1716 - 1772
British canal builder.
He was the first to employ tunnels and aqueducts extensively, in order
to reduce the number of locks on a direct-route canal. His 580 km / 360 miles of canals
included the Bridgewater
(Manchester-Liverpool) and Grand Union
Brindley was born near Buxton, Derbyshire. He set up a machine shop in Staffordshire and
began constructing flint and silk mills. He was virtually illiterate and made all
calculations in his head.
In 1759 Brindley was engaged by the Duke of Bridgewater to construct a canal to transport
coal to Manchester from the duke's mines at Worsley. Brindley's revolutionary scheme for
this included a subterranean channel and an aqueduct over the river Irwell. He constructed
impervious banks by puddling clay, and the canal simultaneously acted as a mine drain. The
success of this project established him as the leading canal builder in the UK.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
1806 - 1859
Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born in Portsmouth, England. He designed many bridges,
tunnels, and viaducts and was one of the first to use compressed-air caissons to sink
bridge foundations into deep riverbeds. He was also a railway builder and the designer of
London's Paddington Station. His greatest work was the design and construction of three
oceangoing steamships, each the first of its type. The paddle-steamer Great Western (1838)
was the first transatlantic passenger steamship in regular service; it made the
Bristol-New York crossing in a spectacular 15 days. The Great Britain (1845) was the first
large screw-driven oceangoing steamship. The Great Eastern (1858), the largest steam
vessel of its time, was designed to make the round trip to Australia without recoaling.
First English printer, born probably in Tenterden, Kent. He opened his
own textile business and also translated into English a popular French romance, which he
printed in Brugge as The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye. It is famous as the
first book printed in English. Caxton set up a printing press at Westminster Abbey. During
his career Caxton printed nearly 100 publications, about 20 of which he also translated
from French and Dutch. Among the more notable books from his press are The Canterbury
Tales and Troilus and Criseyde by the English poet Goeffrey Chaucer and Confessio
Amantis by the English poet John Gower. Caxton also wrote prefaces and epilogues to
many of the works he published, notably the preface to the prose epic Le Morte d'Arthur
by Sir Thomas Malory
Sir Geoffrey de Havilland
Born the son of a clergyman, de Havilland was one of the most successful of all British
aviation pioneers. Before his twentieth birthday he designed a motorcycle and after
graduating from the Crystal Palace Engineering School began a short-lived career in the
automotive industry. By 1908, he persuaded his grandfather to loan him one thousand pounds
from which he could fund the construction of an aeroplane. Along with his assistant Frank
Herle, de Havilland built an engine and a bi-plane, which were ready to test by 1909. The
success of this machine, in which de Havilland taught himself to fly, brought him to the
attention of the British military which bought his plane for four hundred pounds and
offered him a job at HM Balloon Factory. He test-flew all of his own designs until 1918.
In September 1920, de Havilland founded his own company and decided to target the
commercial market and reject, for the most part, the military one. His factory, first at
Stag Lane, Edgeware and later at Hatfield, produced a steady stream of well-designed
biplanes for the civil and commercial markets.
To conserve vital materials during World War II, de Havilland's company designed the
Mosquito fighter bomber, using less important wood for it's structure. The 'Mossie' is
considered by some to have been the best all-round aircraft of World War II. Not only was
it twice as fast as any other bomber, it was even faster than the fastest British fighter.
1786 - 1850
Originally a blacksmith but he became involved in locomotive production
when he was recruited by Christopher Blackett in 1808 to work at Wylam Colliery. At Wylam
Hackworth helped William Hedley produce the locomotive Puffing Billy.
In 1824 Edward Pease, George Stephenson and his son Robert Stephenson, formed a company in
Newcastle-upon-Tyne to make the locomotives for the Stockton & Darlington line. George
Stephenson knew of Hackworth's work on the Puffing Billy and recruited him as
superintendent of locomotive engine production. Hackworth worked with George Stephenson on
Locomotion and was on board when it made its first public journey on 27th September, 1825.
