His monograph, The Principles of Scientific Management, laid out his views on principles of scientific management.
Rudolf Diesel was a German mechanical engineer and inventor best remembered for inventing the Diesel engine. After Diesel's demise, his engine became an important substitution for the steam piston engine. The engine became widespread in applications, such as agricultural machines, submarines, ships, and trucks. His life inspired the 1942 biographical film Diesel, in which he was played by Willy Birgel.
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.
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.
Ursula Burns made history when she became the CEO of Xerox, becoming the first African-American female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Raised by a working-class single mother, Burns grew up to graduate as a mechanical engineer. She has led the American STEM Education Coalition and served various corporate boards.
Best known for inventing an automatic refrigeration system used in long-haul trucks, Frederick McKinley Jones was orphaned at age 7. He quit school as a child and took up menial jobs. After briefly serving the army, he focused on inventing machine parts and ended up with over 60 patents.
One of his parents’ 10 children, George Pullman initially took over his father’s carpentry business and secured contracts with New York for the Erie Canal project. The founder of the Pullman sleeping car and a company town, Pullam was criticized for using the military to violently end the 1894 Pullman Strike.
Best known for creating the Gantt Chart, a management tool used for scheduling tasks, mechanical engineer Henry Gantt had been a disciple and colleague of Frederick W. Taylor. He also prepared ground for the Human Relations School of management and spoke about the social responsibility of business.
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.
11 Jim Lovell
Retired American astronaut Jim Lovell commanded the iconic Apollo 13 mission and was one of the first three human beings to fly to the Moon, orbit it, and get back to Earth. He had also been a US Navy captain. Following his retirement, Lovell launched a restaurant in Lake Forest.
Franklin Chang Díaz is a Costa Rican American physicist, mechanical engineer, and former NASA astronaut. He is credited with founding the Ad Astra Rocket Company where he currently serves as the CEO. On May 5, 2012, Franklin Chang Díaz was inducted into the NASA Astronaut Hall of Fame.
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.
A miller’s son, Roger Boisjoly excelled in tennis while in school and eventually grew up to become a mechanical engineer and an aerodynamicist. As part of the Morton Thiokol team that designed the Space Shuttle Challenger, he correctly predicted that its faulty design could cause an explosion, but was ignored.
Apart from being the US senator from New Mexico, Martin Heinrich is also the vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee. The son of working-class parents, Heinrich was the first from his family to graduate. A mechanical engineer, he had launched his own firm before joining politics.
Eugene Stoner is largely remembered for developing the ArmaLite AR-15 rifle, which was a forerunner of the M16 rifle used by the American military. Though he didn’t have any formal education beyond high school, Stoner, like his Russian counterpart, Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, revolutionized the arms industry with his inventions.
Born to a German Jewish family, Ralph H. Baer and his family escaped to New York later. He went from working in a factory to becoming an engineer. While working at Sanders Associates, he developed the idea of playing games on TV and later created the first video game console.
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 Klaus Schwab
25 Bob Behnken
NASA astronaut Bob Behnken has also served as a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. He was the mission specialist on both the STS-123 and STS-130 space flights. The Air Force Achievement Medal winner is married to astronaut K. Megan McArthur. He also holds a radio license.
26 Ben Chifley
American television personality Michael Teutul started working at his family company Orange County Iron Works at age 14. He worked as assistant general manager of Orange County Choppers, founded by his father Paul Teutul Sr., but was eventually forced out. Michael is known for his features in TV shows like American Chopper and American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior.
28 John Garand
One of his parents’ 12 children, Canadian-born John Garand moved to the U.S. with his father and siblings after his mother’s death. He went from working in a textile mill as a child to creating the semi-automatic rifle M1 Garand, used widely by the U.S. military in World War II.
French-British engineer Marc Isambard Brunel is best known for constructing the Thames Tunnel and had been the chief engineer of New York City. He had also spent time in a debtor’s prison for his association with loss-making projects. He was the father of renowned engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
31 Hugo Junkers
French mathematician and physicist Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis proposed what is now known as Coriolis force. While teaching at the École Polytechnique, Paris, he extended the scope of kinetic energy. His On the Calculation of Mechanical Action remains his most significant book. His name remains inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.
33 Ben Rich
Known as "the father of stealth," Ben Rich made a significant contribution to the development of the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter-bomber. Throughout his stint at Lockheed’s Skunk Works, he helped develop numerous military planes. The UCLA alumnus later received the Distinguished Service Cross for his work.
Nigel Gresley designed some of Britain’s most famous steam locomotive engines. He also invented the Gresley conjugated valve gear, which smoothened the running of engines. His A4 Mallard was the world’s fastest steam locomotive. He later won honors such as the CBE and was also knighted.
While initially working in the machine plants and firearms industries, Henry M. Leland gradually mastered the art of toolmaking and manufacturing. He later revolutionized the auto industry and was the man behind the car brands Cadillac and Lincoln. He introduced inventions such as the electric starter and the V-8 engine.
39 Alfred Vail
Alfred Vail, along with Samuel F.B. Morse, revolutionized the American telegraph system. Though initially interested in theology, he changed his career path after meeting Morse. Some scholars believe Vail and Morse had both contributed equally for the development of the Morse code but was not valued.
40 Avijit Roy
The pioneer of soil mechanics, Karl Terzaghi was the son of an army lieutenant-colonel and studied in a military boarding school, where he developed his passion for geography. He eventually graduated as a mechanical engineer. He later also taught at MIT and penned iconic works such as Erdbaumechanik.
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.
Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk made history when he became the first person to receive a degree from space when he was awarded an honorary degree while on a space mission. He also boasts of an MIT Sloan MBA. A mechanical engineer, he had initially also studied medicine.
47 Gerald Carr
Mechanical and aeronautical engineer Gerald Carr is best remembered for commanding the Skylab 4 mission, which proved that it was possible for humans to live in space for a long period of time. He and his crew also studied Comet Kohoutek. He later formed a company that assisted in space station designing.
Known as the Father of Robotics, Joseph Engelberger went down in history as the developer of the first industrial robot in the U.S., the Unimate, which was installed in a GM plant. His book Robotics in Practice is classic in the field of robotics and has been translated in multiple languages.
49 Max Faget
Recipient of the ASME Medal, Belizean-born American mechanical engineer Max Faget, considered an engineering genius, began research for human spaceflight during his time at the NACA. He was the principal designer of the Mercury spacecraft and also worked on the Gemini and Apollo vehicles and the Space Shuttle and retired from NASA as chief of engineering and operations.