12 Most Important Scientists in History

A lot of today’s technological advancements can be attributed to the theories and discoveries of the past. They were the result of intense research and experiments done by great scientists over the years. However, we tend to forget this fact while working on computers or when launching space missions. This article is a tribute to all those great scientists.

If we include the scientists and inventors of all time, this list would be too long. So, we’ve listed only the twelve most influential scientists in this article. Now, without further ado, let’s see who they are:

1. Nicolaus Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Poland on the 19th of February 1473. He was a Catholic canon, mathematician, and astronomer from the Renaissance era. Copernicus developed a model that placed the sun at the centre of the universe instead of the earth. 

About eighteen centuries earlier, an ancient Greek astronomer known as Aristarchus of Samos had formulated a similar model. Nevertheless, it is highly possible that Copernicus had developed his own independent model.

2. Galileo

An Italian physicist, astronomer, and engineer, Galileo is also described as a polymath from Pisa at times. He was born as Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de’ Galilei in Italy on the 15th of February 1564. Besides inventing the thermoscope and a variety of military compasses, he also used the telescope for celestial observations. 

He was opposed by a few astronomers and the Catholic Church for contradicting the scriptures with his scientific views. Eventually, he was forced to recant and was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life.

3. Robert Boyle

He is renowned for his experimental gas law called Boyle’s law. It describes how the absolute pressure has an inversely proportional relationship with the volume of a gas. The only condition is that this must be within a closed system with a constant temperature. His book The Sceptical Chemist is highly regarded in chemistry.

He was born Anglo-Irish on the 25th of January 1627. Robert Boyle is regarded largely as the first modern chemist today. He was also an inventor, a natural philosopher, and physicist.

4. Sir Isaac Newton

Newton is recognized worldwide as one of the key figures in the scientific revolution. He is also considered one of the most influential scientists the world has ever seen. His laws of motion and universal gravitation dominated the world of science for quite a long time. Among his prominent inventions were The Newtonian, which was the first practical reflecting telescope. 

Born on Christmas day in 1642, Newton had devoted much of his time to biblical chronology and alchemy. In the early 18th century, he was knighted by Queen Anne. He was personally and politically associated with the Whig party.

5. Mary Anning

Born in England’s Dorset county on 21st of May 1799, Mary Anning is known for her Jurassic fossil finds. She was a fossil collector and dealer besides being a paleontologist. Her findings influenced the scientific thinking of those times about the prehistoric life on earth. Most of her finds were made in the marine beds and cliffs along the English Channel. 

Among her discoveries were the Ichthyosaur and Plesiosaur skeletons. In Britain of the 19th century, women were never allowed to fully participate in the scientific community. As a result, she didn’t often receive full credit for the contributions she made in the field of science.  

6. Michael Faraday

He discovered the underlying principles of electrolysis, electromagnetic induction, and diamagnetism. Born in Newington Butts, which was in those times Surrey’s suburban portion, Michael Faraday had little formal education. Despite this, he became one of history’s most influential scientists. 

Faraday created the basis for the concept of the electromagnetic field through his research. It was on the magnetic field surrounding a conductor, which carried a direct current. Among his prominent discoveries is benzene, which he discovered as a chemist. He also held a lifetime position at the Royal Institution as a Fullerian Professor of Chemistry.

7. Charles Darwin

In his book On the Origin of Species published in 1859, Darwin described his theory of evolution with acceptable evidence. Nearly two decades later, the theory was widely accepted among the educated public and the scientific community. He neglected his medical education. Instead, he chose to help in investigating marine invertebrates owing to his keen interest in nature. 

Charles Robert Darwin was born on the 12th of February 1809 in the English county of Shropshire. He conceived his theory of natural selection in 1838 after detailed investigations. His series of research were published in several books including The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

8. Marie Curie

Maria Salomea Sklodowska was born in the Polish capital of Warsaw on the 7th of November 1934. She studied at Flying University in Warsaw, where she also began her practical scientific training. In 1895, she married Pierre Curie and came to be known as Marie Curie. Her husband was a French physicist who pioneered magnetism, crystallography, radioactivity, and piezoelectricity. 

Marie Curie pioneered the theory of radioactivity along with her husband and the physicist Henri Becquerel. For their work, they shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first and the only woman to win the Nobel Prize (two times) She was also the only person to win this coveted prize in two scientific fields.

9. Alexander Graham Bell

A scientist, inventor, and engineer, Alexander Graham Bell was born on the 3rd of March 1847. He invented and patented the first practical telephone and co-founded AT&T in 1885. Most of his life’s works were influenced by the deafness of his mother and wife. 

He experimented with hearing devices as a part of his research on hearing and speech. Eventually, it got him the US patent on the 7th of March 1876 for the telephone. And later he made many other inventions, including some major ones in hydrofoils, optical telecommunications, and aeronautics. He also had a strong influence on the National Geographic Society, although he was not one of its founders.

10. Nikola Tesla

Tesla was born in present-day Croatia as an ethnic Serb on the 10th of July 1856. He was a Serbian-American inventor, futurist, mechanical engineer and electrical engineer. He never received a formal education. Without receiving a degree, he studied engineering and physics in the 1870s. 

Tesla gained practical experience by working in telephony and in the new electric power company in 1880s. He also worked for a brief period at the Edison Machine Works after emigrating to the United States. He had talked about the possibilities of wireless communication in 1893. Nikola Tesla is also renowned for his design of the alternating current (AC).

11. Albert Einstein

Einstein is renowned globally as one of the greatest physicists of all time after Isaac Newton. He developed the theory of relativity, which became one of the pillars of modern physics. His formula of mass-energy equivalence became the most famous equation in the world. The intellectual achievements of Einstein resulted in his last name becoming synonymous with genius.

He was born on the 14th of March 1879 in Ulm, which was a part of the German Empire. Before he left the German Empire, he had received his primary and secondary school education. He received a PhD from the University of Zurich in 1905. In 1940, he became an American citizen. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 for his works in theoretical physics.

12. Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking was the first to put forth a theory of cosmology. This was explained by combining quantum mechanics and the general theory of relativity. Some of his significant scientific works include a theoretical prediction of black holes emitting radiation. This is often referred to as ‘Hawking radiation’. He discussed cosmology and his theories in general in his book A Brief History of Time. The book was on The Sunday Times best-seller list for 237 weeks.

Born on the 8th of January 1942 in Oxford, Hawking was known as ‘Einstein’ at school. He received a first-class BA (Hons.) degree from the University of Oxford in physics. He got his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1966, despite struggling with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

We’re sure you might have understood how important the discoveries of these scientists were for all the recent technological advancements. Who according to you is the best among them? Do let us know in your comments.

12 Most Important Scientists in History

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