10 Most famous Civil Engineers of all time

Here is a list of famous civil engineers, with photos, bios, and other information. Who are the top civil engineers in the world? This includes the most prominent civil engineers, living and dead all around the world. This list of notable civil engineers is ordered by their level of prominence, and can be sorted for various bits of information, such as where these historic civil engineers were born and what their nationality is. The people on this list are from different countries, but what they all have in common is that they’re all renowned civil engineers.

1.Henry Larcom Abbot 
(August 13, 1831 – October 1, 1927)

Henry Larcom Abbot

Henry Larcom Abbot was a military engineer and career officer in the United States Army. He served in the Union Army during the American Civil War and was appointed brevet brigadier general of volunteers for his contributions in engineering and artillery. In 1866 he received additional brevet appointments as major general of volunteers and brigadier general in the Regular Army. He conducted several scientific studies of the Mississippi River with captain, later Major General Andrew A. Humphreys. After his retirement, Abbot served as a consultant for the locks on the Panama Canal. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1863.

2. Duff A. Abrams
(1880, Illinois, – 1965, New York)

Duff A. Abrams

Duff A. Abrams was an American researcher in the field of composition and properties of concrete. He developed the basic methods for testing concrete characteristics still in use today. A professor with the Lewis Institute, he studied the component materials of concrete in the early 20th century.

D. A. Abrams was researcher, professor, and director of the research laboratory of the Portland Cement Association in Chicago. He investigated the influence of the composition of concrete mixes on the strength of the end product.

Some of the results of his research was:

  • the definition of the concept of fineness modulus;
  • the definition of the water-cement ratio;
  • a test method for the workability of a concrete mix by using what is called ‘Abrams cone’, see concrete slump test.
  • In a comprehensive research program, Abrams established the relationship between the water-cement ratio and the compressive strength of concrete. The results were first published in 1918 in D. A. Abrams, Design of Concrete Mixtures, Bulletin 1, Structural Materials Research Laboratory, Lewis Institute, Chicago, 1918.

He was also president of the American Concrete Association (ACI) from 1930 until 1931 and he was awarded the Frank P. Brown Medal in 1942.

3. Charles Adler Jr
(June 20, 1899 – October 23, 1980)

Charles Adler Jr.

Charles Adler Jr. was an American inventor and engineer. He is most known for developing devices meant to improve transportation safety, including sonically actuated traffic lights, colorblind road signals, pedestrian push-buttons, and flashing aircraft lights.

Well Known Inventions:

Automatic speed control system
During his time at Ma&Pa, Adler kept a journal of potential invention ideas for a later date. One of such ideas—the automatic speed-control system—became the focus of his career in the 1920s. He conceived the idea for this automobile safety feature on October 1, 1924 and had a working prototype by December 1925.

Adler’s speed control system was based on the idea of car speed governors, but he believed they should only be activated at particularly dangerous spots on the road. Adler’s system was composed of a series of bar magnets buried under the road 20 meters away from dangerous spots. At speeds over 24 km/h, this magnet activated a series of relays installed in the car which cut the car’s ignition. Once the car had passed over a similar second magnet, the ignition was restored, and the car would be able to accelerate like normal.

Rather than manufacturing the invention himself, Adler decided to publicize his work in hopes of finding a company to license it. He sold the idea to Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and received positive reactions from other buyers. Adler contacted 600 newspapers, magazines, and engineering journals, including Science Monthly and the New York Evening Post, to run stories on his system. However, on December 15, 1926 his financial investors suspended work until they could guarantee the support of the national government.

Sonically actuated traffic light
In the 1920s Adler worked on developing the sonically actuated traffic light. To operate it, drivers pulled up to a red light and honked their horns to make the light change. The system, designed for use on intersections between lightly traveled and major roads, was first installed by Baltimore on February 22, 1928 at the intersection of Falls Road and then-Belvedere Avenue (now Northern Parkway) and still stands today. Further production of this design was picked up by General Electric, but Adler’s traffic signal was beat out by another invention. This was the first actuated traffic signal in the US and served as the basis for modern traffic signals.

On February 4, 1929 Adler installed a pedestrian push button at the intersection of Charles Street and Cold Spring Lane in Baltimore. It was the first pedestrian-actuated signal.

Aviation Safety Signal
By the end of the 1930s, Adler’s work on traffic safety came to an end. After getting his pilot’s license and nearly colliding with another plane, he decided to pursue improvements in aviation safety. He patented an external lighting system for airplanes to help pilots better see each other at night. This patent, along with 9 of his other inventions, were transferred by Adler to the US government in the name of safety.

4. Truman Heminway Aldrich
(October 17, 1848 – April 28, 1932)

Truman Heminway Aldrich

Truman Heminway Aldrich was a civil engineer, a mining company executive, and a paleontologist, and briefly served in the United States House of Representatives and as Postmaster of Birmingham. He is the sole Republican ever to represent Alabama’s 9th congressional district, which existed from 1893 to 1963. His brother William F. Aldrich also represented Alabama in Congress, serving three partial terms during 1896–1901 from Alabama’s 4th congressional district.

5. Bernard Amadei
(July 23, 1954 in Roubaix, France)

Bernard Amadei

Bernard Amadei is a professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, founder of Engineers Without Borders (USA), and former director of the Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a recipient of the Hoover Medal. In 2009, he was recognized with an Award of Excellence from Engineering News-Record. In 2012, Dr. Amadei was appointed as a Science Envoy by the U.S. Department of State.