In 1828 the boiler of the Locomotion exploded, killing the driver. She was rebuilt but did
not perform well. The main problem was its inability to produce enough steam for a
twenty-mile run. Timothy Hackworth took over responsibility for the Locomotion and
enlarged the boiler and installed a return fire tube. This improved the performance of the
locomotive but in 1827 was replaced by Hackworth's new locomotive, the Royal George.
Hackworth's locomotive was mounted on six wheels, the cylinders were vertical, inverted
and outside the boiler, and pistons and connecting rods drove the rear wheels.
In 1833 Hackworth decided to leave to form his own Soho locomotive building company at
Shildon. The company was very successful and Hackworth lived in a fine house facing the
Shildon. Railway Station (now the Timothy Hackworth Museum). Considered to be now an old
fashioned designer, Hackworth concentrated on building slow, heavy freight locomotives.
British canal engineer who built the first canal in England entirely dependent on
reservoirs for its water supply (the Grantham Canal 1793-97), and designed (with Thomas
Telford) the 300 m / 1,000 ft long Pontcysyllte aqueduct over the river Dee. Jessop also
designed the forerunner of the iron rail that later became universally adopted for
Jessop was born in Devonport, Devon, and became a pupil of civil engineer John Smeaton,
working on canals in England and Ireland first with him and then independently.
Jessop's first tunnel was the 2.8 km / 1.7-mile long Butterley Tunnel on the Cromford
Canal he built in Derbyshire, and this led to the forming of the Butterley Iron Works in
1790, making rails and bridges.
Jessop was chief engineer 1793-1805 of the Grand Union Canal, which linked London and the
Midlands over a distance of 150 km / 95 miles. He was also responsible for the Barnsley,
Rochdale, and Trent navigation, and the Nottingham and Ellesmere canals.
Jessop was also chief engineer of the Surrey Iron Railway, built 1801-02. He worked on the
construction of a large wetdock area on the Avon at Bristol, on the West India Docks and
the Isle of Dogs Canal in London, on the harbours at Shoreham and Littlehampton, and on
many other projects.
Reginald Joseph Mitchell
1895 - 1937
Designer of the Supermarine Spitfire
Born in Talke Village near Stoke on Trent on 20 May 1895.
Leaving school in 1911 aged 16 he joined the locomotive engineering company, Kerr Stewart
& Co of Stoke as an apprentice and upon completion of his apprenticeship he began
working in the drawing office.
At night school however he continued his education studying engineering, mechanics and
higher mathematics and with the use of a home based lathe he mastered practical
In 1917, at the age of 21, a partnership that was to have a significant effect upon his
future was formed when he joined the Supermarine Aviation Works as a designer and by 1918,
recognising the excellent skills that he had, Reginald Mitchell was appointed Chief
Designer by Hubert Scott-Paine the Managing Director of Supermarine.
As seaplane manufacturers, Supermarine were attracted by the Schneider Trophy contests
although until 1922 when Mitchell took over complete control of the design for that years
entry, the competition was dominated by Italy, who having won the Trophy in 1920 and 1921
meant that a further win in 1922 would secure them the Trophy outright.
Mitchell's aircraft was the only challenger to the Italian's in the 1922 Schneider Trophy
and flown by Captain Henri C Baird it won, also taking four new Marine World Records.
Mitchell was however a sick man. He underwent an operation to remove abdominal cancer late
in 1933 and almost died. He was told that if their was no recurrence within five years he
would likely survive but following that operation he never fully recovered his vitality
and remained a weak man.
Over the next two years his health deteriorated and resisting all medical advice he drove
himself hard, working not only on the Spitfire but also the Type 317 long range, four
On 11th June 1937 Reginald Joseph Mitchell died aged just 42..
1761 - 1821
Born in East Linton, Scotland. After working as a millwright with Andrew
Meikle he studied at Edinburgh University (1780-83). He was employed by Boulton & Watt
for five years but in 1791 he moved to London where he started his own engineering
company. Over the next few years he became a famous bridge-builder. This included Leeds
Bridge, Southwark Bridge and Waterloo Bridge.
