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Here’s our handy guide to famous engineers

Here’s our handy guide to famous engineers, which includes some familiar faces and others who may be new to you. For a list of young engineers who are already on their way to changing the world, check out our Trailblazers section. For the latest news in engineering, try E-News.
We’ve organized our engineering celebrities into these categories:

Arts & Entertainment
Company Founders
Inventors and Leaders in their Field
Arts & Entertainment

Scott Adams – cartoonist and creator of “Dilbert“

Rowan Atkinson (Actor/Comedian) – Best known for his starring roles in the television series Blackadder and Mr. Bean, Atkinson attended Manchester and Oxford University earning an electrical engineering degree.

Alexander Calder (Artist) – Calder received his degree in mechanical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, N. J., and shortly thereafter moved to Paris, where he studied art and began to create his now-famous mobiles.

Frank Capra (Film director) – This chemical engineering degree recipient went on to direct films such asIt Happened One Night, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Roger Corman (Film Director) – Corman directed the original version of Little Shop of Horrors, and shot it in a record two days and a night. He received an industrial engineering degree from Stanford University.

Lillian Gilbreth – Considered a pioneer in the field of time-and-motion studies, Dr. Gilbreth received her Ph.D. in psychology from Brown University and was a professor at Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering, the Newark School of Engineering, and the University of Wisconsin.She is “Member No. 1″ of the Society of Women Engineers.She and her husband used their industrial engineering skills to run their household, and those efforts are the subject of the book and family film Cheaper by the Dozen.

Alfred Hitchcock (Film Director) – British-born American director and producer of many brilliantly contrived films, most of them psychological thrillers including Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window, and North by Northwest. He was born in London and trained there as an engineer at Saint Ignatius College.

Herbie Hancock (Jazz Musician) – Hancock, before becoming a jazz musician, studied electrical engineering at Grinell College. His engineering background would later help his experimentations in electronic jazz fusion.

Hedy Lamarr (Actress) – Although not formally trained as an engineer, this famous 1940s actress is credited with several sophisticated inventions, among them a unique anti-jamming device for use against Nazi radar. Years after her patent expired, the Sylvania Electronics Systems Division adapted the design for a device that today speeds satellite communications around the world.

Arthur Nielsen – graduated summa cum laude in Electrical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin. His is best known for developing the Nielsen rating system, which tells us how popular a television show is.

Bill Nye (TV Personality) – The “Science Guy” received a mechanical engineering degree from Cornell University and worked for Boeing.

Tom Landry (NFL Coach) – Legendary NFL football coach who led the Dallas Cowboys to 20 consecutive winning seasons (1966-1985), Landry earned a degree in industrial engineering from the University of Texas, and served as a fighter pilot in WWII.


Roberto C. Goizueta – former chairman and chief executive of Coca-Cola, Co. Chemical engineering degree from Yale University.

Lee Iacocca – former chairman and CEO of Chrysler Corp., Iacocca graduated from Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa., in 1945 and received a master’s degree in engineering from Princeton University in 1946.

John F. Welch Jr. – received his engineering undergraduate degree in his home state at the University of Massachusetts. After he earned his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois, he accepted a job offer from General Electric. He became chairman and CEO of General Electric in 1981.

Philip Condit – CEO, the Boeing Co., mechanical/aeronautical engineering.

James Morgan – CEO, Applied Materials, mechanical engineer. In 1996 he received the National Medal of Technology for his industry leadership and for his vision in building Applied Materials into the world’s leading semiconductor equipment company, a major exporter and a global technology pioneer that helps enable the Information Age.. 

Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. – former CEO of Pfizer Inc. Pratt is an electrical engineer.

Company Founders:

Andrew Grove – co-founder of Intel, and a chemical engineer.

William Hewlett and David Packard – co-founders of Hewlett-Packard.

Bill Joy – Joy is the co-founder of Sun Microsystems. He received a B.S.E.E. in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1975, after which he attended graduate school at U.C.—Berkeley, where he was the principal designer of Berkeley UNIX (BSD) and received a M.S. in electrical engineering and computer science. In 1997, Joy was appointed by President Clinton as co-chairman of the Presidential Information Technology Advisory Committee.

