The Ten Greatest Engineers in Science Fiction History

Science fiction, one of the most popular forms of entertainment, is filled with extraordinary inventions. From time machines and starships to androids and warp drives, there is no end to the astonishing inventions and fantastic feats of engineering conjured up by artists and writers.

Starting in the 19th century with Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein, fictional engineers and mad scientists have worked their way into our culture. Whether an unstoppable robotic killing machine or a device that creates food out of thin air, nerds worldwide are captivated by science fiction engineers. Whether they work on a starship or out of their garage, these engineers work miracles through science, and we have beamed up the top ten ever.

Related: 10 Weapons That Belong in Science Fiction

10 MacGyver

Angus “Mac” MacGyver was the title character of this beloved 1980s action drama. Mac was the lead agent for the Phoenix Foundation, an agency dedicated to righting the world’s wrongs. The series was rebooted in 2016 but was not as successful as the original. In both series, MacGyver is a pacifist who dispatches his foes through science. He possesses a genius-level intellect, proficiency in multiple languages, superb engineering skills, excellent knowledge of applied physics, military training in bomb disposal techniques, and a preference for non-lethal conflict resolutions.

Some of his miraculous feats of engineering include stopping a missile launcher with a paper clip and making a “Rocket Thruster” by hitting a flare gun with a rock, launching himself and a man he rescues off of a mountain where he later releases a parachute and makes a swift getaway. MacGyver’s exploits are legendary, and his name has become synonymous with quick-thinking engineering heroics.[1]

9 Buckaroo Bonzai

Played by Peter Weller in the 1984 film of the same name, Buckaroo Bonzai was many things: a top neurosurgeon, particle physicist, race car driver, rock star, and comic book hero. His most extraordinary feat of engineering was the Oscillation Overthruster, an invention that allows an object to pass through solid matter unharmed.

Bonzai and his mentor, Dr. Tohichi Hikita, created the Overthruster together. However, the technology gets the attention of Dr. Lizardo, who wants to use it to help inter-dimensional aliens, the Red Lectroids, take over Earth. Bonzai and his crew of scientists and adventurers embark on a dangerous mission to thwart Lizardo and his alien allies. Ultimately, they win the day, and Buckaroo Bonzai secures his position on this illustrious list.[2]

8 Scotty

Montgomery Scott, aka Scotty, may be the most famous sci-fi engineer, and for a good reason. While he “cannae change the laws of physics,” he does accomplish some of the most incredible engineering feats in Star Trek lore. Scott discovered how to transport at warp speed and transported a couple of humpback whales onto a Klingon Bird of Prey. He managed to outwit the Gorn’s technology single-handedly.

After one of the most storied careers in Starfleet, on his way to a retirement colony, his shuttle crashed into a Dyson Sphere, and with no other options, Scotty put himself into “storage” in a transporter buffer. He stayed there for 75 years (he was 72 at the time) until the Enterprise-D found him.

“Beam me up, Scotty,” may be the most known catchphrase in sci-fi history. Scotty has now been played by three actors in the Star Trek universe. James Doohan, the original actor, died in 2005. In 2012, an urn with some of Doohan’s ashes flew into space aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9.[3]

7 Tony Stark

The Invincible Iron Man, aka Tony Stark, is perhaps the most talented engineer in the Marvel universe. With obvious credits to his name, such as creating the Iron Man suit from spare parts as a captive in a cave, it’s hard to argue his brilliance. In addition to creating the Iron Man suits, the War Machine suit, and automated Iron Man androids, he broke the PHOENIX FORCE into five parts.

For those who don’t know about the Phoenix force, it is a multiversal entity whose power is immeasurable. It can casually destroy planets and universes like a piece of glass. He is a founding member of the Avengers (Earth’s Mightiest Heroes), a billionaire playboy, and a genius. He held multiple Doctorates in Engineering by the time he was old enough to drink. He’s even created a fully functioning Time GPS, allowing the Avengers to travel anywhere in time or space.[4]

6 Kaylee Frye

Firefly may have only run for one season, but twenty years and one movie later, fans still cry for more. Among the motley crew aboard the Firefly-class ship Serenity was Kaylee Frye, their engineer. While Kaylee didn’t invent a new warp drive or save the world from aliens, she was hands down one of the most impressive starship engineers ever to grace the small screen.

