The man, the myth, the legend. A genius in many different fields; an artist, scientist and visionary, he ‘invented’ (‘envisioned’ would be more accurate) a huge range of machines and drew models that proved workable half a millennia later, like submarines and helicopters. He possessed a curious mind and meticulously studied the laws of science and nature, while at the same time having a creative streak as long as the Wall of China; he was a rock star scientist artist visionary way ahead of the pack in every way, who also just happened to have painted the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, two of the most famous paintings in the history of art. He didn’t particularly change the world, but imagining a submarine or helicopter is pretty impressive, and it was also rumored that he was pretty high up in the Illuminatus Masons order. And all achieved with very little formal education.
The mostly unknown and unheralded Serbian physicist who invented so many things that it’s impossible to list them all here, although we have to mention the big one; AC electricity. One of the finest minds the world has ever seen, he briefly worked for Edison, got swindled by him, and then branched out on his own, starting off a feud between the pair which became legendary. He was renowned for his showmanship in launching and displaying to the world his latest inventions and became known as the archetypal ‘mad scientist’. He lived out most of his later life in hotel rooms and carried on inventing in solitude, leaving behind a bunch of plans, diagrams and charts for various different new inventions. The government seized them all and they have never come to light, so we will never know how far his genius stretched, but suffice to know that he’s responsible for Alternate Current, which is huge. He also invented fluorescent lighting, the Tesla coil, and the induction motor.
The English carpenter and clockmaker who invented a device, known as the Marine Chronometer, for measuring longitude at sea, which transformed the safety involved in sailing the seven seas and thus allowed us to explore even more. His clock was one which was not affected by variations in temperature, pressure or humidity, remained accurate over long time intervals, resisted corrosion from the salt air, and was able to function on board a constantly-moving ship; that’s pretty impressive. Isaac Newton himself thought it impossible and the British government paid a reward of today’s equivalent of more than $3m, so important they thought the new clock. Captain Cook used it to chart the Pacific Ocean and Harrison was even featured in Only Fools and Horses when Del Boy found one of his last watches and finally became a millionaire; there can be no greater accolade than this. Only Fools and Horses! The man worked tirelessly all of his life on inventing this one thing with a single-mindedness which can only be admired and respected, while at the same time thinking him a bit mad.
Another guy who could do it all, including starting a nation. He was an American (although we guess only after he founded the country) polymath who discovered electricity and invented the Franklin stove, lighting rod and reading glasses. He did many things; he was a leading author who produced the yearly Poor Richard’s Almanack which was practically an institution, a printer and businessman who ran his own newspaper, a politician and political theorist who helped to create a new country, an inventor who felt that his inventions should be free and be used to serve humanity, a civic activist who facilitated many civic operations, like Philadelphia’s Fire Department, and also a scientist who, as mentioned before, proved electricity, but who also came up with the concepts behind refrigeration, traction kites and also some important theories in meteorology. He also lived out a sort of spy role in the years preceding the War of Independence, therefore adding action hero to his repertoire.
An OG, an ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, famous inventor and astronomer who came up with pi, which is at the center of our existence, and developed the Archimedes screw for lifting up water from mines or wells. Generally considered to be the greatest mathematician in antiquity and one of the greatest of all time, and he also designed and invented defensive war machines to protect his native Syracuse from invasion, although unfortunately he was killed during a siege by the Romans even though they had strict orders to leave him unharmed. His writings and findings were little known during his own lifetime and it was not until the 6th Century AD that they were compiled into one book and presented to the world at large. His theories were still being used 1500 years after his death by scientists during the Renaissance period, which is quite some achievement. And, as mentioned before, he invented Pi. Bravo.
An English entrepreneur who invented the seed drill, which economically sowed the seeds in neat rows thereby allowing for easier harvesting, less wasted seeds and the prevention of crops being too close together and having to compete for nutrients, and the horse-drawn hoe, which improved the efficiency of farming and which increased yields prior to the industrial revolution. His methods provided the basis for modern agriculture, which radically altered our society, and that should be enough. However, he was also a qualified barrister although he never actually practiced law, he was a traveler who toured Europe, he became a self-taught musician who learned how to play the organ, and he also produced a son who pursued financial speculation and was imprisoned for it. And let’s face it, his name was a great name for a rock band.