Steve Wozniak – Co-founded Apple Computer Inc. in 1976 with the Apple I computer. Wozniak’s Apple II personal computer — introduced in 1977 and featuring a central processing unit (CPU), keyboard, floppy disk drive,and a $1,300 price tag — helped launch the PC industry. Wozniak left Apple in 1981 and went back to Berkeley and finished his degree in electrical engineering/computer science. Since then, he has been involved in various business and philanthropic ventures, focusing primarily on computer capabilities in schools, including an initiative in 1990 to place computers in schools in the former Soviet Union.

Ray Dolby – audio system innovator and founder of Dolby Laboratories. His technical expertise has won him both an Academy Award and a Grammy.

Henry Ford – Ford helped devise what revolutionized the auto industry and what he is most remembered for—the continuous moving assembly line. In 1908, Henry Ford ushered in a new era of personal transportation in the United States. His invention of the Model T automobile, made it possible for the general public to buy a sturdy, reliable, and easy to operate vehicle for a price that was highly affordable. The success of the Model T served to popularize personal vehicles to such an extent that today, over 100 million US households own an average of 2 automobiles each!

Katherine Stinson - the first female graduate of N.C. State University’s College of Engineering. Initially denied admission as a freshman, Stinson went on to become one of N.C. State’s most distinguished and active alumni. Graduating vice president of her class,she was soon hired by the Civil Aeronautics Administration as its first female engineer. Later, she served as technical assistant chief in its Engineering and Manufacturing Division until her retirementin 1973. She went on to found the Society of Women Engineers.

Craig Newmark – was living in San Francisco handling computer security for the brokerage Charles Schwab, and for fun began an online list of things to do in the area. He then developed software that would allow E-mails to automatically post information to the site. It became a sort of Internet classified section, listing not only upcoming events, but stuff for sale, jobs, personals, etc. Craigslist today encompasses more than 100 cities on five continents and has 5 million unique visitors a day. Newmark, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Case Western Reserve University’s school of electrical engineering and computer science.

Sergei Brin and Larry Page – were two computer nuts who first met at Stanford University a decade ago while earning graduate degrees in computer science. Brin, a native of Moscow, had a B.S. in mathematics from the University of Maryland. Page, from Ann Arbor, had an engineering B.S. from the University of Michigan. They didn’t get along at first, but their friendship grew as Brin and Page toiled in the dorm, seeking a new way to search the Internet.The fruits of their labor: Google, the Internet’s most popular search engine. Google became a publicly traded company in August 2004. The company is now valued at $60 billion.

Jimmy Carter – The 39th President of the United States. President Carter attended Georgia Southwestern College and the Georgia Institute of Technology and received a B.S. degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1946. In the Navy he became a submariner, serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and rising to the rank of lieutenant. Chosen by Admiral Hyman Rickover for the nuclear submarine program, he was assigned to Schenectady, N.Y., where he took graduate work at Union College in reactor technology and nuclear physics and served as senior officer of the pre-commissioning crew of the Seawolf.

Herbert Hoover – having graduated from Stanford University in California,Hoover was a 26 -year-old mining engineer in Tientsin, China, when the city was attacked by 5,000 Chinese troops and 25,000 members of the martial arts group known as the Boxers. (The Boxer Rebellion was a violent 1900 uprising against foreign business interests in China.) Hoover took charge of setting up barricades to protect Tientsin until its rescue after 28 days of bombardment. Thirty years later, Herbert Hoover became the 31st president of the United States; he and his wife continued to speak Chinese when they wanted privacy in the White House.
Inventors and Leaders in their Field:

Neil Alden Armstrong – became the first man to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969, at 10:56 p.m. EDT. He and “Buzz” Aldrin spent about two and one-half hours walking on the moon, while pilot Michael Collins waited above in the Apollo 11 command module. Armstrong received his B.S. in aeronautical engineering from Purdue University and an M.S. in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California.

