5 Famous Electrical Engineers
At EE we’re aware of the long tradition of electricians and engineers that have developed the field within which we work. You’re probably familiar with Tesla and Edison (and perhaps aware of the rivalry that saw Edison steal Tesla’s greatest idea). But there are many others in the long tradition of exploration of the technical world.
Here are a few names you may not have heard of, but their work has shaped our understanding of the world around us.
Claude Shannon (1916 – 2001)
Mathematician, cryptographer and electrical engineer, Shannon is also known as the father of information theory (his theories on the storage of information were integral to the development of the Internet). He was also responsible for digital circuit design theory. Studying electrical engineering at MIT, he designed switching circuits based on Boolean theory, and the theoretical constructs within his thesis became the basis for modern computers.
Alfred Rosling Bennett (1850 – 1928)
Born in Islington, London, Bennett worked in India in his early adulthood and on his return to Britain in 1873 was responsible for revolutionary work in incandescent electrical lighting. A pioneering electrical engineer, he was also renowned for his work with telephony. In 1877 he connected the Canterbury Music hall in Lambeth to the Queen’s Theatre in Long Acre, via an overhead telephone line – the first experiment of its kind carried out in London.
Edith Clarke (1883 – 1959)
The first female to be awarded an MS in electrical engineering at MIT, Clarke invented the Clarke Calculator – a device that solved equations involving electrical current, voltage and impedance in power transmission lines. Despite her qualifications she was unable to find work as an engineer, instead working for General Electric as a computer supervisor. Despite these challenges she wrote Circuit Analysis of A-C Power Systems, a hugely influential textbook, and in 2015 was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Michael Faraday (1791 – 1867)
Faraday is responsible for the practical use of electricity as a power supply. His work with electromagnetic fields, the effects of magnetism on light, and electrolysis underpin much of what we know about electricity even today. He invented electromagnetic rotary devices and is therefore one of the fathers of the electric motor.
Faraday’s electromagnetic experiment, 1821
Physicist Ernest Rutherford said: “When we consider the magnitude and extent of his discoveries and their influence on the progress of science and of industry, there is no honour too great to pay to the memory of Faraday, one of the greatest scientific discoverers of all time.”
James Clarke Maxwell (1831 – 1879)
A Scottish scientist in mathematical physics, he formulate the theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light as manifestations of the same phenomenon. Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetism have been called the “second great unification in physics” after the first one realised by Isaac Newton. A gentle man with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Bible, he is honoured with the maxwell (Mx), the name of a compound that measures magnetic flux.