An English entrepreneur who is known as the ‘father of the industrial revolution’. He was a leading pioneer of the spinning industry and invented the spinning frame and how to use it in mass-scale factory production. He started off as a barber’s apprentice with very little education apart from basic reading and writing which was taught to him by his cousin, and ended up as the man credited with being the founder of Britain’s factory system, which undoubtedly helped to propel the nation to the forefront of the world’s most powerful nations, and this famous inventor into the history books. He also became the Sheriff of Derbyshire and was knighted in 1786. And he died a very rich man.
He was an Italian physicist and chemist who proved that electricity could be generated chemically, he invented the battery using used zinc, copper and an electrolyte, like sulphuric acid and water, and he also discovered methane. His Voltaic Pile, the first electrical battery, enabled a whole bunch of discoveries to come after, especially in separating and isolating various chemical elements, and he earned the admiration and respect of Napoleon Bonaparte, becoming pretty close chums with him and being conferred numerous honors by him in the process. Pretty good, and pretty useful. And the Volt is named after him, which is pretty cool.
He was a British scientist and a famous inventor who invented the first negative, which could make several prints and which used the slated paper and calotype processes, and is thus considered a pioneer in the process of photography. He was also a noted photographer himself who contributed massively to the development of photography as an artistic medium, so he can also be known as an ‘artist’. In fact he was a bit of a polymath whose intellectual curiosity embraced the fields of chemistry, mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, botany and history, and he wrote four books and 27 scholarly articles. An all-rounder who paved the way for ‘selfies’.
He was an English inventor who chose the profession of military engineering, and he patented one of the first steam engines, which was pioneered for use in pumping water from mines; this engine was then used as a starting point in later developments of the steam engine by Thomas Newcomen (1664–1729) who developed it further, with Savery’s full backing, and made it more widespread and practical. Savery also invented the odometer, which measured the distance traveled by ships, a machine for polishing glass and marble, and paddle wheels for rowing ships and boats with ease. Pretty important though largely forgotten.
Scottish inventor of the bicycle; a rear wheel driven bicycle through the use of a chain, which gave us the basic design for the bicycle as we know it today. He was a blacksmith who first constructed a ‘hobbyhorse’, a type of bicycle where the riders propelled themselves by pushing with their feet, before then adding a crank to help power the back wheel. He never designed this in order to help humanity, merely in order to help him negotiate the country roads where he lived a little bit easier, and so he made the mistake of never patenting his invention; for many years it was credited to one of his imitators, Gavin Dalzell. Pretty cool to nonchalantly invent something for yourself which ends up changing the face of personal transportation and putting you firmly on the list as a famous inventor.
Benz developed the petrol-powered car, patenting a petrol-powered internal combustion engine in 1879, which made an automobile car practical. His first version had three wheels, and he also produced a series of racing cars later on. Now, that’s something that can be considered to have had a pretty big impact on the world, and to have your name associated with Mercedes cars is pretty cool.
Very famous inventor brothers and (w)rightly so. They are known as the brothers who successfully designed, built and flew the first powered aircraft in 1903. Which is massive. However, they weren’t the first to build and fly an experimental aircraft, and are not credited with the invention of the flying machine, as is popularly assumed, but rather they invented the three-axis control which enabled the pilot to effectively steer the airplane. They actually started off by building their own printing press and printing a weekly newspaper, before being swept up by the national bicycle craze and devoting their time to bike repairs and bicycle manufacturing, and it was this which influenced their belief that an aircraft could be actually controlled while in the air. The world owes them. Big time.
Scottish scientist who discovered the antibiotic penicillin (by accident) in 1928 and has therefore been responsible for saving incalculable lives since. He was a biologist, pharmacologist and botanist who wrote many articles on bacteriology, immunology and chemotherapy, so it’s safe to assume that he wasn’t the most interesting of people and not one who you’d invite to your fantasy dinner party. However, he’s a very famous inventor who saved lives so we have to respect him.