6. Sir David Anderson

Sir David Anderson

Sir David Anderson was a Scottish civil engineer and lawyer. Anderson was born in 1880 at Leven, Fife, Scotland. In 1921, on his return from Army service, Anderson joined a partnership with fellow engineers Basil Mott and David Hay, forming the company Mott Hay and Anderson. Mott, Hay and Anderson traded until 1989, when it merged with Sir M MacDonald & Partners to form Mott MacDonald. Anderson was elected president of the Institution of Civil Engineers for the November 1943 to November 1944 session.

7. Othmar Hermann Ammann
(March 26, 1879 – September 22, 1965)

Othmar Hermann Ammann

Othmar Hermann Ammann was a Swiss-American structural engineer whose bridge designs include the George Washington Bridge, Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, and Bayonne Bridge. He also directed the planning and construction of the Lincoln Tunnel.

Ammann designed more than half of the eleven bridges that connect New York City to the rest of the United States. His talent and ingenuity helped him create the two longest suspension bridges of his time. Ammann was known for being able to create bridges that were light and inexpensive, yet they were still simple and beautiful. He was able to do this by using the deflection theory. He believed that the weight per foot of the span and the cables would provide enough stiffness so that the bridge would not need any stiffening trusses. This made him popular during the depression era when being able to reduce the cost was crucial. Famous bridges by Ammann include the following:

  • George Washington Bridge (opened October 24, 1931)
  • Bayonne Bridge (opened November 15, 1931)
  • Triborough Bridge (opened July 11, 1936)
  • Bronx–Whitestone Bridge (opened April 29, 1939)
  • Walt Whitman Bridge (opened May 16, 1957)
  • Throgs Neck Bridge (opened January 11, 1961)
  • Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge (opened November 21, 1964)

The George Washington Bridge was originally designed to have its steel structure clad in dressed stone, omitted from the final design due to cost constraints stemming from the Great Depression. Ammann’s managerial skills saw the bridge completed ahead of schedule and under budget.

The Bronx-Whitestone Bridge had to be reinforced after only one year of operation because of perceptible movement during high winds. Warren trusses were initially implemented to stiffen the bridge, spoiling its classic streamlined looks. They have been removed and the wind problem solved using triangular shaped lightweight fiberglass aerodynamic fairing along both sides that slices the wind as it passes over the bridge.[4]

In addition to his work on bridges, Ammann also directed the planning and construction of the Lincoln Tunnel.

8. Apollodorus of Damascus
(Greek: Ἀπολλόδωρος ὁ Δαμασκηνός)

Apollodorus of Damascus

Apollodorus of Damascus was a Syrian-Greek engineer, architect, designer and sculptor from Damascus, Roman Syria, who flourished during the 2nd century AD.

Apollodorus was a favourite of Trajan, for whom he constructed Trajan’s Bridge over the Danube, for the 105–106 campaign in Dacia.
He also designed Trajan’s Forum, the Temple of Trajan, and Trajan’s Column within the city of Rome, beside several smaller projects. Apollodorus also designed the triumphal arches of Trajan at Beneventum and others at Ancona.[6] He is widely credited as the architect of the third iteration of the Pantheon, and cited as the builder of the Alconétar Bridge in Spain. In 106 he also completed or restored the Odeon of Domitian begun in the Campus Martius under Domitian.
Trajan’s Column, in the centre of the Forum, is celebrated as being the first triumphal monument of its kind. On the accession of Hadrian, whom he had offended by ridiculing his performances as architect and artist, Apollodorus was banished and, shortly afterwards, being charged with imaginary crimes, put to death. He also wrote a treatise on Siege Engines (Πολιορκητικά), addressed to an unnamed emperor, likely Trajan. The monumental Danube Bridge of Apollodorus. Apollodorus himself stands in the foreground behind the sacrificing emperor. The story about Apollodoru’s death demonstrates the persistent hostility felt towards Hadrian in senatorial circles long after his reign, for if Cassius Dio included it in his history, he must have believed it. Many since have taken Dio’s anecdote at face value, while others have doubts.

9. William George Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong CB FRS
(26 November 1810 – 27 December 1900)

William George Armstrong

William George Armstrong, was an English industrialist who founded the Armstrong Whitworth manufacturing concern on Tyneside. He was also an eminent scientist, inventor and philanthropist. In collaboration with the architect Richard Norman Shaw, he built Cragside in Northumberland, the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity. He is regarded as the inventor of modern artillery.
Armstrong was knighted in 1859 after giving his gun patents to the government. In 1887, in Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee year, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Armstrong of Cragside.

Hydraulic accumulator
Armstrong was responsible for developing the hydraulic accumulator. Where water pressure was not available on site for the use of hydraulic cranes, Armstrong often built high water towers to provide a supply of water at pressure. However, when supplying cranes for use at New Holland on the Humber Estuary, he was unable to do this because the foundations consisted of sand. After much careful thought he produced the weighted accumulator, a cast-iron cylinder fitted with a plunger supporting a very heavy weight. The plunger would slowly be raised, drawing in water, until the downward force of the weight was sufficient to force the water below it into pipes at great pressure. The accumulator was a very significant, if unspectacular, invention, which found many applications in the following years.

10. Dr. John Jacob “Job” Crew Bradfield
(26 December 1867 – 23 September 1943)

Dr. John Jacob “Job” Crew Bradfield

Dr. John Jacob “Job” Crew Bradfield was a prominent Australian engineer who is best known for his work overseeing the design and building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.