TOP TEN MOST IMPORTANT ENGINEERING
ACHIEVEMENTS OF ALL TIME

Innovation and technology in engineering has made our lives more efficient and enjoyable. From electricity to the internet, some of these engineering achievements have taken countless hours to perfect and many years to implement. It is hard to imagine life without these Top Ten Engineering Achievements listed below:

  1. Electricity - Scores of times each day, with the merest flick of a finger, each one of us taps into vast sources of energy—deep veins of coal and great reservoirs of oil, sweeping winds and rushing waters, the hidden power of the atom and the radiance of the Sun itself—all transformed into electricity, the workhorse of the modern world.
  2. Automobile - When Thomas Edison did some future gazing about transportation during a newspaper interview in 1895, he didn't hedge his bets. "The horseless carriage is the coming wonder," said American's reigning inventor. "It is only a question of a short time when the carriages and trucks in every large city will be run with motors." Just what kind of motors would remain unclear for a few more years.
  3. Airplane - Not a single human being had ever flown a powered aircraft when the 20th century began. By century's end, flying had become relatively common for millions of people, and some were even flying through space. The first piloted, powered, controlled flight lasted 12 seconds and carried one man 120 feet. Today, nonstop commercial flights lasting as long as 15 hours carry hundreds of passengers halfway around the world.
  4. Water Supply and Distribution - At the beginning of the 20th century, in the United States and in many other countries, water was both greatly in demand and greatly feared. Cities across the nation were clamoring for more of it as their populations grew, and much of the West saw it as the crucial missing ingredient for development. At the same time, the condition of existing water supply systems was abysmal—and a direct threat to public health.
  5. Electronics - Barely stifled yawns greeted the electronics novelty that was introduced to the public in mid-1948. "A device called a transistor, which has several applications in radio where a vacuum tube ordinarily is employed, was demonstrated for the first time yesterday at Bell Telephone Laboratories," noted an obviously unimpressed New York Times reporter on page 46 of the day's issue.
  6. Radio and Television - In the autumn of 1899 a new mode of communication wedged its way into the coverage of a hallowed sports event. Outside New York's harbor, two sleek sailboats—Columbia of the New York Yacht Club and Shamrock of the Ulster Yacht Club in Ireland—were about to compete for the America's Cup, a coveted international trophy. In previous contests the public had no way of knowing what happened on the water until spectators reached shore after the races. This time, however, reports would "come rushing through the air with the simplicity of light," as one newspaper reporter breathlessly put it.
  7. Agricultural Mechanization - You often see them from the window of a cross-country jet: huge, perfect circles in varying shades of green, gold, or brown laid out in a vast checkerboard stretching to the horizon. Across much of the American Midwest and on farmland throughout the world, these genuine crop circles are the sure sign of an automated irrigation system—and an emblem of a revolution in agriculture, the most ancient of human occupations. At the heart of this transformation is a single concept: mechanization.
  8. Computers - You often see them from the window of a cross-country jet: huge, perfect circles in varying shades of green, gold, or brown laid out in a vast checkerboard stretching to the horizon. Across much of the American Midwest and on farmland throughout the world, these genuine crop circles are the sure sign of an automated irrigation system—and an emblem of a revolution in agriculture, the most ancient of human occupations. At the heart of this transformation is a single concept: mechanization.
  9. Telephone - "The telephone," wrote Alexander Graham Bell in an 1877 prospectus drumming up support for his new invention, "may be briefly described as an electrical contrivance for reproducing in distant places the tones and articulations of a speaker's voice." As for connecting one such contrivance to another, he suggested possibilities that admittedly sounded utopian: "It is conceivable that cables of telephone wires could be laid underground, or suspended overhead, communicating by branch wires with private dwellings, country houses, shops, manufactories, etc."
  10. Air Conditioning and Refrigeration - Which of the appliances in your home would be the hardest to live without? The most frequent answer to that question in a recent survey was the refrigerator. Over the course of the 20th century, this onetime luxury became an indispensable feature of the American home, a mainstay in more than 99.5 percent of the nation's family kitchens by century's end.

Bonus Engineering Achievements

  • Highways - Sweeping visions were something of a specialty for William Durant, founder of General Motors, and he ran true to form in a 1922 interview. "Most of us," he said, "will live to see this whole country covered with a network of motor highways built from point to point as the bird flies, the hills cut down, the dales bridged over, the obstacles removed." Given the intensity of America's love affair with the automobile, his prediction wasn't so far-fetched.
  • Spacecraft - The event was so draped in secrecy that, despite its historic nature, no pictures were taken. But no one who was there—nor, for that matter, anyone else who heard of it—would ever forget the moment. With a blinding glare and a shuddering roar, the rocket lifted from its concrete pad and thundered into the early evening sky, soaring up and up and up until it was nothing more than a tiny glowing speck. On the plains of Kazakhstan, on October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union had just launched the first-ever spacecraft, its payload a 184-pound satellite called Sputnik.
  • Internet - The conference held at the Washington Hilton in October 1972 wasn't meant to jump-start a revolution. Staged for a technological elite, its purpose was to showcase a computer-linking scheme called ARPANET, a new kind of network that had been developed under military auspices to help computer scientists share information and enable them to harness the processing power of distant machines. Traffic on the system was still very light, though, and many potential users thought it was too complex to have much of a future.
From Top Ten Most Important Engineering Achievements of All Time