Captain of industry was a term originally used in the U.S. during the Industrial Revolution describing a business leader whose means of amassing a personal fortune contributes positively to the country in some way. This may have been through increased productivity, expansion of markets, providing more jobs, or acts of philanthropy. This contrasts with robber baron, a term used to describe a business leader using political means to achieve their ends.
Some nineteenth-century industrialists who were called "captains of industry" overlap with those called "robber barons." These include people like J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller.
The term was first coined by Thomas Carlyle.