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Knovel’s Engineering Showdown: The Contenders

By: , Posted on: March 5, 2014


March is here, and with it, madness! Specifically, engineering madness! Knovel has launched the first annual Knovel Engineering Showdown! Scroll down a bit to see the contenders, and a bit further to get your predictions (and soon, your votes) in!

We organized our contenders into two rough historical categories (pre- and post-1900), and into eight disciplines that most closely fit the work these engineers and innovators conducted. In the first round, the two contenders in each discipline will face one-another. In the last round, the best historical contender will face off with the best contemporary candidate for the title of Top Engineer. Your vote will help determine their fate!

Create your bracket here.

Historical (Pre-20th Century) Contenders



Archimedes is credited with a variety of significant accomplishments ranging from the discovery of pi to invention of the Archimedes Screw. Many of his inventions were related to the defense of Syracuse. Not the basketball team.
Leonardo da Vinci
This Renaissance man wasn’t only a renowned artist, he was also an inventor and so much more. Many of his designs – whether flying, hydraulic or war machines- were ahead of the times.



George Stephenson
The portrait of ‘the Father of the Railway’ was once on the Series E £5 notes issued by the Bank of England. His many accomplishments include the standard gauge, the “Rocket” and the first public inter-city (Liverpool and Manchester Railway) line in the world to use steam locomotives.
James Watt 
Given an early steam engine to repair and realizing its inefficiencies, Watt redesigned the machine and patented the idea. His engine was used widely from mills to canals. He developed the concept of horsepower and the SI unit of power, the watt, was named after him. He retired a wealthy man.



Henry Bessemer
A prolific inventor with over 100 patents in his name, Bessemer is best known for the process he invented to make industrial quality steel available en masse. Some call him the father of the industrial revolution for this contribution which helped shape all modern life.
Robert Boyle
Best known for Boyles law, this wealthy aristocratic was influenced by Philosophers including Descartes. Boyle experimented with the nature of air and created a vacuum chamber that could demonstrate the effects of air withdrawal on flame, light and living creatures.



Benjamin Wright
Wright was hired by the New York State Canal Commission to determine a route between Rome and Waterford for the Erie Canal. This “Father of American Civil Engineering” directed work on the canal’s middle division and on the especially difficult eastern division.
Emily Roebling
After her father in law died and her husband became ill, Roebling took over the Brooklyn Bridge project, studying material strength, conducting stress analysis and more. While her husband was technically the project lead, Emily was his eyes, ears and voice, leading many to believe she was actually the one constructing the bridge.


Contemporary (20th and 21st Century) Contenders



Thomas Alva Edison
“The Wizard of Menlo Park” electrified New York City with the first public power plant on Pearl Street. Edison’s other contributions include the first commercial x-ray machine (a fluoroscope), a stock ticker, and a motion picture camera (the Kinetograph.)
Nikola Tesla
He invented and developed ideas for several important inventions including the “Tesla coil” and Alternating Current (AC). Westinghouse Electric licensed Tesla’s designs and AC was the eventual victor over DC power during “War of the Currents.” Tesla was an active inventor who obtained over 300 patents during his life.



Steve Wozniak 
In 1976, Wozniak co-founded Apple Computer Inc. The following year, he introduced Apple II personal computer, featuring a central processing unit, a keyboard, color graphics, and a floppy disk drive. The Apple II was integral in launching the personal computer industry.
Bill Hewlett & David Packard
After graduating as electrical engineers from Stanford University, they produced HP’s first product, the resistance-capacitance audio oscillator, used to test sound equipment, which Disney ordered to help movie theaters screen Fantasia. January 1, 1939 Bill and Dave formalize their partnership and flipped a coin to decide the company’s name.



Henry Gantt
Perhaps better known by project managers than engineers thanks to his invention of the Gantt chart, Henry was an American mechanical engineer whose innovative project scheduling techniques helped build the Hoover Dam and many of our Interstate highways.
Lillian Moller Gilbreth
The inspiration for (and mother in) the “Cheaper by the Dozen” book and movies, Gilbreth was also one of the first working female engineers with a Ph.D. and a pioneer in ergonomics and motion studies, which she applied to home life.



Hedy Lamarr
Bluetooth. WiFi. Mobile phones. They all owe a debt to movie star Hedy Lamarr, who, with her co-inventor, developed an early technique for spread-spectrum communication and frequency hopping, key parts of all of these technologies.
Claude Shannon
His development of information theory helped shape the thought in an amazingly diverse list of subjects, including communication, electrical engineering, statistics, cryptography, neurobiology, quantum computing, music, astrophysics and even ecology.


Now you’ve seen the engineers, create your bracket here and decide who’s a contender and who’s a pretender. Maybe this time a guy named Leo will actually win something…

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  • Great blog! I enjoyed going through the history of engineering. Thanks!

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