If we're talking trailblazers, we should probably get our vernacular right: These engineers are more likely to carefully plan and execute a well-designed trail than to light a fire to make their way through. Howard Grant is a terrific example of an engineer who systematically built a stellar reputation through his groundbreaking career and myriad professional activities.
Born in 1925, Grant became the first black graduate of the University of California Berkeley College of Engineering -- and that was just his first first. He went on to become the first black engineer for the city and county of San Francisco, where he addressed water engineering issues, and the first recorded black member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (that's three "firsts" if you're counting). He was also the man behind the Northern California Council of Black Professional Engineers, an organization that helps introduce the engineering field to black youth [source: UC Berkeley].