Rennie was also responsible for designing and building docks at Hull, Liverpool, Greenock
and Leith and improving the harbours and dockyards at Portsmouth, Chatham and Plymouth.
Rennie's last project was London Bridge but it was unfinished when he died in 1821. The
bridge was completed by his son, John Rennie. .
The Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls
The son of a wealthy British peer, Rolls might have led a carefree life often associated
with the young Edwardian aristocracy. Instead, he combined an adventurous spirit with an
education and thus made a useful contribution to his nation.
Rolls went to Cambridge University where he earned a BA, and later MA in engineering. His
love for speed led him to become a racing cyclist. Later he turned to racing automobiles
along with his friend, Moore-Brabazon. In 1896 Rolls joined with other auto enthusiasts to
break a law which forbade automobile travel at over 4mph (6.4km/hr). Their defiance led to
a new speed limit which at 12 mph (19.3 km/hr) was 200% faster than had previously been
In 1901 Rolls, having become an aeronaut, helped found the Aero Club. Two years later he
entered an automobile sales venture in London selling expensive French cars. One day a
friend introduced him to F. H. Royce who was just beginning to build quality automobiles.
Royce, who had worked hard his entire life, had little in common with Rolls yet they still
became friends. In 1904 they agreed that Royce would build cars and Rolls would sell them.
Rolls-Royce was born.
Rolls continued to fly balloons when he wasn't demonstrating his soon-to-be-famous
products. His balloon flying led to aeroplane flying and in 1910 he received certificate
number 2 from the Royal Aero Club (Royal as of that year). Later in the same year he
became the first man to fly non-stop across the English Channel both ways, but his triumph
was short lived. In July 1910 he was killed when his French-built Wright biplane broke up
in mid-air. Though he came down from only 20 feet, he cracked his skull. He became
Britain`s first aircraft fatality.
Sir (Frederick) Henry Royce
Although he was to rise and become the producer of some of the most luxurious cars in the
world, Royce began life in poverty. Born in Alwalton, England, he was orphaned at age
nine. He struggled through a variety of jobs before being apprenticed to a locomotive
works. There he became an expert machinist noted for his dedication to unequalled
precision. At seventeen he left a subsequent job with a train ticket that had taken him
several months to save for, and travelled to London. By day he worked at an electricity
generating station, while at night he went to school. Three years passed before he decided
to go to Manchester to open his own shop to produce dynamos and motors. Noted for their
high quality, the Royce products sold well and his company grew. In 1902 he bought a
second hand Decauville automobile hoping to enjoy leisurely weekends in the countryside.
Instead, the car produced an endless series of breakdowns. He decided he could build a
better one. In less than a year he had built a car that was so good that he decided to
market it. In 1904 he entered into partnership with Rolls to sell automobiles, thus
Rolls-Royce was formed. In 1906 Royce introduced the Silver Ghost, a car which was to
become known as the greatest car in the world.
Royce's reputation as a leading engineer led the Royal Navy to contact him during World
War I with an order to build Renault-designed aero-engines. Royce scoffed at what he
considered an inferior design and said he would come up with a better one. The result was
the Eagle, a twenty-litre engine which produced 225hp. This engine, and it's derivatives
the Falcon and the Hawk, were so successful that by the end of World War I Rolls-Royce
supplied 60% of all British built engines.
Royce stayed actively involved with the design of his company's engines up until his death
in 1933. Before he died, he dictated what was to become known as the Rolls-Royce bible. It
was a set of guidelines for future generations of Rolls-Royce engineers to follow. Even
today, it is a closely guarded industrial secret.
British inventor and engineer, who built the first practical railroad
locomotive. Stephenson was born in Wylam, near Newcastle. During his youth he worked as a
fireman and later as an engineer in the coal mines of Newcastle. He devised one of the
first miner's safety lamps but shared credit for this invention with the British inventor
Sir Humphry Davy, who developed a similar lamp at about the same time. Stephenson's early
efforts in locomotive design were confined to constructing locomotives to haul loads in
coal mines, and in 1823 he established a factory at Newcastle for their manufacture. In
1829 he designed a locomotive known as the Rocket, which hauled both freight and
passengers at a greater speed than had any locomotive constructed up to that time. The
success of the Rocket greatly stimulated the subsequent construction of locomotives and
the laying of railroad lines.
