Science and Tech

The Top 5 All-Time Heroes of Technology

Top 5 Tech Heroes 3x3

When we were first asked to pen a guest blog for The Escapist on the top all-time heroes of technology, we found ourselves with a problem: who to choose?

So many people have put forth amazing devices and advanced mankind’s understanding – choosing our own top five would be like asking necessity to select her favorite inventors!

(Get it? Because necessity is the mother of… never mind.)

We spent a lot of time in brainstorm and debate, and though it was tough, we were able to come up with our five favorite tech heroes of all time. Some are to be expected, and some may come as a bit of a surprise. Some are well-known, and others are relatively obscure. That said, in our minds, these are the five people without whom technology as we know it would have been most held back.

Sit back and tip a hat or a beer to these five – we owe them all a debt.

1. Michael Faraday (1791-1867)

Born into a blacksmith’s family in England during the Industrial Revolution, Faraday was an unlikely candidate to advance the world’s body of knowledge. He received very little formal education, and even after lucking into a job at the Royal Institution, Faraday ran afoul of his boss (famed chemist Humphry Davy) and was forced to ignore entire areas of research for fear of being fired!

Despite these handicaps, the clever Faraday was the first to build an electrical motor and the first to create electrical generators. He also first described the concept of electromagnetic fields. Without Faraday’s work, neither electrical systems nor cars could have ever been invented. How’s that for a foundation?

2. Thomas Edison (1847-1931)

Yes, yes, the internet loves Tesla, but for our money, Thomas Edison was the most impactful technologist of his time. The man invented the light bulb, for crying out loud! Can you imagine what your life would be like without the light bulb?

(Hint: right now, your house would probably be very dark. Warm, too, since there’d be fires lit everywhere.)

He pioneered the microphone, recorded music, the power grid, and about a thousand other things. All those mp3s you downloaded a decade ago (you know, before Spotify?) would be mere figments of the RIAA‘s imagination if not for Edison.

3. John Logie Baird (1888-1946)

Um, who? The man behind the television; that’s who. Most people don’t know this, but the television was invented in 1923 by a young man from Scotland.

(It’s true! The Scottish make more than just whisky and tape.)

Working alone in a tiny studio in London, John Logie Baird shot and displayed the first television images. Yes, his device was mechanical in nature, the equivalent of punchcard readers to today’s modern computers – but still, it was the first.

Years later, Utah farmboy Philo T. Farnsworth – his actual name – would improve upon Baird’s device with the first all-electronic television, but Baird was the pioneer who proved it could be done.

Couch potatoes all over the world, bow down!

4. Shuji Nakamura (1954- )

Shuji Nakamura is another relative unknown, which is a shame, particularly as he’s the only living technologist on this list!

Nakamura developed blue LED technology, which in itself, doesn’t sound so amazing, until you realize that without blue LEDs, we wouldn’t have Blu-Ray, the technology utilized in all current home console systems. (While Nintendo’s Wii U runs proprietary Wii U optical discs rather than open-standard Blu-Ray formatted discs, the technological specifications of the two platforms are effectively the same.) Have fun pulling that GameCube out of the closet; that’s the best it’ll ever get without Nakamura.

Blue LEDs are also a key technology enabling modern, energy-efficient lighting systems – so basically, Nakamura’s breakthrough is probably cutting your energy bill right now.

On top of all that, after Nakamura’s employers stiffed him over the bonus for his creation, he went ahead and sued ’em – and won. Ever want to stick it to your boss? Well, this guy did it! Is he a hero, or what?

Nakamura lives in California. Next time you’re out there, why don’t you go buy him a Coke?

5. Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

This one is sure to bring up some grumbles. But seriously, all fanboy/hater groveling and grumbling aside, Jobs did a lot to shape how we view technology.

User-friendly computers; touchscreen, multi-function phones; downloadable app stores – Jobs’ visions of how things could be are now effectively how things are. Odds are, you’re benefitting from one of his ideas right now, as you read this. How’s that for impact?

Have something – or someone to add? Comment away, or feel free to drop us a line – we’d love to hear from you! You can reach us via our web page at

Derek Cheung, Ph.D. holds 28 patents related to electronic and imaging technologies, mainly for defense and space systems. The former president and CEO of Rockwell Scientific Company, Dr. Cheung spent more than 30 years directing major research and development efforts in a wide variety of cutting-edge technologies, including information sciences, semiconductor technologies, electro-optics devices, and infrared sensors.  Currently Dr. Cheung is a key business and technology consultant for several high tech start-up companies in California, as well as the Advanced Science and Technology Research Institute in Hong Kong

Eric Brach has a twin background in business and writing. He has written scripts for Nintendo Wii games and articles for The Onion and numerous other newspapers, magazines, and journals across the country.

Dr. Cheung and Brach are also co-authors of Conquering the Electron: The Geniuses, Visionaries, Egomaniacs, and Scoundrels Who Built Our Electronic Age.


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