Scottish scientist credited with inventing the first practical telephone, as well as optical telecommunications, aeronautics and hydrofoils. He was another mediocre student, as so many of these pioneer inventors seem to be, although he displayed an early aptitude for solving problems, like the time when he was 12 years old and built a device with rotating paddles and nail brushes which easily removed the husks from the grain in a grain mill. His work on the telephone started off as work to develop the ‘harmonic telegraph’, which would allow several telegraph messages set to different frequencies, before becoming interested in the idea of voice transmission. He was actually challenged, pretty hard, by many people who claimed they had invented it first, and the Bell Company faced over 550 court challenges. However, none of them were successful so we have to give it to Bell. That mobile phone device which most people nowadays only use to take photos is down to him. Huge.
Scottish famous inventor who invented the television and the first recording device. And for that we truly thank him. He was named as one of the 10 greatest Scottish scientists of all time, and was number 44 in the BBC’s list of 100 greatest Britons; however, couch potatoes around the world would tell you he’s number 1 on both lists.
The bomb that brought world peace. The Atom Bomb. Horribly destructive yes, and that’s why no one wants to use it. He was in charge of the project which led to the creation of the first atomic bomb, but then later campaigned against his own invention, or rather lobbied for international control of nuclear power in order to avert nuclear proliferation and avoid an arms race with the Soviet Bloc, for which he was vilified and stripped of his direct political influence. On his invention of the bomb at the first successful detonation test in New Mexico, he was quoted as paraphrasing the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu scripture, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”. Not ‘famous inventor’, but “destroyer of worlds”. However, most people are not mad enough to use the bomb willy-nilly, so he shouldn’t have beat himself up over it the silly boy.
With over 605 patents to his credit, he invented automated warehouses, industrial robots, cordless telephones, fax machines, videocassette recorders, camcorders and the magnetic tape drive used in Sony’s Walkman tape players, and was also known as a tireless advocate for the rights of independent inventors, which made him a champion of the independent inventor’s community. He actually established the Lemelson Foundation, a philanthropic organization whose mission was to solely support and aid innovation and invention in order to improve the lives of people. Nice guy. Not such a famous inventor and we don’t understand why.
An English mathematician (and also philosopher and famous inventor) who created the first mechanical computer, which proved to be the prototype for all future computers, and he is thus considered to be the ‘Father of Computers’ despite not finishing a working model, and living a very long time ago. A true visionary. We’re talking about someone who came up with the very first mechanical computer. Massive.
Another pioneer of computer science, he was an English computer scientist, mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and theoretical biologist, therefore a very clever man, who developed the Turing machine, capable of automating processes which can also be adapted to simulate the logic of any computer algorithm. Considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. Basically the father of the world as we now know it. And all due to stuff that at the time seemed crazy.
He developed the microchip, or integrated circuit, which fuelled the computer revolution. Nicknamed “The Mayor Of Silicon Valley” which is pretty cool. A famous inventor who sparked a revolution.
Tim Berners Lee is credited with inventing the World Wide Web, which enabled the internet to display websites viewable on internet browsers, with the http:// protocol making the World Wide Web freely available. He’s pretty modest about it all, saying that the technology was already there and he just merely put it all together by seeking to make use of internet nodes and combine it all with hypertext and the idea of domains. He could have tried to monetize this, but instead he offered it up with no patent or royalties due. He was knighted in 2004 and, in 2011, he was one of the first 3 recipients of the Mikhail Gorbachev award for “The Man Who Changed The World”. I guess you could say he’s had an impact on our lives and can be considered a pretty famous inventor.
An immigrant from Germany who ended up in San Francisco and became a famous inventor by inventing the jeans. Cool. That’s it.
One of the most recognizable icons and greatest scientists ever, he was a mad genius who came up with theories that transformed a lot of concepts linked to space and time, with the most important one being the theory of relativity. We don’t understand anything of what he came up with, but we just had to put him on here. And he just looks so ‘mad scientist’ cool. The first true scientist rock star.