Famous people who are also engineers or have an engineering background:

' Willie ' Percy French - Famous Irish Engineer and Songwriter - Biography .

John Phillip Holland - Irish Inventor of the Submarine - Biography

Scott Adams - cartoonist and creator of "Dilbert" - read an interview with him in Prism Magazine -


Yasser Arafat - Palestinian leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Graduated as a civil engineer from the University of Cairo.

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" Aldren 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.

Rowan Atkinson
- A British comedian, best known for his starring roles in the television series "Blackadde"r and "Mr. Bean," and several films including Four Weddings And A Funeral. Atkinson attended first Manchester then Oxford University on an electrical engineering degree.


Sir Frank Whittle : AIR CDRE SIR FRANK WHITTLE, who has died in America aged 89, was the greatest aero-engineer of the century. Whittle ensured that Britain was the first to enter the jet age when, on May 15 1941, the jet-propelled Gloster-Whittle E 28/39 flew successfully from Cranwell.

Leonid Brezhnev
- leader of the former Soviet Union, metallurgical engineer.

Alexander Calder - a native of Pennsylvania, received his degree in mechanical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey, and shortly thereafter moved to Paris, where he studied art and began to create his now-famous mobiles. Many of his large sculptures are on permanent outdoor display at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the first major retrospective of his work was held in 1950.

Frank Capra - film director - "It Happened One Night", "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", "It's a Wonderful Life" - college degree in chemical engineering.

Jimmy Carter - 39th President of the United States. 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.

Roger Corman
-film director, industrial engineering degree from Stanford University. He started direct involvement in films in 1953 as a producer and screenwriter, making his debut as director in 1955. Between then and his official retirement in 1971 he directed dozens of films, often as many as six or seven per year, typically shot extremely quickly on leftover sets from other, larger productions. His probably unbeatable record for a professional 35mm feature film was two days and a night to shoot the original version of "The Little Shop of Horrors".

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 one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration."

Lillian Gilbreth - is considered a pioneer in the field of time-and-motion studies, showing companies how to increase efficiency and production through budgeting of time, energy, and money. Dr. Gilbreth received her Ph.D. in psychology from Brown University and was a professor at Purdue's School of Mechanical Engineering, 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."

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

Herbie Hancock - jazz musician.

Alfred Hitchcock - 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. Although Hitchcock never won an Academy Award for his direction, he received the Irving Thalberg Award of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1967 and the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award in 1979. During the final year of his life, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, even though he had long been a naturalized citizen of the United States.

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.

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. Best known for his helmsmanship at Chrysler Motors, Iacocca started out as a sales manager at the Ford Motor Co. in 1946 and by 1970 was president of the company. Joining Chrysler in 1978, Iacocca helped drag the troubled company from the brink of extinction by helping secure $1.5 billion in government loans. Iacocca's legendary status in the automobile industry is reinforced by his role in the introduction of that American icon: the Ford Mustang. He was also one of the first CEOs to proselytise his company's products on national television with the K car campaign.

Bill Koch - yachtsman and winning America's Cup captain in 1992 , as well as the chairman of the America3 Foundation.

Tom Landry - former Dallas Cowboys coach.

Hedy Lamarr - a famous 1940s actress not formally trained as an engineer, Lamarr is credited with several sophisticated inventions, among them a unique anti-jamming device for use against Nazi radar. Years after her patent had expired, Sylvania adapted the design for a device that today speeds satellite communications around the world. She is also credited with the line: "Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid."

Jair Lynch - 1992 and 1996 Olympic gymnast. Civil Engineering degree from Stanford University.

Arthur Nielsen - developer of Nielsen rating system.

Tom Scholtz - leader of the rock band Boston. Master's degree from MIT in mechanical engineering.

John Sununu - former White House Chief of Staff for President George Bush, former governor of New Hampshire, current CNN commentator on "Crossfire."

Boris Yeltsin - former president of Russia.

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. The rest is history -- he became chairman and CEO of General Electric in 1981.

Montel Williams - a highly decorated former Naval engineer and Naval Intelligence Officer, he is now an author of inspirational books and host of a popular syndicated television talk show.
Famous Engineers

Edwin Howard Armstrong - His crowning achievement (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.

Henry Bessemer - English inventor and engineer who invented the first process for mass-producing steel inexpensively - essential to the development of skyscrapers.

Joseph Armand Bombardier
- manufacturer of the first successful snowmobile.

