On our blog, we have been looking into the lives of some of the most famous inventors and engineers in history, however there are many others who are often forgotten. Whether this is because their other achievements have overshadowed their engineering work, or simply because their name has slipped from the public’s mind, their achievements in engineering are just as worthy of recognition.
Leonardo da Vinci
We start, somewhat paradoxically, with a very famous name. However, whilst Leonardo da Vinci was an incredibly talented polymath and perhaps the most diversely talented person of all time, to many people today he is “merely” the artist behind the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper.
As the original Renaissance Man, however, da Vinci worked and studied a wide range of fields, and his notebooks revealed significant developments in anatomy, civil engineering, optics and hydrodynamics. He was technologically advanced for his time, conceptualising many designs for machines which were not feasible during his lifetime but which, with later advances, became practical later. He drew designs for flying machines and even a workable tank, alongside smaller inventions such as a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire which did enter the world of manufacturing unheralded.
When is an engineer not an engineer? When he’s remembered only for his artwork.
Another surprisingly well known name; this time one who is rather better known for her image than for her intellect. Promoted by Hollywood as “the world’s most beautiful woman”, she starred in silver-screen epics such as Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah from the 1930s to the early 1950s. Her roles frequently emphasised her beauty and sexuality, but were hardly challenging – as exemplified by the fact that her most famous line was “I am Tondelayo. I make tiffin for you?”
Off-screen, however, she found different challenges as an inventor. Her earliest work was on an improved traffic stop light and a tablet which would dissolve in water to make a carbonated drink – somewhat unsuccessfully, as she admitted herself that it tasted like Alka-Seltzer. It was during the Second World War that she developed her best-known work, focusing her efforts on torpedoes. Radio-controlled torpedoes could easily be jammed, by broadcasting interference at the frequency of the control signal. Working with avant-garde composer George Antheil, she developed the concept of a frequency-hopping signal which would prevent the enemy from jamming the signal. A patent was granted on the 11th August 1942 and, although it was not used during WW2, it was implemented by US ships in 1962 – after the patent had expired. Although Lamarr and Antheil didn’t profit from the patent, it served as a bases for modern communications technologies used in Bluetooth and WiFi systems today.
When is an engineer not an engineer? When she’s remembered only as a glamorous actress.
Here at Airedale Springs, we value every client and every project – you don’t have to be famous to get first-class service from us. For more information on any of our products, from springs to wireforms, simply get in touch with us on 01535 643456 today.