The importance of engineers to society has been evident throughout human history. From inventing the wheel to developing antibiotics, engineers have helped mankind live better, longer lives by combining their knowledge, creativity and innovation to great effect.
As a result, engineering remains an extremely popular career path – In 2016, over 1.5 million people were employed in the USA as engineers, and their median wage was twice that of all workers.
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Then again, there are many people who aren’t an engineer by trade that still enjoy designing and building in their spare time. No matter whether it’s constructing a prefabricated garage or installing a state-of-the-art entertain system, amateur engineers can be just as trailblazing as their professionally-trained counterparts.
In fact, some of history’s most inspirational engineers came from humble backgrounds or didn’t even consider themselves to be geniuses – they simply set out to solve common problems shared by everybody. Here’s what we can learn from them:
1. Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Considered by many to be one of the most ingenious and prolific figures in engineering history, Isambard Kingdom Brunel changed the face of transport and civil engineering in Greater Britain. Along with numerous bridges and tunnels, Brunel also built the Great Western Railway and the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship.
What can we learn? Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Brunel had a relentless can-do attitude and wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.
2. Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was a quintessential Renaissance man who was an expert in anatomy, painting, music, flight and engineering. Because of technological limitations, da Vinci conceptualised many inventions including the modern-day helicopter and concentrated solar power.
What can we learn? Be curious. Engineers must now be proficient in a number of different areas, just like da Vinci was during his time.
3. Nikola Tesla
Despite the fact he didn’t receive credit for a lot of his inventions, Tesla’s influence on society has been huge. He is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electrical supply system yet also worked on projects such as the radio and x-ray machines.
What can we learn? No matter what life throws at you, never give up. Tesla was once bedridden for nine months with cholera, dropped out of school and never received a degree.
From the block and tackle pulley to a parabolic mirror death-ray, Archimedes is known for many inventions and discoveries, all of which helped support his home city of Syracuse. He was also a gifted mathematician, astronomer and physicist.
What can we learn? Give yourself a break every now and again. Archimedes was once so engrossed in his own work that he dismissed a soldier sent to capture him. The soldier murdered Archimedes with his sword on the spot.
5. Elon Musk
Love him or hate him, Elon Musk has surely earned his place among the most inspirational engineers in history. The man responsible for PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX continues to make headlines whenever he announces a new product or project.
What can we learn? Be true to yourself. Musk is outspoken in his views about politics, religion and even extra-terrestrial life. But this hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the world’s most powerful people.