Thomas Telford, the son of a shepherd, was born in Westerkirk, Scotland
in 1757. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a stonemason. He worked for a time in
Edinburgh and in 1792 he moved to London where he was involved in building additions to
Somerset House. Two years later he found work at Portsmouth dockyard.
In 1787 he became surveyor of public works for Shropshire. By this time Telford had
established a good reputation as an engineer and in 1790 was given the task of building a
bridge over the River Severn at Montford. This was followed by a canal that linked the
ironworks and collieries of Wrexham with Chester and Shrewsbury. This involved building an
aqueduct over the River Dee. On the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Telford used a new method of
construction consisting of troughs made from cast-iron plates and fixed in masonry.
After the completion of the Ellesmere Canal Telford moved back to Scotland where he took
control of the building of Caledonian Canal. Other works by Telford include the Menai
Suspension Bridge (1819-1826) and the Katherine's Docks (1824-1828) in London.
Telford was also an important road builder. He was responsible for rebuilding the
Shrewsbury to Holyhead road and the North Wales coast road between Chester and Bangor.
During his life Telford built more than 1,000 miles of road, including the main road
between London and Holyhead. Thomas Telford died in 1834.
1771 - 1833
British mechanical engineer and inventor, and one of the pioneers of
railroad locomotion. Trevithick was born in Illogan, near Camborne-Redruth. In 1796 he
exhibited models of high-pressure, noncondensing steam engines, which were an improvement
on the low-pressure engines developed by the Scottish inventor James Watt. On Christmas
Eve, 1801, Trevithick put into operation the first steam-propelled vehicle ever to carry
passengers. In 1804 he made the first application of steam to the hauling of loads on a
railway when his steam locomotive carried ten tons of iron about 15 km (about 9.5 mi),
from Merthyr Tydfil to Abercynon. His success led to the construction of further steam
locomotives operating on rails. He is considered by many the real inventor of the
locomotive steam engine.
1736 - 1819
James Watt was born in Greenock, Scotland. He moved to Glasgow in 1754 to learn the trade
of instrument maker. While he was employed on surveys for canals, he was also studying
In 1763, while repairing a Newcomen engine, he found he could greatly improve the machine.
His invention of the 'separate condenser' and the introduction of crank movements could
make steam engines more efficient. After other improvements, he went into partnership with
Matthew Boulton, and the new steam engine was manufactured at Birmingham in 1774. Several
other inventions followed, including the double-acting engine, the centrifugal governor
for automatic speed control, and the pressure gauge.
With this invention he provided one of the most essential components of early industrial
revolution. The term horse-power was first used by him, and the power unit, the watt, is
named in his honor.
Sir Joseph Whitworth
1803 - 1887
The son of a Congregational minister, was born in Stockport in 1803. At
the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to a Derbyshire cotton-spinner. Whitworth studied
the machinery in the factory and was critical of the poor standards of workmanship and
this inspired him to become an engineer.
In 1821 Whitworth moved to Manchester where he found work as a mechanic. Four years later
he moved to London where he trained under Henry Maudslay. After returning to Manchester in
1833 he set up his own machine shop. Over the next few years he built a successful
knitting machine (1835) and a horse-drawn mechanical roadsweeper (1842). Probably his most
important innovation was to devised a machine capable of measuring to an accuracy of one
hundredth-thousandth of an inch.
By the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851 Whitworth had acquired a world-wide reputation
of producing machines of unrivaled quality and precision. Since the beginning of the
industrial revolution, each workshop used its own sizes for the equipment it made. By 1860
Whitworth's specifications for sizes of screw threads was generally accepted throughout
Whitworth was deeply concerned with working class poverty and donating large sums of money
to educational organisations. He also supplied the funds for engineering scholarships
research at technical colleges.