The world has been, and will always be changed by highly-educated individuals. Having said that, some of the biggest innovators didn’t even have any sort of certified, formal education.
Keep in mind, this list isn’t to thwart new inventors away from finishing their degrees.
Leonardo da Vinci
The most classic example of a novel inventor would be Leonardo da Vinci, who also happened to be without a formal degree. While studying on his terms, he didn’t receive formal education like other kids, likely due to him being an illegitimate child.
He exceeded in art, science, and philosophy, but his inventions are what made the biggest impact on his legacy.
Of course, he wasn’t without any sort of education. He went under a 10-year apprenticeship with Verrocchio, where he learned essential technical skills.
Gregor is known as the "Father of Modern Genetics", and too did not have formal education.
He had worked on cross-breeding pea plants and took note of recessive and dominant traits in seeds. Later, he had brought his heredity experiments to mice and honeybees, although it was quite limited due to the opinion of the church on his experiments on animals.
Mendel’s work wasn’t widely recognized while he was alive, mostly due to blending inheritance being the popular opinion of botanists at the time. His research had later inspired other big names in science, like Charles Darwin.
People may have mixed feelings about Edison, but he undoubtedly left one of the biggest impressions in the electric & communications industries. And just like the two inventors above, he did not have a university degree.
He had 1,093 registered patents in the United States during his lifetime and hundreds more in other countries. His most notable ones being the phonograph, carbon telephone transmitter, and electric light, which are displayed at the Menlo Park laboratory.
Being the founder of Oracle and one of the richest billionaires in the world, Larry Ellison did it all without a degree. He’s publicly stated that “diplomas are for losers”, even though the tech companies he owns mostly employ college graduates.
Bill Gates is more popular nowadays for his work with the Gates Foundation, and you’ve probably seen him all over the news due to COVID-19. Some people might be surprised to know that he dropped out of Harvard to chase profit in the emerging software industry.
Starting as a hobby computer programmer, he and Paul Allen had noticed that computers were getting cheaper, and concluded that the price of software would like to exceed hardware. He was correct in a sense and using licensing for Windows and other products, the pair had built the biggest software empire in history.
The take away here isn’t necessarily that a degree is worthless, but there is much more to an inventor’s success than just their educational credentials. Whether you are fresh out of high school, in college, or someone with a blue-collar job, it’s entirely possible to take your invention ideas to the next level.