Facts about inventors and their inventions from around the world.

James Watt

Watt’s improvements to existing steam engines, including the introduction of a separate condenser that allowed a faster rate of operation and a significant saving in fuel, revolutionized the mining and textile industries in England and the world in the late eighteenth and into the nineteenth century. Born: January 19, 1736; Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland Died:August 25,… read more »

George Westinghouse

Westinghouse’s invention of dependable braking systems for trains, controlled from the locomotive by the engineer or from railcars by conductors, brought him recognition and enormous wealth. Westinghouse received patents for 361 inventions during his career, and by the beginning of the twentieth century he had organized more than fifty companies, thirty of which he served… read more »

Don Wetzel

Wetzel conceptualized and helped design the first successful automated teller machine (ATM). Though other ATMs had been developed before the Wetzel ATM, he developed the management ideas that made the invention a success, showing banks how to generate a population of clients who used the machines. Born: 1928; New Orleans, Louisiana Also known as:Donald Claude… read more »

Charles Wheatstone

Wheatstone was a prolific inventor in the fields of acoustic and electric technology. He is best known for his invention of new musical instruments and his contributions to the development of telegraphy. Born:February 6, 1802; Barnwood, Gloucestershire, England Died:October 19, 1875; Paris, France Also known as:Sir Charles Wheatstone Primary fields:Communications;music; physics Primary inventions:Enchanted lyre; electric… read more »

Eli Whitney

Whitney is credited with inventing the cotton gin, a machine that separated cottonseed for the short-staple cotton fiber. He is also credited with devising a method by which muskets could be manufactured with interchangeable parts. Born:December 8, 1765; Westboro, Massachusetts Died: January 8, 1825; New Haven, Connecticut Primary fields:Agriculture;military technology and weaponry Primary inventions:Cotton gin;musket… read more »

Sir Frank Whittle

Whittle designed and built the engine that revolutionized aviation and ushered in the modern age of the jet aircraft. His engine has been called the greatest engineering development ever to occur in aviation. Born: June 1, 1907; Coventry, Warwickshire, England Died:August 8, 1996; Columbia, Maryland Primary field:Aeronautics and aerospace technology Primary invention: Jet engine Early… read more »

Otto Wichterle

Wichterle discovered the hydrogel polyhydroxyethyl methacrylate (poly-HEMA), a synthetic polymer (plastic) that could absorb and retain water, and developed a method for molding it into flexible, soft contact lenses. He patented dozens of types of plastics and methods for their use or manufacture, and he wrote extensively on organic and inorganic chemistry, polymer science, and… read more »

Sheila Widnall

The first woman to serve on the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Widnall became an internationally renowned expert in fluid dynamics who revolutionized the field with her work on aircraft turbulence, vortices, and spiraling airflows. Born: July 13, 1938; Tacoma, Washington Also known as:Sheila Evans Widnall (full name); Sheila Evans (birth name) Primary fields:Aeronautics and… read more »

Paul Winchell

Though better noted as a television personality and entertainer than as an inventor, Winchell developed innovations that ran the gamut from dramatic medical breakthroughs to novelties to unobtrusive everyday articles. His greatest accolades came as a result of his invention of the artificial heart, which purportedly became the model for the Jarvik-7 heart. Born:December 21,… read more »