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Engineer of the Year Hall of Fame

Engineer of the Year Hall of Fame


Peruse our list below to get acquainted with our past Engineer of the Year winners. 


1: BURT RUTAN, 1988

Founder, Scaled Composites

Founder of California's Scaled Composites, was the very first Design News Engineer of the Year and one of the most admired engineers in America. His engineering team has designed, tested and flown a whole series of leading-edge aircraft, ranging from the Voyager - the first plane to fly around the world without refueling - to SpaceShipOne, the first privately funded manned aircraft to fly into space.


Engineer, General Electric

At General Electric, Rowland Redington led design teams in creating two significant medical diagnostic machines. In the 1970s, he became interested in Computed Tomography scanning and pushed GE to create a program that would work toward creating commercial CT scanners. Later, Redington out-did himself when he and his team worked with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology. His efforts caused GE to become the number one seller of both CT scanners and MRIs.


Computer Engineer

An insightful voice on the future of technology, Raymond Kurzweil pioneered leading products on artificial intelligence. He worked to develop an early reading machine for the blind in the late 1970s, linking an omnifont character recognition device with a synthetic voice. Over the years the company he founded, Kurzweil Computer Products, has worked to make the machine more sophisticated. Kurzweil went on to create more companies to create voice recognition systems that are now used by physicians for medical reports.

4: TERRY HABER, 1991

Terry Haber always emphasized the importance of creating safe medical devices to protect medical workers from deadly infections. He also created many devices to improve patients' conditions, including the heart valve. To prevent the spreading of disease, Haber created new safety syringes and collection tubes. At the time he was recognized as Engineer of the Year, Haber held 83 patents and had 20 more pending. Haber concentrated most of his efforts in the medical field but also created a smoke mask to protect airline passengers after an accident and hydraulic jogging shoes.


President, Thermo Cardiosystems Inc.

Victor Poirer was the lead design engineer for Thermo Cardiosystems' efforts to create a revolutionary heart pump. His company developed the LVAD, a heart pump that assists a patient's heart instead of replacing it. It allows the patient some mobility and also prevents infection and blood clotting. At the time of Poirier's election, the LVAD was in its experimental stages but working successfully in over 60 patients.


Astronaut, NASA

Bonnie Dunbar had always known she wanted to be an astronaut and made the dream a reality by breaking into engineering, a field dominated by men. She shaped and directed the course of science in space as the leading mission specialist in microgravity research for NASA.

7: DEAN KAMEN, 1994

President, DEKA Research and Development

Dean Kamen, president of DEKA Research and Development in New Hampshire, is the creative force behind many ground-breaking inventions, ranging from the HomeChoice portable kidney dialysis machine to the now famous Segway human transporter. Kamen also founded the FIRST program, dedicated to getting more young people interested in science and technology.


Jerome H. Lemelson has an impressive repertoire of around 500 patents, a record only trumped by Thomas Edison. Lemelson holds patents on various technologies, robots, bar code readers, camcorders and cordless telephones, to name a few. His dedication to improve simple things and his creative mind gained him recognition as Design News' Engineer of the year in 1995. Lemelson died in 1997 of liver cancer, a disease which he fought by inventing improvements on medical devices, gaining nearly 40 patents in the last year of his life.


Senior Vice President, Airplane Development and Definition

Alan Mulally led the development of the Boeing 777, which was the biggest manufactured product of the early 1990s. The 777 was designed entirely by computer, the first jetliner to be designed in such a way. Mulally worked with 24,000 engineers in the US and 12 foreign countries in a collaborative effort to create the jetliner.


Hughes Program Manager

Bernard Dagarin's work on the Galileo space probe project began in 1978. The project's goal, to plunge into the atmosphere of Jupiter, was both unique and high-risk and would take the better part of two decades to reach. The final product, a 747-lb probe with a 49-inch diameter, would be able to withstand the conditions of Jupiter's atmosphere. Blasted into space on October 18, 1989, the probe sat for more than six years, to be checked periodically, until its release in July 1995. From there the probe headed to Jupiter, facing questions about its durability in such intense conditions. The project was a success, providing much information about Jupiter's atmosphere.


Project Manager, Mars Pathfinder

As the project manager for Mars Pathfinder, Brian Muirhead set the tone for a new era of faster, better, cheaper missions at NASA. This highly ambitious project successfully landed the Sojourner rover on Mars, and paved the way for a family of rovers that are yielding vital new scientific findings. Brian is now the chief engineer of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

12: LYNN OTTEN, 1999

Design Engineer, Medtronic

Lynn Otten became the 12th Design News Engineer of the year as a result of her innovative technology in the treatment of Parkinson's Disease and other movement disorder patients. Her technology, ActivaTM Tremor Control, is a neurostimulation system that blocks the brain signals responsible for the uncontrolled shaking experienced by patients with movement disorders and allows them to carry out everyday tasks.


