Facts about inventors and their inventions from around the world.

Felix Wankel

Wankel was an imaginative, self-trained engineer and inventor whose most memorable contribution was the development of the rotary engine that bears his name—the Wankel engine—and operates by using orbiting triangular rotors that function much as pistons do in conventional gas-powered engines. Born:August 13, 1902; Lahr, Germany Died:October 9, 1988; Lindau, West Germany (now in Germany)… read more »

Lewis Waterman

Waterman invented the first leak-proof fountain pen that could be relied on to perform properly. He founded the L. E. Waterman Company, which set the standard for quality pens and was instrumental in creating the market for fountain pens. Born:November 20, 1837; Decatur, New York Died:May 1, 1901; New York, New York Also known as:Lewis… read more »

Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt

Watson-Watt is often described as the “father of radar.” His experiments and research established the foundational physics of radar, while his administrative efforts and persuasiveness were instrumental in the development of a radar-based air defense system. While Watson-Watt’s work focused on the military applications of radar, the wartime development of miniaturized radar made possible the… read more »

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 »