1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9     10     11     12     13     14     15        

5 Engineers: Who are the greatest engineers of all time?

Here is a list of 120 responses from an electronics forum.  This makes fascinating reading:

All of the modern engineers have built their careers on those before, each making a small step that move others forward. In the last hundred years, however, the small steps have been anything but small. Thomas Edison was a fountain of ideas with hard products to show for it. He was home educated and inquisitive, at the heart an engineer without a degree. I get up with his design and go to bed with it - the electric light that still uses the Edison socket to connect to the electrical distribution system. And since I work in the flight industry, I must turn to the Wright Brothers who introduced us to flight. And my hobby, trains, turns me to several who made a difference, but James Watts stands out. Combining my hobby with my first job in civil engineering, I have to put Theodore Judah at the top of the list. His dream of a rail line across America, his dedication to finding the route, and pushing for its funding in Congress has not been approach by any other engineer of the 1800's.
Based on breadth and/or early accomplishment, I would nominate:

1) Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who built bridges, dockyards, railroads and steamships (including first propeller driven) in the early-mid 19th century. He understood scaling laws, and built a large enough steamship which carry enough coal to make it across the Atlantic.

2) Charles Babbage, who realized that calculation was a mechanical process, and could thus be done by programmable machines.

3) Adda Lovelace, who worded on writing programs for Charles' mechanical computer.

4) Whichever ancient designed the Antikythera mechanism, a mechanical marvel two millennia ahead of anything comparable . Considered by some to be the first analog computer.

5) Leonardo da Vinci.

6) Finally, I would have to choose Archimedes.

I'd have to go with Dr. John William Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, Jr. who developed and patented the first real computer, the ENIAC. However there are some very impressive names on this list. The Wright brothers have to be right up there for sure.
Brigader General Leslie Groves, US Army Corps of Engineers
greenfields to nuclear weapons in 35 months. Outcome: decisive. Cost of Manhattan Project: $1.8 billion. Cost of war: ~$250 million/day. Lives saved: millions (mostly Japanese)
References: "Racing for the Bomb", "Hell to Pay"
Col Groves also supervised $10 billion (1941 dollars) in infrastructure construction in the run-up to the US entry into WW2 (including the Pentagon)
All the unnamed Roman civil engineers who popularized standardized design, and concrete making running water and sewage works a common site in the Roman world only to have to wait 1400 years for the West to realize this important boon to human health and quality of life.
The greatest engineer of all has to be natural selection, which engineered computers, video, robots, flying machines, nanotechnology, etc. long before humans were even around.

The greatest human engineer of all time is probably Archimedes. He invented and engineered concentrating solar thermal, the Archimedes screw (still used today for lifting water), and the first computer (he was said to have built a brass box that predicted the motion and eclipses of the moon, and the antihythera mechanism (a brass computer from shortly after his time that predicts the motion and eclipses of the moon) uses the script from Archimedes home town. He also engineer civil works and war engines, and his works held off the might of the Roman empire for a couple of decades.

Today technology will be not possible without spread use of electricity, from factories to home; so one of the best of all times is Nikola Tesla not just an engineer, as an inventor too a man ahead of his time
I will give you only 2.

Sergei Korolev – Chief Engineer of the Russian space program (For putting the first man into space)

Charles Babbage – Inventor of the computer (I don’t care what others say, he invented SPC)

Why only 2, everybody here has forgotten 52% of the world’s population, but then again they still don’t deserve equal pay in the US, so why would anybody want to recognise them?

1.Gopalaswamy Doraiswamy Naidu ( Edison of India),
2. Henry Ford (Henry Ford realized that he would a more efficient way to mass produce cars in order to lower the price),
3.Wilbur and Orville Wright (Orville discovered what would later become the safest mode of transport,)
4.Hero of Alexandria (This man could have started the Industrial Revolution in 50 AD with the invention of the Aeolipile)
5.James Watt (James Watt was an enthusiastic inventor whose improvement of the steam engine sparked the Industrial Revolution.)

