Once again, our main focus will be notable electrical engineers, however it would be unreasonable not to include some non-electrical engineers who have made a huge impact on our world.
Born within a month of each, our first two notable electrical engineers are well known names.
Alexander Graham Bell
(3rd March 1847 – 2nd August 1922)
As most people know, Alexander Graham Bell is credited with inventing the first telephone in 1876. Not a fan of his most famous invention, he refused to have a telephone in his study.
Other inventions include work in optical telecommunications, hydrofoils and aeronautics.
(11th February 1847 – 18th October 1931)
A prolific inventor, he held 1093 US patents, as well as more in the UK, France and Germany. His devlopments include the motion picture camera, practical electric light bulb and thus his work has contributed to mass communications and have had widespread impact particularly the electric light.
(23rd May 1908 – 30th January 1991)
Bardeen is the only person to have won the Nobel Prize in Physics twice; first in 1956 for his work with William Shockley and Walter Brattain for the invention of the transistor and secondly in 1972 for a fundamental theory of conventional superconductivity (the BCS theory) which he worked on with Leon N Cooper and John Robert Schrieffer.
Due to his work he helped revolutionize the electronics industry with his transistor which has developed nearly all every modern electronics devices. His work in superconductivity are used in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR) but most people will know its medical sub-tool – magnetic resonance imaging, MRI.
Kornelis Antonie Schouhamer Immink
(18th December 1946 – )
A Dutch engineer and inventor, Immink holds over 1100 US and international patents most of which are in the field of consumer electronics.
Since gaining his electrical engineering degree in 1974, Immink has pioneered the advancement of digital audio, video and data recording. We can thank him for CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray Discs.
Speaking about Immink and his developments, EPO President Benoit Battistelli commented “The development of the data coding process for CD, DVD and Blu-ray is a milestone on the road to digitalization. Very few inventions have conquered both industry and private households in a similar manner. With his technique, he has made a lasting impact on how we handle data and has helped us ring in the digital era.”
Other notable engineers that aren’t specifically electrical engineers include the following…
(10th July 1856 – 7th January 1943)
Tesla is a well-known character within modern culture, particularly now that Elon Musk chose to name his electric car and energy storage company after this great man.
Commonly referred to as a ‘mad scientist’, he is best known for his contributions to the designs of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system. Having worked with other engineering greats such as Thomas Edison, he went on to pursue his ideas of wireless lighting and electricity distribution.
Contributing to the ‘mad scientist’ theory, he conducted a range of experiments in his laboratory including early x-ray imaging, a wireless controlled boat and mechanical oscillators and generators.
Lewis Frederick Urry
(29th January 1927 – 19th October 2004)
Urry was a Canadian chemical engineer and inventor. Thanks to him we have the alkaline and lithium battery, which he invented when working for Eveready Battery (which was renamed Energizer in 1980).
In 1957 he, along with P.A. Marsal, filed a US patent for the alkaline dry cell battery with a powdered zinc gel anode. It had come to be after much testing when Urry discovered managanese dioxide and solid zinc worked well with an alkaline substance as an electrolyte. To provide more power he used powdered zinc – “My eureka moment came when I realised that using powdered zinc would give more surface area,” he recalled.
Production for the battery began in 1959 after Urry demonstrated its potential in a rather inventive manner. He put the battery in a toy car and alongside a similar car with an older battery, raced it around the company canteen. This proved the power and durability of his creation. “Our car went several lengths of this long cafeteria,” he said, “but the other car barely moved. Everybody was coming out of their labs to watch. They were all oohing and aah-ing and cheering.”
During his career he worked with many different kind of batteries and power cells. His inventions included 51 patents – some of which were for the lithium battery.
Karl Friedrich Benz
Co-founder of Mercedes-Benz and is regarded as the inventor of the first automobile powered by an internal combustion engine.
Founder of the manufacturing company, which would go on to become Audi. Originally called Horch Automobil-Werke GmbH he retitled it Audi Automobilwerke GmBH in 1910.
Founder of the Ford Motor Company and helped to develop the assembly line for mass productions. Ford made automobiles affordable to middle class Americans and was fanatical about consumerism always wanting to lower costs and mass-produce inexpensive goods.