In 1452, a Hungarian engineer, known as Orban, offered to sell an extremely powerful cannon to the Roman Emperor. He refused, so Orban instead sold the cannon to the Ottoman emperor, who used it to breach the walls of Constantinople in 1453, which brought the end to the Roman Empire.
An engineer named Vic Tandy established a connection between supposed paranormal activity and infrasound frequency (~19Hz), which is below the range of human hearing and also roughly the resonant frequency of our eyeballs, causing some people to 'see' things that aren't there.
NASA engineers had issues with the honeycomb insulation of the Saturn V rocket, so they ended up hiring local surfers, who had experience in working with the material, to apply it to the rocket.
In 1969, an IBM engineer named Forrest Parry had the idea to affix magnetic tape to a plastic card. Every adhesive failed. He went home frustrated. His wife was ironing when he walked in. She suggested he fuse the tape onto the card with the iron. It was a success, and the magstripe card was born.
An aeronautics engineer named David Barrett resigned abruptly after seeing a vision of Jesus, spent 40 years single-handedly compiling the first and only complete list of Earth’s 10,000 existing religions and 33,830 denominations of Christianity. This led him to all 238 countries on Earth.
Adam Steltzner, a chief engineer of NASA's Mars 2020 project, was a music college dropout who failed high school geometry. He took his first physics class in a local community college only because it was a prerequisite for another class.
In the 1920s newly hired engineers at General Electric would be told, as a joke, to develop a frosted lightbulb. The experienced engineers believed this to be impossible. In 1925, newly hired Marvin Pipkin got the assignment not realizing it was a joke and succeeded.
A NASA engineer named Clayton Anderson spent 15 years trying to become an astronaut, being rejected 14 times before finally being selected in 1998.
A German engineer named Bernd Brandes volunteered to be killed and eaten by aspiring cannibal Armin Meiwes, who placed an ad on the internet looking for someone to be killed and eaten. After eating Brandes and going to jail, Meiwes became a vegetarian.
Engineers have created a chemical coating that causes cotton materials to clean themselves of stains and remove odors when exposed to sunlight.
In 2003, a New Zealand engineer named Bruce Simpson designed a $5,000 cruise missile using off the shelf parts sourced from the Internet. Despite being entirely legal, his project was shut down by the government.
In 1891, Chicago issued a challenge to all engineers to build a structure that would surpass the Eiffel Tower. The engineer who won proposed a giant rotating wheel that will lift visitors high above the city. The inventor of this giant wheel's name was George Ferris.
Albert Einstein's son, Hans Albert Einstein, was a famous hydraulic engineering professor who developed important equations for sediment transport in rivers. When reporters asked Albert what he thought of his son's career, he replied, "He is working on a more difficult problem."
The story that the Titanic engineers remained inside the ship till the end to keep the electricity running didn't actually happen.
Preventing an abort of the Apollo 11 mission has been attributed to the work of Margaret Hamilton, the lead flight software designer for Project Apollo. She was 31 when the lunar module landed on the moon, running her code, and is credited for coining the term “software engineering.”
Engineers building a bridge (High Rhine Bridge) between Germany and Switzerland found that when the two halves met their elevations differed by 54 cm. Germany bases sea level on the North Sea, and Switzerland by the Mediterranean; someone messed up the correction, doubling it instead of canceling it out.
A British engineer named Steve Whiteley won £1.5 million from a £2 bet. He correctly picked 6 winners in a running jackpot and bet on a horse that had lost 28 races.
When building the Golden Gate Bridge, a lead structural engineer named Joseph Strauss insisted on the installation of a safety net even though its $130,000 cost was deemed exorbitant. Over the four years of its construction, the net saved 19 men, who named themselves the “Halfway to Hell Club.”
A retired electrical engineer named Bruce Campbell had an old Boeing 727 delivered to the woods near Portland, Oregon and converted it into his home where he lives full time.
Engineers in Canada receive an Iron Ring to remind them to have humility. It is in memory of a bridge that collapsed twice due to incorrect calculations involving iron.
By 400 BC, Persian engineers had mastered the technique of using yakhchāls to create ice in the winter and store it in the summer in the desert.
In 1969, the Army Corps of Engineers accomplished an awesome feat. They turned off Niagara Falls. They did it to clean up the area and check for structural integrity.
Roger Boisjoly was an engineer working at NASA in 1986 who predicted that the O-rings on the Challenger would fail and tried to abort the mission but nobody listened to him.
An Argentinian engineer named Juan Pedro Baigorri Velar, in the 1930's apparently created a “rainmaking machine”. He made it rain in several places and then disappeared without a trace.
In 1953, a 20-year old Royal Air Force engineer named Ronald Maddison died while acting as a guinea pig for sarin gas testing at Porton Down, England. He was offered 15 shillings for the experiment, which he planned on using to buy an engagement ring for his girlfriend.