The aircraft is the safest mode due to the many crashes with famous people over the years, each being very public, so the industry had to improve, with lots of government prodding.
Don't leave out the Engineers of antiquity that were the Fathers of programming and the sciences:
Heron of Alexandria (perhaps the greatest of Antiquity), Ctesibius (father of pneumatics), Euclid, Archimedes of Syracuse, and let's not leave out Zhang Heng of China.
1. Leonardo da Vinci (helicopter, tank, submarine, bridges, hang-gliders, transmissions, parachutes...) The most great engineer of all times

2. Thomas Edison (phonograph, incandescent light bulb, stock ticker, motion picture camera & projector. First electrical plant & distribution infrastructure)

3. Wright brothers. Not only invented the plane; they USED it. I hope our modern programmers USE the software they write!

4. Archimedes (catapult, levers, pulleys; war machines... THE Archimedean Screw to transport water!!, and calculated Pi)

5. Charles Babbage (Differential Engine. Analytical Engine, the first computer ever) Has the merit to hire the first programmer: Ada Lovelace

Luis G. Uribe C.
All time -- perhaps the pyramid builders of Egypt, or the astrological monument at Newgrange in Ireland. I would add Newcomen and DeWitt Clinton, Thomas Edison, Orville and Wilbur Wright. Oh, don't leave out Boss Kettering either.
Edwin Howard Armstrong (18 December 1890 – 31 January 1954) was an American electrical engineer and inventor. He has been called "the most prolific and influential inventor in radio history".[2] He invented the regenerative circuit while he was an undergraduate and patented it in 1914, followed by the super-regenerative circuit in 1922, and the superheterodyne receiver in 1918.[3] Armstrong was also the inventor of modern frequency modulation (FM) radio transmission.
8.30.2012 5:25 PM EDT

Well if we are going to go down this path, then lets honor Fritz Haber, inventor of the Haber process for the production of ammonia. The Haber Process is used in the production of modern nitrogen fertilizers that has allowed farmers to fed billions of people all around the world.
Unfortunately, the Haber Process also proved to be very efficient at providing the feed stocks for producing modern explosives. A development that has lead to the deaths of millons.
And it would be best if we overlooked Mr Haber's efforts in developing of chemical warfare agents.

Let's not forget Thomas Midgely Jr; an electrical engineer who dabbled in chemistry. He gave us lead tetraethyl and cholorflourocarbons. Simultaneously contaminating a planet while burning off the ozone layer.

Jack Kilby -- he invented the integrated circuit and enabled the electronics revolution.
Lets not forget Claude Shannon! He made major contributions to communications theory, digital circuit design, cryptanalysis, game theory, and software algorithms. But most of all, he practically founded the science of information theory. How many engineers can be credited with founding a new field of science?

In any engineering disciple, my vote would go to Isimbard Kinfdom Brunel, however he mostly pioneered mechanical engineering including railways, tunnels, bridges and ships. He oversaw the installation of the first commercial electric telegraph on the Great Western Railway in 1839.

OTOH as this is EDN, my vote for an engineer in this discipline goes to Tommy Flowers.

I'd go with someone who was never really an Engineer - Steve Jobs. He saw beauty in the most trivial of things such as a printed circuit board. He had the intuition to get his team to make brilliant, simple-to-use, beautiful, clutter-free products which most of us today cant imagine living without. He was more of an innovator than an inventor. He re-invented many products and often said "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication". The products helped users interact with technology in a simple way.

As an example, Apple had come out with a AA- battery charger and it had a small LED on top of it. Most chargers have 2 LEDs or more, one of which would light up to show its functioning and another for charging status. This trivial product did more than that. Not only does it do all this, it can also sense if a battery is incompatible (anyone trying to hook-up their alkaline energizers know what I am talking about :-) ) & also sense reverse polarities even! Its also the most compact charger I've ever seen. All this with just ONE bi-color LED. Talk about simplicity! So much care goes into the making of even the most trivial products they make.
Steve Jobs? I think if a Team Leader ever deserved to be named to the list of Top 5 it is Apollo 13 Flight Director Glynn Lunney who figured out in real-time how to save 3 lives that were lost in space and fast-tracked for incineration.
For us rock 'n' rollers:

Les Paul
Leo Fender
Lorenz Hammond
Jim Marshal
Don Leslie

And if I had seven slots, I'd throw in Ray Butts and Seth Lover.

Others may have made bigger contributions to electronics, but these guys made it all worth while.
I haven't gotten on since the five best adjectives describing engineers, so here goes.

