You don’t have to think too hard to recall famous names from your electrical engineering, physics and chemistry classes. Chandrasekhar, Avogadro and Hubble were people before they were limits, numbers or constants. The engineers and architects on this list gave their names to companies, processes or principles that form the foundation for entire schools of engineering.
Although he never lived to see it, Daniel Bernoulli’s work on fluid dynamics has played an integral role in flight. The Swiss scientist studied statistics, applied mathematics and fluid mechanics from an early age, following in his father’s footsteps and carrying on a family tradition of important scientific contributions. With the publication of Hydrodynamica in 1738, he also explored the movement of gases and discovered the principles underlying Boyle’s laws. Engineers who work in development and manufacturing of electronic components know Bernoulli’s name for another reason; the Bernoulli grip uses airflow to pick up and maneuver delicate objects without touching them.
Bessemer’s name is synonymous with steel manufacturing, and the Bessemer process is still in use today in some parts of the world. Before Bessemer, cast iron limited construction and created dangerous problems on railroad lines. Wrought iron held up better but was costly and time-consuming to produce. Bessemer’s method allowed manufacturers to remove the impurities from molten pig iron quickly and cheaply, making steel the new standard for everything from railroad tracks to building materials. Today, most steel manufacturing is done with an improved process that allows better quality control over the final product, but Bessemer’s steel forms the foundation of much of the world’s infrastructure.
Joseph Marie Jacquard
This inventor created a new kind of loom that gave its name to a fabric that remains popular today, but the greater importance of Jacquard’s creation is how it inspired others to adapt it. His first looms were designed to weave fishing nets, but he later progressed to fine fabrics with patterns woven into them. Jacquard’s system automated a process that was impossible to do by hand, allowing weavers to create ornate patterns that revolutionized the fashion of the day. Opulent jacquard fabrics are still stylish, but the real engineering feat were the chains of punched cards that made Jacquard’s looms run. Those punched cards were the basis for issuing commands to the first computers. Modern jacquard looms now run on computers, the invention that arose directly from the predecessors of the looms themselves.
The little-D diesel engine is commonplace today, but when Rudolf Diesel invented it in the late 1890s, it was a model of efficiency compared to competing designs. Although he wasn’t the first to develop an engine that relied on compression and fuel injection to create the necessary combustion, his model refined the process enough to make it commercially viable. Diesel almost didn’t live to develop the engine that now bears his name; his first experiments in efficient power production included an ammonia-driven steam engine that exploded and left him in the hospital for months. The engineer used vegetable-based oil to run his original engines, a move that modern diesel proponents are embracing again with biodiesel alternatives to petroleum-sourced diesel fuels.