The 5 greatest engineers of all time

-September 14, 2012

Let the debate begin!

Commenter nobler, one of many in the EDN community to mention Thomas Edison (February 11, 1847 - October 18, 1931), summed up an opinion we often see expressed on EDN.com:

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

Mainstream history records Edison as the inventor of the light bulb, motion-picture camera, phonograph, and many other devices that still have influence on everyday life today.

He was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of mass production and large-scale teamwork to the process of invention, and, as such, he is often credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory.

With 1,093 patents in the US and additional ones in Europe, he’s well known by all and even has a town in New Jersey named after him.

In engineering circles, however, his talents are questioned. Indeed, Edison is often considered purely a businessman who grew his name on the work of his staff, which at one time included Nikola Tesla. As niehaoma commented: “Add in taking credit for (i.e., stealing) other's inventions/ideas. I am sorry, but this guy is over-glorified.”

Love him or hate him, Edison edged out James Watt and Charles Babbage in comments saying he was among the greatest engineers of all time, to come in fifth in our poll.

Also see:

Edison patents Kinetoscope, August 31, 1897

Edison's 1st test of electric railway, May 13, 1880

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