5 Engineers of Yesteryear that Continue to Impact Society Today

August 17, 2020
A sand hourglass sitting on top of a stack of books.

Engineering is defined as the use of scientific principles to design and build machines and structures that include bridges, tunnels, roads, vehicles, and buildings. It’s been around since the dawn of time and has impacted today’s society more than most people will ever recognize. From modern homes to space travel, engineering has improved and changed communities in many ways.

Engineering in the Ancient era revolved around the pyramids, the invention of the wheel, and the pulley system. The Middle Ages led the world to discover how to power machinery by harnessing wind for mills and program items like instruments, castle clocks, and robots. In the Modern Era, the Industrial Revolution brought a whirlwind of change with metal machinery and travel through flight. While these may seem like simple solutions to us now, they were major breakthroughs in history that led to a great number of changes in the world today.

There are many subsegments of engineering that impact every aspect of what we do. Healthcare has largely benefited from engineering due to the huge advances in medical technology like MRI machines, X-rays, and more. Through advancements in technology like satellites, we now can access the world at our fingertips. Improvements in travel from horse-drawn buggies to steam and jet engines have made travel basically limitless. Space travel was once only a dream, but now has become possible and frequent. Engineering makes discovery easier and allows for creativity to flow. As engineers ourselves, we work with many of these subsegments and are fascinated by the growth each and every day.

The future may holds a lot of uncertainty, but one thing is undeniable: engineering will continue to bring new inventions and incredible advances. Without engineering from the past, though, the world as we know it would be much further behind in terms of science and technology.

At VP Engineering, we value the influence that historical engineers have on the work we do today. Below, we highlight five engineers who made monumental contributions to our society.

Thomas Edison is likely the most famous engineer with his invention of the lightbulb and modern electricity. What many don’t know about Edison is that he also invented the motion picture camera and the phonograph, which would later be known as the record player. His clever inventions pioneered the development of mass communication, electric power and so much more.



Leonardo da Vinci, while more recognized for his artwork, had a huge interest in science and mathematics. da Vinci opened up a whole new component to engineering – design. His design creations included a hang glider and a machine that is very similar to the modern helicopter. As recent as 2001, engineers in Norway were referring to his designs for a highway bridge.



Archimedes of Syracuse is a much older version of an engineer, which illustrates the far-reaching legacy of engineering in our history. He is most known for his gifts in mathematics, engineering, inventing, astronomy and physics. His contributions can be attributed to much of modern mechanical engineering, such as the screw and pulley systems.



The Wright Brothers, fellow North Carolinians, introduced us to an entirely new branch of engineering – aerospace engineering. Their success with unpowered gliders led them to create and demonstrate the world’s first powered airplane. This allowed them to experiment with aerodynamic control in relation to engine power.



Nikola Tesla was one of the more underrated engineers of his time. In his early years, he learned from Edison and went on to pioneer advancements in radio, X-ray technology, and induction motors. His work during the Industrial Revolution and advancements in electrical engineering are what defined his engineering career.



The contributions noted above are just a small sampling of the incredible efforts of engineers from the past.  Their influence is reflected in VP Engineering’s efforts every day to continue our work in the professional and responsive nature that has been instilled in our firm since the beginning. We work with integrity, respect, and honesty to ensure that our clients are receiving the latest and greatest in what engineering has to offer.  We learned from the engineers that came before us and we hope to leave a similar lasting legacy for those that come after us.


About VP Engineering

VP Engineering is a top Charlotte-based MEP design firm offering engineering expertise in senior living, multi-family, hospitality, and retail/commercial markets worldwide. With experience in a wide range of building types, our MEP engineering services help keep projects on budget and achieve your goals. Learn more at

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