3 Notable Engineers Who Overcame Obstacles

3 Notable Engineers Who Overcame Obstacles

Dedicated to supporting people in need who are interested in pursuing careers in engineering, Phillips Charitable Organization provides financial aid to enable students to further their education and obtain STEM degrees. STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, is a priority in America’s educational system. For those with STEM majors, it is inspiring to look to the past to find examples of people in these fields who have overcome adversity. Students who are interested in the STEM fields may be encouraged to pursue their dreams by hearing the stories of notable engineers who have managed to overcome adversity and forge a path for future generations.
Some might say that the “American Dream” is based on the possibility of overcoming adversity in order to achieve success. Famous individuals in the STEM fields who have overcome obstacles can serve as role models for students.

The list of people from STEM fields who have overcome adversity to achieve success includes several famous scientists. Michael Faraday, known for his work with electricity; Marie Curie, known for her work with radioactivity; and George Washington Carver, known for his work in botany and agriculture, all overcame obstacles on the way to contributing their knowledge to advance society.

However, scientists are not the only ones in the STEM fields who have triumphed over obstacles. Read on to learn about famous engineers who managed to overcome adversity on the path to success.


  1. Edith Clarke

Image courtesy WIkipedia

According to the Maryland State Archives, Edith Clarke, who lived during the 19th century, was orphaned at a young age. Her difficult childhood could have had a devastating effect on her life. However, she persevered and achieved greatness in the field of electrical engineering. Some of her accomplishments, which are listed in the Maryland State Archives, include becoming the first woman to receive a Master of Science in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first woman to deliver a paper at the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE), the first woman elected as a fellow of AIEE, the first woman to become a professor of engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, and the first woman admitted to Tau Beta Pi, the previously all-male electrical engineering fraternity.


  1. Soichiro Honda

Soichiro Honda founded the Honda Motor Company, which is today known as a powerhouse in the automobile, motorcycle, and power products industries. However, his life was not always easy. Soichiro Honda had many hardships to overcome during the early 20th century on his path to success. Soichiro Honda was born into poverty and late became known for his free-spirited personality. Japanese society at the time was known for its focus on conformity, so Honda’s personality would have made him seem like an outsider to many people.

Additionally, after Soichiro Honda ended his schooling, he began an apprenticeship at the age of 15 at an automobile and motorcycle repair shop where he received room, board, and some spending money but no official salary. Furthermore, Soichiro Honda was found to be color blind when he was 20 years old. However, he did not let these difficult circumstances deter him.

His successes included owning his own automobile repair shop at the age of 21, inventing a lift to be used for automobile repair, designing and manufacturing a racing car, starting a company to manufacture piston rings that eventually grew to employ 2,000 people, and inventing a machine to automatically mill wooden propellers for airplanes. Eventually, Soichi Honda founded the Honda Motor Company, which has gone on to become one of the most successful companies in the world.


  1. Ursula Burns

Ursula Burns
Image courtesy IIP Photo Archive | Flickr

Business executive Ursula Burns grew up in New York City’s housing projects in the 1970s, with two siblings and a mother who worked extra jobs to send her daughter to Catholic school. Despite these challenging circumstances, she went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

Subsequently, she graduated with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University. She initially joined Xerox Corporation as a summer intern through its graduate engineering program for minority students. After obtaining her master’s degree, she joined the company full time and later went on to become its CEO, making her the first African American woman to serve as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.