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Poll: Who is history's greatest engineer?



Last week marked the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, a man who we at EngineeringPro called “the world’s greatest engineer”. But were we right?

We want to know what the engineering community think. Who was the greatest engineer of all time? Choose from our curated list, or let us know your own suggestion.

500 years after his death, Leonardo da Vinci is still considered one of the world's greatest geniuses with his mastery of painting, science, anatomy and engineering

Leonardo da Vinci

Drawing from his artistic talents, Leonardo developed engineering ideas and scientific theories that would prove to be centuries ahead of his time. 

A keen eye for observation and an unstoppable curiosity gave him a unique understanding of the physics of motion and mechanics that he would use to design engineering projects. His incredibly detailed sketches and notes would demonstrate the way every part of a machine worked - revolutionising a method for invention. And his ideas would span everything from weaponry to city planning to flying machines.

Though few were built in his lifetime, his accurate blueprints have been tested long after his death, such as a design for a single span bridge, drawn in 1502, that was constructed in Norway in 2001.

Future leader of the engineering world, Elon Musk, would name his car company after the genius of electricity, Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla

The eccentric inventor has become a favourite of engineers for his advanced ideas, despite not getting the recognition he arguably deserved.

It’s unknown what the total sum of his contributions to science and engineering actually were, since much of his credit was often stolen by his employers including, significantly, Thomas Edison. Aside from his work with the alternating current of electricity, he’s said to have worked on the invention of the radio, X-ray machines and an induction motor before their “official” invention. Upon his death, all of his personal notebooks and works were declared “top secret” by the FBI and have yet to be released.

An acoustical expert, Alexander Graham Bell would be best known for the invention of the telephone

Alexander Graham Bell

Best known for patenting the very first telephone, Bell was a prominent engineer who developed his first invention when he was just 12 - a machine that would de-husk wheat that was used in a nearby flour mill for years.

In later years, after setting up the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) to operate his telephone (despite refusing to have one himself in his office), he worked on the development of the photophone, phonograph, five aerial vehicles, four hydroairplanes, a device to locate icebergs, an early metal detector (used to find a bullet in the body of US president James Garfield) and alternative fuels.

Despite many designs, Leonardo da Vinci never succeeded in building a flying machine. It would be another 400 years until the Wright Brothers became the first to successfully achieve powered human flight

The Wright Brothers

From a bicycle shop in Ohio, Wilber and Orville Wright would change the world forever with their 1903 invention of the aeroplane. Though the first flight lasted just 12 seconds and took Orville approximately 120 feet, the younger Wright brother would live to see the first supersonic flight just 45 years later.

From launching Paypal to launching his electric car into space - Elon Musk's ambition can not be stopped

Elon Musk

With an eccentricity to rival Tesla, a desire to soar above humanity like the Wright brothers, and all the impulsive, curious and attention-seeking traits of Leonardo - Elon Musk is one of the most popular engineers of the modern day.

He started his first company when he was 23, and sold it for $307 million just five years later. Since then his projects have included revolutionising electric and autonomous vehicles with Tesla, launched and relaunched a commercial spacecraft, developed hyperloop test tunnels, and got involved with artificial intelligence, education and personal flamethrowers.

Many call him a genius, while many others call him mad. But in time will he be considered one of history’s greatest engineers?

Have your say

We want to know who Engineering Pro readers look up to. Choose from our leading engineers in the poll at the top of the page, or tell us who you think should be number one. The answers will be published along with the best comments on Monday 13th May, and will be featured in next week’s EngineeringPro newsletter.

Tags: Engineering
Recent Comments
"VISHWAKARMA" is the greatest engineer from ancient Indian history whose engineering marvels like innovation of floating stones throughvoxidation to build RAMASETHU and many more.
Venkat SURYA PRAKASH, 08 May 2019
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Poll: Who is history's greatest engineer? - Time to read 4 min
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