Philip Condit - CEO, The Boeing Company, mechanical/aeronautical engineering.

American engineer and inventor Willis Haviland Carrier developed the formulae and equipment that made air conditioning possible. Carrier attended Cornell University and graduated with an M.E. in 1901.

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, born in Hudson, Mass., graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1896, majoring in electrical engineering. At General Electric, he invented ductile tungsten, the filament material still used in lamps, and worked on high-quality magnetic steel, improved ventilating fans and the electric blanket.

Seymour Cray - After a brief service during World War II, he went to the University of Minnesota where he studied engineering. In 1951 he joined Engineering Research Associates, which was developing computers for the Navy. Later he co-founded Control Data Corporation, and in 1972 he founded CRAY Research. Seymour Cray unveiled the CRAY-1 in 1976, considered the first supercomputer.

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").

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

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

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 first hand as a four-time astronaut, including a stint on the first shuttle mission to dock with the Russian Space Station Mir.

Reginald A. (Aubrey) Fessenden
- Canadian-born American physicist and electrical engineer who is known for his early work in wireless communication. He began his research at the University of Pittsburgh; after designing a high-frequency alternator, he broadcast (1906) the first program of speech and music ever transmitted by radio. That same year, he established two-way transatlantic wireless telegraph communication. Fessenden also invented the heterodyne system of radio reception, the sonic depth finder, the radio compass, submarine signaling devices, the smoke cloud (for tank warfare), and the turboelectric drive (for battleships).

Sir Sanford Fleming - a civil engineer and scientist, played a key role in developing the Canadian railway system and created the worldwide system of standard time.

Henry Ford held many patents on automotive mechanisms but is best remembered for helping devise the factory assembly approach to production that revolutionized the auto industry by greatly reducing the time required to assemble a car. Born in Wayne County, Mich., Ford showed an early interest in mechanics, constructing his first steam engine at the age of 15. In 1891, Ford became an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit. He became Chief Engineer in 1893 and this position allowed him to devote attention to his personal experiments on internal combustion engines. In 1893 he built his first internal combustion engine, a small one-cylinder gasoline model, and in 1896 he built his first automobile. In June 1903, Ford helped establish Ford Motor Company. He served as president of Ford from 1906 to 1919 and from 1943 to 1945.

Jay W. Forrester was a pioneer in early digital computer development and invented random-access, coincident-current magnetic storage, which became the standard memory device for digital computers. He received a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering in 1939 from the University of Nebraska and a M.S. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1945.

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's interest in rockets began in 1899, when he was 17. He 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 handheld 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.

Andrew Grove - co-founder, Intel, chemical engineer.

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

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 bobbinless 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. In 1986, after forty-three years of service, RADM Grace Hopper ceremoniously retired on the deck of the USS Constitution. At 80 years, she was the oldest active duty officer at that time. She spent the remainder of her life as a senior consultant to Digital Equipment Corporation. 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.

Clarence "Kelly" Johnson - played a leading role in the design of more than 40 aircraft and set up a Skunk Works-type operation to develop a Lockheed satellite--the Agena-D--that became the nation's workhorse in space. His achievements over almost six decades captured every major aviation design award and the highest civilian honors of the U.S. government and made him an aerospace legend. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1965, was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1974, and was awarded the the Medal of Freedom in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson recognizing, his "significant contributions to the quality of American life."

Bill Joy - co-founder of Sun Microsystems, electrical engineer. 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. The Berkeley version of UNIX became the standard in education and research, garnering development support from DARPA, and was notable for introducing virtual memory and Internet working using TCP/IP to UNIX. In 1997, Joy was appointed by President Clinton as co-chairman of the Presidential Information Technology Advisory Committee.

Jack Kilby
- inventor of 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. In 2000, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work with the integrated circuit.

William LeMessurier
- structural designer of the Citicorp building, structural engineer.

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 - The "Father of Radio" - Marconi received many honors including the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909.

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 which helps enable the Information Age.

Bill Nye - worked for Boeing before he became the "science guy", Mechanical engineering degree from Cornell University.

Kevin Olmstead - world-record game show payoff winner - $2,180,000 winner, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" - and environmental engineer. After acquiring chemical engineering degrees from Case Western Reserve University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Olmstead earned a doctorate degree in environmental engineering from the University of Michigan. He also taught civil and environmental engineering and is currently a senior project engineer with Tetra Tech MPS, an international consulting firm specializing in infrastructure and communications systems.

