The most influential engineers in history – Theo James Recruitment

The most influential engineers in history

Throughout history, there have been many ground-breaking inventions that have developed the world around us – all made possible by a just handful of outstanding engineering pioneers. Between them, they have changed the manufacturing industry, created new and more efficient models and led the way for future minds. Here are some of the greatest innovators we have to thank for current modern-day technologies and processes.

Orville and Wilbur Wright

With a passion for engineering from an early age, the Wright brothers set out, not only to power an aircraft, but to create aerodynamic designs to lift the glider from the ground. They became aviation pioneers and their designs led them to complete the first powered, prolonged and controlled aeroplane flight in 1903.

Their design is still used today when manufacturing the wings of modern aircrafts, and the three-axis control system for in-flight steering.

Leonardo da Vinci

A master in many professions, it was da Vinci’s developing creativity throughout fields such as artistry, maths and science, which led him to complete many unique engineering ideas and projects. Whilst most of his designs were not ventured into, his design for the hang glider was one of the very few projects made into reality. That and the infamous bridge, Vebjørn Sand da Vinci Bridge, which was finally completed in 2001 by a Norwegian painter and artist. The idea was originally intended for the Golden Horn in Istanbul. The smaller version of the parabolic arch design stands by da Vinci’s principle of distributing force across a wider base. A principle, which is now common use within the industry.

It was da Vinci’s mind that put him into the history book, and you can’t help but wonder what the world would be like if more of his projects became a reality back in his time. What if?

Nikolaus Otto

From a young age, Otto took an interest in experimenting with gas engines and in 1864, he and two friends, formed their own company. Nikolaus’s first atmospheric engine was completed in 1867. However, it wasn’t until a few years later that the internal combustion engine with a four-stroke cycle was created. This was used as an alternative to the, then common, steam engine.

Despite the fact that Otto’s patent was invalidated because a French engineer, Alphonse Beau de Rochas, had actually designed on a pamphlet at an earlier date, the four-stroke cycle is still known as the Otto cycle.

Henry Ford

Whilst working as an engineer in the Edison Illuminating Company, Ford worked on building his first gasoline powered carriage in his shed at home. It wasn’t until 1903 that he established the Ford Motor Company which led to Model T being produced several years later. Do you need to go into what the Model T is? When the model was under high demand, Ford couldn’t manufacture the models fast enough.

He met the challenge by introducing the revolutionary mass-production method – involving large plants using standardised, interchangeable parts. Topping this, in 1913, he also created the world’s first moving assembly line for cars. Henry Ford was known for not only creating, but later improving the way manufacturing processes are carried out.

Nikolaus Tesla

He is perhaps the most prolific technical mind to date. With so many of his inventions contributing to the advancement of technology and, at the time, he received little to no recognition for his work. His employer for many years, Thomas Edison, was known for stealing ideas from his “inferiors” and taking credit for such work. Tesla not only was responsible for ushering humanity into a second industrial revolution by inventing the alternating current, but was also believed to be the first person to work on such things as the modern radio, x-ray, induction motor, the radar and so many other inventions that have formed the way we use technology, even now.

Despite his many, many achievements, it’s was Tesla’s quirky traits and mental health that isolated him. This, and the fact that he never wanted money for his work, meant one of the greatest influences on modern society died alone and poor. His name still lives on in the present day, with a plethora of leading engineers drawing on his original visions. 

The most influential engineers in history

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