As an ancient, Archimedes easily makes the cut. A little newer we come to Leonardo da Vinci. An engineer? Apparently you haven't been reading your history books properly. Later we get probably the greatest engineer of all time: Isaac Newton, without whom we don't have any modern engineers of any sort. Then we come to two of the modern people: von Braun and Goddard take a tie for their limited expertise in rocketry. So this is looking like an historical list instead of the top five, huh? How about we go right to the source of today's engineers then, and give them some recognition for what we have today: Bardeen, Shockley, and Brattain tie for giving us the "lowly" transistor.
I would use the criteria of "who made a quantum leap in our world", not just improving on an idea or concept. There are many great engineers who have done wonderful things, but the true game changers are few.
That makes it much easier -(not in chronological order)
1. Tesla- He was so far ahead of his time no one comes close. Without him there is no AC or electrical motors, no industrial revolution.
2. Steve Jobs - His vision, (with Wozniac's technical genius) first created the PC, then revolutionized it. Then he followed that by re-inventing the phone, and then killed his own PC with the IPAD.
3. The Wright brothers- before them man only dreamed of flying
4. DaVinci- he saw and drew the future that was decades ahead of his time period
5.Archimedes- His logic and insight helped reduce the chaos of early man.
I have to go with Hedy Lamarr. Not only was she gorgeous, but she had an idea and stuck with it doing all the grunt work until it was proven.

Engineering is a system of thinking. It isn't about the education, tools or vocabulary. Those can all be taught. People who practice engineering come in two types, those who were born engineers and those who became engineers by schooling (formal or informal) The greatest are from the former.
From the time I was very young I always love air planes (Daddy! Daddy! Airplane ! Airplane) So I have to also nominate the Wright brothers and of course Kelly Johnson.
DaVinchi May have been better, but none as prolifically archived. Kirby, for the invention of the IC, Goddard, Arthur C Clarke ( invention of the Satellite), and I think that Frank Lloyd Wright needs to be on the list, for inventing Structures that he had to build full size model of to prove that they would meet standards

Architect of the Djoser Pyramid in 2700BC, polymath also worshiped as a god 2,000 years after his death. That is a legacy
#1. Vitruvius was a Roman engineer who, among other things, served in the Roman army under Julius Caesar. His 10 volume work "De Architectura" includes such detailed descriptions of Roman technology (such as the aqueducts, inverted siphons and dewatering machines) that it is clear that he was a practicing engineer as well as an architect. Much of De Architectura survived and was rediscovered in the 15th century, providing an inspiration for Renaissance architecture. How many engineers could be considered to have had an impact on 1500 years or more of engineering?

#2. Marconi developed the technology that provided the stimulus for an outburst of investigation and invention in not only the area of wireless communication, but in electronics in general.

#3. Lee De Forest. De Forest's invention of the vacuum tube triode was the first practical electronic device capable of amplification. Modern electronics owes everything to this concept and the countless other improvements and inventions that resulted from it. De Forest was educated as an engineer, was a prolific inventor, a businessman, and educator and a founder of the IRE--one of the predecessors of the IEEE. A complete engineer.

#4. Andrew Grove. I still have my copy of his textbook on semiconductor electronics theory, and go back and re-read parts of it occasionally. And marvel at it. All of that and Intel, too.

#5. Who knows? There are so many to choose from. It is great to read the suggestions from others.
I nominate Neil Armstrong. Who overcame numerous engineering challenges both here on the earth and on the moon to be the first man to set foot on the moon and return to the earth safely.
Granted, many of the other candidates have made great contributions but in my opinion Neil Armstrong’s engineering skills are what made his leap into unknown challenges possible. Some are doers and some are teachers, Neil was both.