Kenneth Olsen - inventor of magnetic core memory, co-founder, Digital Equipment Corporation. After serving in the Navy between 1944 and 1946, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a B.S. (1950) and an M.A. (1952) in electrical engineering.

Arati Prabhakar - director, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), U.S. Department of Commerce. Prabhakar was appointed the 10th NIST Director in May 1993. NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements, and standards. Previously, Prabhakar served as director of the Microelectronics Technology Office in the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). 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.

Ludwig Prandtl - the father of fluid mechanics, mechanical engineer.

Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. - former CEO of Pfizer, Inc., electrical engineer.

Judith Resnik - Challenger astronaut, electrical engineer. Received a bachelor 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.

Hyman G. Rickover - the "Father of the Nuclear Navy" he led the development of the Navy nuclear submarine fleet. Masters in electrical engineering from Columbia University. During World War II, he headed the electrical section of the Navy's Bureau of Ships, and in 1946 was enlisted into the U.S. atomic program. The next year he returned to the Navy to manage its nuclear-propulsion program. Regarded as a fanatic by his detractors, he completed the world's first nuclear submarine--the USS Nautilus--ahead of schedule in 1955. While continuing his work with the Navy, he helped build the first major civilian nuclear power plant at Shippingport, PA. Always an outspoken advocate of U.S. nuclear supremacy, he was promoted to the rank of vice admiral in 1959 and admiral in 1973. He retired from the Navy in 1982 after serving as an officer for a record 63 years. Throughout his long naval career his decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Navy Commendation Medal, two Congressional Gold Medals, as well as the title of Honorary Commander of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter presented him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest non-military honor.

Norbert Rillieux - revolutionized in the sugar industry by inventing a refining process that reduced the time, cost, and safety risk involved in producing sugar from cane and beets. His inventions protected lives by ending the older dangerous methods of sugar production. As the son of a French planter/inventor and a slave mother, Norbert Rillieux was born in New Orleans, LA. He was educated at the L'Ecole Central in Paris, France in 1830, were he studied evaporating engineering and served as an educator.

Washington Roebling - completed the Brooklyn Bridge which was started by his father, civil engineer.

Katherine Stinson - the first female graduate of NC State University's College of Engineering. Initially denied admission as a freshman, Stinson went on to become one of NC 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 retirement in 1973. She went on to found the Society of Women Engineers.

Nikola Tesla - invented the induction motor with rotating magnetic field that made unit drives for machines feasible and made AC power transmission an economic necessity.

Stephen Timoshenko - the father of engineering mechanics, engineering scientist.

Theodore von Karman - Dr. von Karman was one of the world's foremost aerodynamicsts and scientists and is widely recognized as the father of modern aerospace science. He was a professor of aeronautics at the California Institute of Technology and was one of the principal founders of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

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 Company, 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.

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.

Steve Wozniak cofounded 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. In 1980, just a little more than four years after being founded, Apple went public. 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.

Henry Bell ( 1767-1830 )

Henry Bell 1767-1830 Engineer and Pioneer of Steam Navigation
Born in Linlithgow. Moved later in life to work as a builder in Helensburgh and there his wife ran the newly founded public baths and kept an inn. He crossed over to Port Glasgow to persuade John Wood & Co to build him a ship to be powered by his steam engine. He called the vessel the Comet probably because astronomers at the time were excited by one then visible and it was successfully launched on the Clyde on 12/8/1812. It regularly sailed between Greenock and Glasgow.

James Watt ( 1736 - 1819 )

Became known as one of the World's greatest engineers. Laid out the master plan for the Forth & Clyde Canal which was built 1768-1790. He was also responsible for designing the Port Glasgow graving dock.
He developed the steam engine into a practical source of power and invented the governor as a control device.
One of his major achievements however was the deepening of the River Clyde as it neared Glasgow. An eight foot deep channel was opened between the Broomielaw, in the heart of the City, and Dumbuck and this was later extended further down river by other great engineers, notably Telfer and Rennie.


"Engineering is the science of economy, of conserving the energy, kinetic and potential, provided and stored up by nature for the use of man. It is the business of engineering to utilize this energy to the best advantage, so that there may be the least possible waste."

Famous Engineers and Technicians
Courtesy of ASEE



Famous Engineers and Technicians

Courtesy of ASEE