What sets Kaylee apart is her natural aptitude for machines. She lacks the formal training most on this list had but makes up for it with ingenuity. There was never a situation Captain Reynolds got his crew in that Frye couldn’t get them out of. Kaylee got her position on the Serenity by fixing the ship when the previous mechanic said it was beyond repair. Her ability to fix machines was so innate that it almost seemed like a superpower. Kaylee was Serenity’s heart and soul, and she easily makes this list.[5]

5 Dr. Emmett Brown

One of everyone’s favorite mad scientists, Doc Brown, not only accomplished time travel, but he also created a time machine out of a Delorean. Brown invented the Flux Capacitor (which makes time travel possible), but Doc’s invention tended to make things worse wherever he went with it. Brown’s scientific and engineering prowess cannot be overstated, though.

When he was trapped in the late 19th century, he was able to build another time machine out of parts of the old one and a steam-engine train. He used his scientific mind to improve 19th-century technology without raising too much suspicion from the temporal locals, and in the end, he finally found a happy balance in time travel.

Brown was not only a genius but also had an unwavering dedication to his moral responsibilities to humanity as a genius. He would not let his inventions harm society. While that was his greatest obstacle, it was also his greatest achievement. [6]

4 The Doctor

Also known as Dr. Who, the title character of one of the longest-running television shows in history. The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, located in a binary star system 250 million light years from Earth. Not only does he travel through the multiverse inside his police call box-shaped TARDIS (bigger on the inside than the out), but he can also overcome any engineering obstacle using his sonic screwdriver (ineffective on wood)—the ultimate engineer’s tool.

Because it can pick locks, detonate land mines, dismantle equipment, and has countless other uses. The Doctor has used his brilliant scientific mind to escape countless disastrous situations, from deep space stations to earthbound mine shafts. There is no engineering obstacle the Doctor hasn’t encountered and overcome.[7]

3 Geordi La Forge

There are a lot of engineers in the Star Trek universe, especially in Starfleet. It should come as no surprise that their flagship, the USS Enterprise, would employ their best engineers. Among the great engineers who have served on ships of this name, none have surpassed the genius of Geordi La Forge. Geordi started as a junior lieutenant assigned to Conn, and after seven years, he became a commander and chief engineer.

There is no technology Geordi ever encounters that he cannot understand or make work. Geordi is one of a very select few people who understands and can work on positronics. He trained Chief Miles O’Brien, who went on to run DS9’s engineering corps. La Forge’s accomplishments are endless. He ended up as a commodore and curator of the Fleet Museum, where he spent about 20 years slowly rebuilding the Enterprise-D. He has collaborated with the greatest scientific minds in the Federation and has been regarded as the best engineer in Starfleet by many of his peers.[8]

2 Samantha Carter

Just an average everyday astrophysicist, engineer, pilot, and colonel in the U.S. Air Force, Samantha Carter was vital in establishing the Stargate program. She served as second in command for the flagship team, SG-1, for eight years before stepping into the lead position for one year. She got her Ph.D. in astrophysics with extensive knowledge in quantum mechanics while attending the U.S. Air Force Academy.

While Starfleet engineers use warp engines to move their ships through space, Sam worked a stargate that allowed her team to travel light years with a single step. Samantha Carter was not only a brilliant engineer but an effective tactical leader as well. She helped get her team through countless missions with her genius.[9]

1 Bulma

Wife of the irritable Saiyan Prince, Vegeta Bulma is quietly the most interesting character in the entire Dragon Ball series. She built a Dragonball detector from scratch. She also invented a portable shrinking machine, a time machine, and a generator that allowed Vegeta the hyper-training necessary to become a Super-Saiyan.

She’s constantly creating cool gadgets and hacking any technology she comes across. She created a universal translator to decipher alien languages and can use it to speak to animals. The list of her accomplishments goes for light years, making her the greatest engineer in all of science fiction.[10]

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