Armstrong and Aldrin flew to the moon together, walked on the moon together, returned together. Neil was first out because he was sitting to the left of a hatch which opened to the right.
I agree with all above. He had to be a great engineer to overcome all of the problems of the now-primitive systems in the landing craft. However, let us not forget the three on Apollo 13. It took a lot of engineering ingenuity to survive their ordeal. Any list of great engineers has to include these four.
I also wanted to add:
1. Dr. Robert Goddard
2. Dr. Wernher von Braun
3. Kelly Johnson
4. Hermann Oberth

I would also add Enrico Fermi, the physicist, who from what I have read was as much an engineer (not formally but in ability) as he was a top notch physicist. Some of his 'back of the envelope' calculations of many imponderable problems, I am told, were novel, to the point and absolutely practical.
Reading the nominees was fantastic by itself. Thank you all. I often reflect on why I have such great vision and can see so far. It is because I sit atop the shoulders of the giants who proceeded me. Ponder a moment what engineering would be like without the invention of "zero". Each great inventor is proceeded by smaller discoveries of others plus a gift of vision. I doubt it I will ever make a great earth shattering contribution to engineering, but I have the satisfaction of building things that others want built. For myself, it is not about ego, but rather the great satisfaction I get from seeing my ideas become reality. My kids will remember me for who I was, not what I did.
Can we please remember Otis Boykin. Without whose work on a precision wire resistor, leading to the modern miniature carbon resistor; we would not have cell phones, alptops or microwaves today. Otis Boykin, an African-American.

Has to be Jack Kilby. Akin to the industrial revolution that transformed the world from an agrarian society to an industrial one, the invention of the IC brought the world into the next phase of evolution. And Jack Kilby did all this even when he was an employee of a big company.
Good choice.

It's got to be Tesla. Yes, he ended up being a wack job but most everything we use in society runs on AC power. He turned the lights on.

Don't forget about Jack Kilby. We also use a lot of integrated circuits these days.

It is hard to believe that no one has mentioned Joseph Henry. If you want an excellent description of his achievements (as well as many others mentioned), read Hans Camenzind's excellent book, "Much Ado About Almost Nothing".

On a purely personal basis, I'd mention Joseph Weber 9 check in Wikipedia), the greatest engineering mind it has been my privilege to encounter.
Sir Nigel Gresley. Haven't heard of him? Look it up. That's not just engineering, it's almost art.

Sir Clive Sinclair. Did more for home computing than the 2 Steves.

Sir Frank Whittle. (Jet engine).

Sir Barnes Wallis.

Rowan Atkinson (He is great, and does have an engineering degree, but...)

There's just too many...

Whittle and von Ohain invented the centrifugal flow engine. We use axial flow jets today, as developed by Dr. Anselm Franz of Junkers.
Mechanical - Burt Munro
Electrical - James Watt
Chemical - Michael Faraday
Civil - John Smeaton
Aeronautical - Wilbur Wright

Not only were they talented at engineering in their field, they also engineered their own education. All were autodidacts.

Lots of the people listed here are incredible innovators, but engineering is more than innovation, isn't it? Anyhow, my 3 favorites are Howard Armstrong, Tesla, and Farnsworth... all 3 were brilliant yet determined to be a lone wolf (all have heroic and tragic biographies). Can you call Gene Kranz (Apollo 13) an engineering leader? If so, put him on the list. For what he and his team accomplished on Apollo 13, he's like the 'Dr. House' of engineers.
How about:

John Ericsson, designer of the Union ironclad "Monitor" and some dozens more in a similar class. The "Monitor" was built in something like 90 days. That ship was definitely a game-changer for all of the world's navies.

James B. Eads, designer and builder of the Union's first ironclads (more conventional design than "Monitor") as well as designer and builder of the first bridge (1874) over the Mississippi in St. Louis. It is the first really significant steel bridge and it is still carrying rail and vehicular traffic. To construct caissons almost 200 feet deep while protecting his workers, he actually had to invent decompression tables.

There are an enormous number of people including Theodore Judah (western end pathfinder) who should share credit for designing and building the first Omaha, NB to Sacramento, CA railroad.

The Panama Canal is both an engineering triumph and a medical triumph. Some people thought that mosquitoes and malaria were a greater challenge than construction itself.
My first thinking in my personal topics !
** Nikola Tesla, Bob Wildar, Anatol Zverev (Infinite Load +Crystal Filters), Steve Wozniak , Jim Williams.
** 3 more !
Jerald Graeme (BB /Ti), Len Bruton (FDNR filters), Bernard Gordon (Analogic: modular ADC, S/H )

Friedrich Gauss
Michael Faraday
Josiah Gibbs
Heinrich Hertz
Charles Babbage
Bob Widlar / Bob Pease / Jim Williams
Kelly Johnson
5 (or more) and why:

Nikola Tesla (induction motor, radio, ie, the 20th Century)
Bob Widlar (modern op-amps, current mirrors, bandgap ref)
John Moses Browning (all modern firearms are based on his designs)
Clarence "Kelly" Johnson (U-2, SR-71, P-38, F-104)
Leo Szilard (nuclear reactor) with a nod to Enrico Fermi

runners up..