Biological Engineer

P. Hunter Peckham was recognized for his devotion to motor function restoration for those paralyzed by spinal cord injuries. In the 1970s, the field of functional electrical stimulation was just emerging and Peckham saw an opportunity for this tool to work as a bridge across the damaged nervous system, in effect allowing quadriplegics to use their hands. His research led to the design of the first FDA-approved neural prosthesis for hand function. This design became known as Freehand.


Engineer, VISX Corp.

While working for California-based VISX Corp., pioneered the first laser-based systems for vision correction, a technology that has improved the lives of millions of people the world over.


Ph.D. Mechanical Engineer

Finding reliable, long-term heart-assist devices remains an elusive goal for engineering. Penn State's Gerson Rosenberg is a world leader in the development of artificial organs for cardiology.

16: TOM VOS, 2003

Director of Safety System Technology, TRW

Tom Vos
worked for forty years focusing on the small amount of time that it takes a car accident to occur. During this time he was actively involved in developing safety restraint technology for the occupants in a car. These features include seat belts, integrated safety systems and air bags. In 2003, Design News recognized Vos for his continued efforts and successes in car safety. Vos constantly tests and examines the physics of a car crash, an event which is calculated out in milliseconds. He understands the mechanics, laws and anatomy of a crash, and as a result is in the frontline of ever-improving safety in automobiles.


Chief Engineer Advanced Development Project, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.

Paul Bevilaqua was recognized for his innovative lift-fan propulsion system for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The fan played a role in Lockheed Martin gaining what is historically the largest military contract. The technology permits an airplane to fly at high speeds and land vertically. Bevilaqua's fan system accomplished a long-thought-impossible goal of creating an aircraft with supersonic speeds, a short take off and a vertical landing.

18: JIM TIGHE, 2005

Chief Aerodynamicist, Scaled Composites

Jim Tighe was the driving force behind the aerodynamics of SpaceshipOne. The plane, which was created on a small budget (a $20 million donation from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen), does not fly very fast, which allows it to reach a higher altitude and contend better with other forces in the air. Tighe wrote his own computer program to use with a special SSI simulator, one of the many secrets to the SSI's success. This simulator allowed the pilots to practice before ever actually flying the plane. This computer and program would become critical in each test flight of the plane, later leading to the SSI's success flying against 20 other competitors.

19: TOM WATSON, 2006

Hybrid Propulsion Systems Manager, Ford

Tom Watson is responsible for the blend of two extremely different forms of power in an effort to sustain energy. Watson's knowledge of engines, transmissions and more made him a leading figure in this effort and brought Ford into a new age of fuel economy. The Ford hybrid achieves fuel economy by blending the power of an inline four-cylinder engine and a 70-kW electric traction motor. The power sent to the wheels varies by the driving situation. This system has surpassed its competitors in mpg for both highway and city driving.

20: TOM COGAN, 2007

Chief Project Engineer, Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Tom Cogan's co-workers and subordinates will tell you he symbolizes the new breed of consensus-driven engineering executives at Boeing that grew out of the 777 development. Cogan is the calm in the storm.
Read more about Tom Cogan and watch the 787 Dreamliner's chief project engineer accept his award at National Manufacturing Week!



Founder, KickStart International
Martin Fisher 2008 EoY
As the founder of KickStart International, a non-profit technology development, Fisher and the engineers he oversees have created a variety of micro-irrigation, oil-processing and building technologies that have resulted in the creation of more than 60,000 small-scale businesses that have lifted more than 300,000 people out of poverty, mostly in Africa.
Read more about Martin Fisher!


22: JB STRAUBEL, 2009                                                                               

CTO, Tesla Motors

Design News September coverJB Straubel oversaw the technical effort that took Tesla's electric Roadster to a battery-only range of a stunning 244 miles. Tesla's achievement is considered significant, even by traditional automotive competitors, because most production-level EVs have struggled to crack the 150-mile mark. Under Straubel, Tesla linked 6,800 lithium-ion cells together in a battery pack weighing 990 pounds, developed a patented cooling system to enhance the battery's safety, engineered a lightweight single-speed powertrain and tweaked the vehicle's aerodynamics and rolling resistance. The result: an electric car that races from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds and still gets more range than any electric production car in automotive history. Straubel is now spearheading the design of Tesla's Model S, an electric seven-seat sedan that's targeted for a 300-mile range. Read More about JB Straubel!






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