Leonardo da Vinci – Florentine artist, one of the great masters of the High Renaissance, celebrated as a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, and scientist.His profound love of knowledge and research was the keynote of both his artistic and scientific endeavors. His innovations in the field of painting influenced the course of Italian art for more than a century after his death, and his scientific studies – particularly in the fields of anatomy, optics, and hydraulics – anticipated many of the developments of modern science.

Thomas Edison – Edison patented 1,093 inventions in his lifetime,earning him the nickname the “Wizard of Menlo Park.” The most famous of his inventions was an incandescent light bulb. Besides the light bulb, Edison developed the phonograph and the kinetoscope, a small box for viewing moving films. He also improved upon the original design of the stock ticker, the telegraph,and Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. Edison was quoted as saying, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”

Edwin Howard Armstrong – His crowning achievement in 1933 was the invention of wide-band frequency modulation, now known as FM radio. Armstrong earned a degree in electrical engineering from Columbia University in 1913.

Alexander Graham Bell – inventor of the telephone. He also worked in medical research and invented techniques for teaching speech to the deaf. In 1888 he founded the National Geographic Society.

William D. Coolidge’s name is inseparably linked with the X-ray tube —popularly called the ‘Coolidge tube.’ This invention completely revolutionized the generation of X-rays and remains to this day the model upon which all X-ray tubes for medical applications are patterned.Coolidge graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1896, majoring in electrical engineering.

George de Mestral -attended the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland, where he graduated as an electrical engineer. In 1955 the “hook and loop fastener” he created was patented under the name Velcro, which was derived from two French words: velour and crochet (“velvet” and “hooks”).

Rudolf Diesel – Though best known for his invention of the pressure-ignited heat engine that bears his name, the French-born Diesel was also an eminent thermal engineer.

Bonnie Dunbar – NASA astronaut who earned her B.S. and M.S. degrees in ceramic engineering from the University of Washington and a doctorate in mechanical/biomedical engineering from the University of Houston. While working at Rockwell International, Dr. Dunbar helped to develop the ceramic tiles that enable space shuttles to survive re-entry. She has had an opportunity to test those tiles firsthand as a four-time astronaut, including a stint on the first shuttle mission to dock with the Russian Space Station Mir.

Reginald A. Fessenden – Canadian-born American physicist and electrical engineer who is known for his early work in wireless communication. After designing a high-frequency alternator, in 1906 he broadcast the first program of speech and music ever transmitted by radio. That same year, he established two-way trans-Atlantic wireless telegraph communication.

Yuan-Cheng Fung – Fung is widely recognized as the father of biomechanics, having established the fundamentals of biomechanical properties in many of the human body’s organs and tissues. He founded the bioengineering program at the University of California—San Diego. In November 2001 he became the first bioengineer to receive the president’s National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest scientific honor.

Robert Hutchings Goddard pioneered modern rocketry and space flight and founded a whole field of science and engineering. Goddard conducted static tests with small solid-fuel rockets at Worcester Tech as early as 1908, and in 1912 he developed the detailed mathematical theory of rocket propulsion. In 1915 he proved that rocket engines could produce thrust in a vacuum and therefore make space flight possible. He succeeded in developing several types of solid-fuel rockets to be fired from hand-held or tripod-mounted launching tubes, which were the basis of the bazooka and other powerful rocket weapons of World War II. At the time of his death, Goddard held 214 patents in rocketry.

Beulah Louise Henry was known in the 1920s and ’30s as “the lady Edison” for the many inventions she patented, including a vacuum ice cream freezer, a typewriter that made multiple copies without carbon paper, and a bobbin-less lockstitch sewing machine. Henry founded manufacturing companies to produce her creations, making a fortune in the process.