The Wright Brothers (controlled flight)
Wernher Magnus Maximilian, Freiherr von Braun (Saturn launch vehicles)
Barrie Gilbert (Gilbert Cell)
Maxime Faget (X-15, steerable lifting body aka "space capsule")
Mark Serrurier (the Serrurier Truss)
Paul Wilbur Klipsch (Klipschorn)
Barney Oliver (he just did everything *better*)
Bill Hewlett (the stabilized Wien-bridge oscillator)
Freeman Dyson (TRIGA, the inherently safe nuclear reactor)
Archimedes (I wish we knew more about him!)
Thomas Jefferson (the modern plow)
William Cullen (father of refrigeration)
Charled Babbage (difference engine)
William Outred (the sliderule)
Alexander Cummings (the plumbing trap) and my nose thanks him!

I'd throw in Edison, but it's not clear what he did versus what
his (huge) team did; he hogged the glory.

"I'd throw in Edison, but it's not clear what he did versus what his (huge) team did; he hogged the glory. "

Add in taking credit for (i.e. stealing) other's inventions/ideas. I am sorry but this guy is over-glorified.
Pruning it down to five over all time is just too restrictive. Make it a reasonable exercise and restrict it Electrical Engineers since 1900 and there's hope for a reasonable list. Also exclude Schockley et al. He wasn't an engineer, he didn't do engineering work. He was a physicist, there is a difference.
Good names already in, my 5 are:
Gutenberg, Edison, Sikorsky, Ford and Von Braun
reading, lighting+ and transportation transforms our quality of life.
Gotta mention John Harrison who won the Longitude Prize for the engineering work on clocks and timepieces
Good call! Harrison's chronometer enabled modern navigation. Read "Longitude" by Dava Sobel. There is an exhibit of Harrison's chronometers, showing the development path, at the Greenwich Observatory in England.
DaVinci a "great" engineer? Puh-leeze! If born in the modern era he could have made a good living illustrating science fiction and fantasy novels, like the immortal Frank Frazetta, but probably not as an engineer.
For a very recent cite of a DaVinci design, check out
What, only white guys make good engineers? How about this non-white guy: Soichiro Honda (Nov 17,1906, Aug 5, 1991)? Honda grew up working in his father's blacksmith and bicycle-repair shop. His only formal training was an apprenticeship as an automobile mechanic. In 1937 Honda founded Tokai Seiki to produce piston rings for Toyota. During World War II US B-29 bomber attack destroyed Tokai Seiki's Yamashita plant in 1944, and the Itawa plant collapsed in the 1945 Mikawa earthquake. So Honda sold the salvageable remains of the company to Toyota after the war, and used the proceeds to found the Honda Technical Research Institute in October 1946. Immediately after WWII, when there were over 200 companies in Japan making mopeds, Honda salvaged some small aircraft drone engines and mounted them in bicycle frames. In 1948 he started producing complete motorcycles as president of the Honda Motor Company. Although his name was on the building, Honda-sama was only ever interested in technology. Honda, and his business partners, turned the company into a billion-dollar multinational that produced the best-selling motorcycles in the world. They later successfully began producing automobiles while other long standing automobile marques went out of business, one after the other. Honda's engineering-management skills resulted in a steady steam of brilliant motorcycle and car designs. He "retired" in 1973 and devoted all his energies full time to Honda's racing arm, what was later dubbed his beloved HRC (Honda Racing Corp).


I think Isambard Kingdom Brunel deserves a mention. What energy that man must have posessed!
What do we want to do today that we can't do without it? Obviously nowadays, even the simplest inventor needs electricity to invent something. So I would start with Edison, Nikola Tesla and Charles Proteus Steinmetz, then Albert Einstein
is greater without the atom bomb. And for all time genius without the amenities of modern education and technology, Leonardo Da Vinci.

