Innovation is the process of creating something new that makes life better. Innovation is impossible without passion. Innovators see the world differently.
Innovators end up becoming obsessed with taking the world from as it is to as it should be. They become obsessed with making the world better. Many innovators in the for-profit sector focus incessantly on bringing value to market. Others focus incessantly on the core research needed to push the human race forward. Regardless of the sectors we play in, we are all relentlessly focused on solving problems and creating a better world than the one that exists today.
Here’s a list of the greatest innovators of all time, followed by some of the greatest innovators of the last 30 years and the best up and coming Gen Y innovators.
Let me know in the comments anyone you think we should add to the list.
- Thomas Edison. One of the most significant innovators and inventors in American history, Edison is perhaps best known for inventing the first long-lasting, commercially practical incandescent light bulb. He was the father of many other breakthroughs, including the first phonograph and the motion picture camera, and he was influential in developing the first economically viable way of distributing light, heat, and power from a central station.
- Steve Jobs. The iconic American entrepreneur and founder of Apple will go down in history as one of the great innovators. As CEO of Apple in the 1980s and again in the late 90s and 2000s, Jobs played a central role in the personal computer revolution and in developing its key products, including the McIntosh, the iPod and the iPhone.
- Nikola Tesla. A great inventor, engineer, and futurist, Tesla helped develop the AC electrical delivery system. Infamous for his wild experiments and colorful personality, Tesla ‘s creative work regarding the production and transmission of power was far ahead of his time.
- Bill Gates. One of the great businessman/philanthropists of the last century, Gates founded and built Microsoft into an unmatched software behemoth before leaving to state the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a multi-billion dollar philanthropic enterprise working to enhance global healthcare and reduce poverty.
- Benjamin Franklin. One of the founding fathers of the United States, Franklin was a brilliant polymath, inventor, political theorist, scientist, statesman, and writer. He had a prodigious scientific mind, and his interests varied widely, but in addition to politics, he is perhaps best known for his experiments with lightning and electricity.
- Leonardo Da Vinci. The original “Renaissance man,” Da Vinci is best known for his paintings (the Last Supper, the Mona Lisa) but he was also a philosopher, engineer, and inventor. He left behind him a collection of extraordinarily prescient drawings depicting future technologies (helicopter, tank, solar power).
- Alexander Graham Bell. A Scottish inventor and engineer, Bell was awarded the US patent for the telephone in 1876. His work on telecommunications, aeronautics, and many other areas (he invented the metal detector) earned him a reputation as one of the great figures of the nineteenth century.
- Sandford Fleming. A Scottish-Canadian innovator and inventor, Fleming used his engineering, surveying, and mapmaking skills to help build the transcontinental railways of the nineteenth century. He was also the inventor of worldwide standard time and the standard times zones used today.
- Marie Curie. The first female winner of the Nobel Prize in 1903 (she won it twice in both physics and chemistry), Curie was a pioneering physicist and chemist who is known for her breakthrough ideas in radioactivity and her discovery of two elements.
- The Wright brothers. Orville & Wilbur Wright invented and flew the world’s the first successful airplane in 1903. Their persistence, experimentation, and work on the principles of flight made them legendary inventors and innovators.
- Galileo Galilei. The legendary Italian genius whose breakthrough ideas helped usher in the scientific revolution in the seventeenth century, Galileo is often called the father of modern science. Forced to defend his views of heliocentrism against the Roman Inquisition, and spending most of his life under house arrest for heresy, Galileo has become an icon of scientific integrity in the face of religious dogmatism.
- Richard Feynman. One of the great scientists of the twentieth century, Feynman’s breakthrough ideas in Quantum theory helped revolutionize that field.