Grace Murray Hopper, a computer engineer and Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy, developed the first computer compiler in 1952 and the computer program language COBOL. Upon discovering that a moth had jammed the works of an early computer, Hopper popularized the term “bug.” In 1983, by special presidential appointment,Hopper was promoted to the rank of Commodore. Two years later, she became one of the first women to be elevated to the rank of Rear Admiral. After retiring, she spent the remainder of her life as a senior consultant to Digital Equipment Corp. Hopper received numerous honors over the course of her lifetime.In 1969, the Data Processing Management Association awarded her the first Computer Science Man-of-the-Year Award. She became the first person from the United States and the first woman to be made a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society in 1973. She also received multiple honorary doctorates from universities across the nation. The Navy christened a ship in her honor. In September 1991, she was awarded the National Medal of Technology, the nation’s highest honor in engineering and technology.

Jack Kilby – Winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2000 for his work with the integrated circuit. Kilby received a B.S.E.E. degree from the University of Illinois in 1947 and an M.S.E.E. from the University of Wisconsin in 1950.

Elijah McCoy was a Black inventor who was awarded over 57 patents. The son of runaway slaves from Kentucky,he was born in Canada and lived there as a youth. Educated in Scotland as a mechanical engineer, he returned to Detroit and in 1872 invented a lubricator for steam engines. His new oiling device revolutionized the industrial machine industry by allowing machines to remain in motion while being oiled. This device,although imitated by other designers, was so successful that people inspecting new equipment would ask if it contained the “real McCoy.”

Guglielmo Marconi - Known as the “Father of Radio,” Marconi received many honors including the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909.

Arati Prabhakar – Currently a venture capitalist, from 1993-1997 Prabhakar was director of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, appointed by President Clinton. From 1984 to 1986, Dr. Prabhakar served as a Congressional Fellow in the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress where she wrote on microelectronics research and development for the House Science, Research and Technology Subcommittee. Dr. Prabhakar served for two years as Director of the Microelectronics Technology Office in the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA),where she had managed advanced electronics research since 1986. She created the Microelectronics Technology Office to drive research, development, and demonstration of advanced microelectronics technologies critical to national security, with an emphasis on dual-use technologies. She holds the distinction of being the first woman with a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology, and was also the youngest director of the institute.

Judith Resnik – Challenger astronaut, electrical engineer. Received a bachelors of science degree in electrical engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1970 and a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland in 1977.

George Westinghouse – invented a system of air brakes that made travel by train safe and built one of the greatest electric manufacturing organizations in the United States. In 1886, he founded the Westinghouse Electric Co., foreseeing the possibilities of alternating current as opposed to direct current, which was limited to a radius of two or three miles. Westinghouse enlisted the services of Nikola Tesla and other inventors in the development of alternating current motors and apparatus for the transmission of high-tension current, pioneering large-scale municipal lighting.

Eli Whitney – American inventor, pioneer, mechanical engineer, and manufacturer, Eli Whitney is best remembered as the inventor of the cotton gin. He also affected the industrial development of the United States when, in manufacturing muskets for the government, he translated the concept of interchangeable parts into a manufacturing system, giving birth to the American mass-production concept.

Lonnie Johnson spent more than a decade in high-level posts within the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the U.S. Air Force, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. He was, in short, a rocket scientist, albeit one with a B.S. in mechanical engineering and a master’s in nuclear engineering. But what sent his already high-flying career into orbit was the invention of an extremely popular toy: the Super Soaker. Johnson was working on creating an environmentally friendly heat pump when he hooked a high-pressure nozzle to his bathroom sink. Out shot a powerful jet stream of water, and Johnson immediately saw its potential as a squirt gun. After making successful prototypes for his daughter and neighborhood friends, he licensed the Super Soaker to Larami Corp. in 1989. Sales for the Super Soaker have totaled nearly $1 billion since its launch, and it continues to be one of the world’s top-selling toys.

Buckminster Fuller was an American inventor, designer, and author. Best known for the creation of the geodesic dome (aka the “Bucky Ball”), Fuller developed and patented numerous inventions in architecture and transportation. Over his lifetime he was granted numerous awards and honorary degrees, and in 2004 the United States Postal Service memorialized him on a postage stamp.

Nathanael Herreshoff was an American Naval Architect and Engineer. After graduating from MIT in 1870 with a degree in mechanical engineering, Herreshoff went on to design some of the most innovative sailboats and yachts of his time.

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