Bob Widlar
Bob Noyce
Steve Wozniak
Bob Pease
Nilola Tesla

Great engineers don't need to have a degree, it's the people who persevered to solve problems to make the world a better place. Therefore, Thomas Edison gets that top award. Others of note, Royal Rife (Google him), Alexander Graham Bell (or whoever invented the telephone), all of Google, the Wright brothers, and whoever claims fame to inventing the automobile.
What a great set of responses. Some really good suggestions, a bit oriented to elec engineering but OK. I would just add the following candidates:

- Filippo Brunelleschi (1377 - 1446), one of the foremost architects and engineers of the Italian Renaissance, designer and builder of the Duomo in Florence.
- Wernher von Braun
I think Tesla's kinda gotta be #1. Yes, he was a wackjob, but ... amazing intuition, brilliant thinking, and hard work.

Edwin Armstrong is also not to be underestimated.

I suppose this sounds silly next to names like the Wright Brothers and Werner Von Braun, but when it comes to highly-practical engineering, I think Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage (AKA the Mythbusters) are not to be discounted. Remember that Engineering is not limited to practical application of Science, but also about explaining your solutions/results clearly, and convincing people to go forward with your plans.
Whatever the Roman equivalent was of the Army Corps of Engineers. They could design any structure and get it built with unskilled legionary labor using unpowered tools, local materials, and Roman numerals, all under horrible conditions and threat of attack. Their stuff lasted, and it even looked good. Think what they could have done if they had electricity.
Looking over the answers is more interesting than putting in a comment...
but c'mon guys... you can make better picks than that..
and part of the problem is whether you consider research a form of engineering too...

William Shockley? [the solid state transistor]

Babbage/Turing - [the inference engine / modern computers]
depending on who you want to give credit

Haber - [fixing nitrogen allowing billions to live]

Edward Jenner - Vaccines...

Wright Brothers [manned flight and all connected to it]

but even those choices lack when compared to others like the internal combustion engine, the jacquard loom, or even the taming of electricity..

heck.. the worlds greatest engineers are forever unknown
the wheel, control of fire, the first tool/weapon, agriculture as a whole, domestication

Shockley invented the junction transistor along with Brattain and Bardeen. But the field effect transistor was invented a quarter of a century earlier by Julius Lillenfield (who also invented the electrolytic capacitor). So which is the most commonly-used transistor today?

And Lillenfield wasn't half the egotistic bigot that Shockley was.
The un-named inventor of the wheel
Nikola Tesla
Bob Pease

The greatest engineers of all time were clearly the ones that built the great pyramids. We still have not been able to determine how it was done.
John Roebling (Brooklyn and other Bridges)
The Chief Engineer of the The Great Pyramid
Mary Phelps jacob (look it up)
Jacob Rabinow (OCR, and electro mechanical machines too complex to live, amazing dude)

you beat me by a minute, I was going to suggest Roebling and the pyramid builders too.
And Col. Goethals of Panama Canal fame. Samuel Morse. Edison. Westinghouse.
Of all the others mentioned, I think are also in the running except for Jobs, who wasn't really the engineer.
Casey Jones

I'm surprised that Charles Steinmetz wasn't nominated. He wasn't as flashy as Tesla, but he was just as remarkable.

Nikola Tesla
Orville and Wilbur Wright (they did not engineering degrees, but their achievements do qualify them)
Isaac Newton
Edwin Howard Armstrong. Regenerative detector, superregen, superheterodyne, FM radio.
Philo Farnsworth invented the television. What is amazing is that he worked out all the theory and equations while in high school. Then later in life started the company Philco.
RCA had well-funded laboratories working on developing the television, but the teen-age
kid is the one who created it. Phil Farnsworth deserves to be on the top of the list.
Wallace Coulter. Developed the principle for counting red and white blood cells electronically, known as the Coulter principle. Any blood work performed today i.e. Complete Blood Count or CBC uses his technology. Prior to his invention, blood cell counting was performed visually through a microscope. Wallace Coulter started out in the garage of his old professor from college (Georgia Tech) and went on to create the Coulter Electronics Corp world renown as a leader in the counting and sorting of blood cells. Wallace Coulter was awarded the John Scott Award for Scientific Achievement in 1960.