A former engineer in Japan claims to be the only heir to authentic ninjutsu. In his 60s, Jinichi Kawakami decided he will not appoint anyone as the next ninja grandmaster, saying: "We now have guns, the internet, and much better medicines, so the art of ninjutsu has no place in the modern age."
Israeli Intelligence assassinated an electrical engineer named Yahya Ayyash, AKA The Engineer, a notorious bombmaker of Hamas in a James-Bond Style. They arranged for his friend to receive a phone from his uncle, who supposedly received a payoff. When Ayyash borrowed it, they remotely detonated it, decapitating him.
In 1945, a radar engineer named Percy Spencer was working at Raytheon. He stepped in front of a magnetron, a device that powers radars. He noticed a chocolate bar in his pocket had melted. Later that year, he filed a patent for the first microwave oven.
A Volvo engineer named Niels Bohlin invented the three-point seatbelt, but Volvo gave away the patent to other manufacturers because it had more value as a free life-saving tool.
A NASA engineer named Jack Garman memorized all the possible error codes of Apollo 11 and saved the mission from being aborted.
Taiwanese engineers put snacks of the “Kuai Kuai” brand next to or on top of machines and server rooms. They believe that because the name of the snack – “Kuai Kuai” - stands for “obedient” the device will function without errors. They use green bags only, and ensure that the snacks are not expired. This practice is even put in as a contract requirement in their German oversea contract.
A Russian Jewish engineer named Jakow Trachtenberg developed a system of rapid mental calculation (The Trachtenberg system) while being held in a Nazi concentration camp in order to keep his mind occupied.
Yasuteru Yamada is a retired engineer who after watching the news coverage of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, organized a group of more than 200 fellow retirees and volunteered to go to the site and assist in the cleanup so that the younger generation didn't have to and risk exposure to radiation.
In 1902, a Romanian Engineer named Traian Vuia designed his first flying machine, then presented his plan to the Académie des Sciences in Paris in 1903, but was rejected with the comment: "The problem of flight with a machine which weighs more than air can not be solved and it is only a dream."
A chemical engineer named Dave Whitlock hasn’t bathed in more than 12 years. Instead, the MIT graduate sprays himself with live bacteria and is working with AOBiome, a company that uses naturally occurring bacteria in skin-care products to clean and eliminate odor and sweat.
Noshir Gowadia, a design engineer of the B-2 stealth bomber was convicted in 2011 of using classified information to assist the People's Republic of China. He was sentenced to 32 years and is at the supermax prison known as the "Alcatraz of the Rockies" ADX Florence.
An engineer named Matt Bowtell makes prosthetic limbs for people for free using his 3D printer.
The Voyager engineers calculated over 10,000 launch windows so that encounters between the craft and the planets on its trajectory didn't happen during Thanksgiving or Christmas, allowing them to stay home for the holidays.
The chief engineer of the 2nd generation Toyota Sienna, Yuji Yokoya, and his family drove the 1st generation one over 53,000 miles throughout North America to find out its weaknesses.
A NASA engineer named Jerry Woodfill who devised the scheme to rewire the batteries in the Apollo 13 module got the idea from a movie he had seen the day of the spacecraft accident. In that movie three astronauts are stranded in space in a crippled spacecraft.
A Swiss-American engineer named Othmar Ammann was the lead engineer of more than half of NYC crossings including the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel. His designs were inexpensive and elegant allowing the projects to be completed on time and under budget.
Liviu Librescu was a Romanian-born Israeli and American engineer, scientist, professor, teacher, and a Holocaust survivor who held the door of his classroom during the Virginia Tech shootings sacrificing his life while the gunman continuously shot through the door saving 22 of his 23 students.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory Engineers from NASA sent two probes to Mars called MarCO A and MarCO B that are nicknamed "WALL-E" and "EVE" based off of the Disney movie Wall-E. Both probes were used to help in the landing of Insight by providing real-time communication back on Earth.
A software engineer named Ken Kocienda designed software-assisted typing for the first iPhone keyboard that all phones now use. After typing letters such as T other letters commonly used after T such as H (the, that) look the same on-screen but have a larger hitbox making it easier to click.
Tommy Flowers was an English engineer with the British Post Office. He built one of the first computers ever to break the cipher used by the German High Command. One of the decrypted messages about troop movements in Normandy was instrumental in Eisenhower giving the green light for the D-Day invasion.
African-American inventor Lonnie Johnson, a former NASA, and U.S. Air Force engineer, invented and patented the Super Soaker. He used his fortune to start his own company, which is currently developing a high-efficiency heat engine for solar power generation.
The slinky was invented by accident when a Mechanical Engineer named Richard James was working to devise springs that could keep sensitive ship equipment steady at sea. After accidentally knocking some samples off a shelf, he watched in amazement as they gracefully “walked” down instead of falling.