Heron from Alexandria
James Watt
Michael Faraday
Otto Lilienthal
Nikola Tesla
Konrad Zuse

Tesla was a crazy man who could have achieved so much more had his mental illness been in check. Let's not forget the contributions of Charles Proteus Steinmetz to AC electrical supply systems. As an engineer he provided more practical technology to the world than Tesla.

"Steve Wozniak. He started the personal computer industry in a garage!"

The personal computer industry was not started by Wozniak there were others before him ...
Nikola Tesla -
for his contributions to the modern alternating current (AC) electrical supply system that most other electrical engineers need for there inventions / projects to work..
Hiram Abiff, hands down.
Seymour Cray

The "father of supercomputers", a great engineer and a great person.
There have been many great engineers over the years, and it would not be possible to objectively choose the five best. So I have to go with the one whose company I worked for and whom I heard speak several times, Seymour R. Cray.
Really Invented by Seymour Cray, RISC computing.
Linus Torvalds. Besides his two major technical accomplishments (Linux kernel of course, and got distributed revision control tool) he showed an ability to organize and lead a major project that revolutionized how software is written today. Consider this: there's a probably a Linux kernel running right near where you are---if not on your phone, then your TV, PC, wireless router or some NASA supercomputer you're using.
One name - Nikola Tesla!!!!!!!

In reality, often some of the greatest feats/discoveries of an engineer were accomplished utilizing the work and contributions of 'n' engineers, scientists, mathematicians, etc. before them. They should not be discounted.

Orville Wright
Wilbur Wright
Leonardo da Vinci
Isaac Newton
Nikola Tesla

Kelly Johnson, founder of the Lockheed Skunk Works. Kelly Johnson and his Skunk Works team designed and built the world's first turbo-jet powered fighter, the XP-80, in 143 days. Not to mention the U2 and the SR-71 Blackbird, the fasted manned, air-breathing aircraft.
A brilliant man, but the XP-80 was not the first jet fighter. The Germans were flew the ME262 a year and a half before the XP-80 and the British Meteor flew 9 months earlier. The XP-80 was a brilliant catch-up job using British data and engines.
Kelly Johnson hands down ! .... and Burt Rutan (Voyager 'round the world aircraft, SpaceShipOne the 1st civilian spacecraft, Varieze homebuilt.... the list is endless)
I nominate Willis Haviland Carrier, who invented the first large-scale electrical air conditioning in 1911. Just think how many lives he touched.

Top of my list is Leo Goossen (Google it if it's unfamiliar). And he never called himself an engineer, he always referred to himself as a draftsman.
Thanks for putting Leo in the mix. One of my favorites along with Harry Miller.
Certainly Bob Pease, in a world of CAD, CAM, etc he advocated CSE (common sense engineering). Also Bill and Dave (Hewlett and Packard) not only for the excellence they demanded but for the culture they created, and also for how touchable they were. ("This Week in Tech History" don't forget, Dave's birthday is coming up! And no, their first product wasn't a computer.)
Steve Wozniak. He started the personal computer industry in a garage!
I've always felt that the invention of the transistor doesn't get due respect. Almost anyone reading this personally owns *billions* of these!
So, - My vote goes to the trio of: Shockley, Bardeen, and Brattain.
( Yes, Lilienfeld and a few others may have had claims to the FET but there was no known prototype )
Is this a trick question? I'm not sure I have met an Engineer who didn't think he was the greatest Engineer of all time. :)

This is horse shit. All the engineers I know are interested in making life better
and hoping they might get paid a bit for their endeavours. Engineering is not a
great way to great fame and fortune, although Tesla tried.
That was just a little need to get your blood pressure up! I have worked with Engineers my entire career and many are now close friends of mine. The problem I have found with most is that they are constantly focusing on the things people say or do wrong instead of focusing on the positives or the actual intent so they can use their great intelligence for growth and creativity. "big picture thinking"

I second BamaD's perception of the real world :-)

Bob Noyce.

Steve Jobs, although he didn't graduate!

Woz was the engineer, Jobs was the visionary/slave driver. Don't know for sure but I don't think Jobs knew a microvolt from a microamp but boy he sure knew what he wanted in a product.


Colin Mitchell