Friday, August 8, 2008

50 Most Influential Physicists/Astronomers of All-Time

1. Isaac Newton - English. Quantified and Qualified laws of motion and gravity. Invented the reflecting telescope. Explained the concept of light dispersion and co-invented the Calculus.

2. Albert Einstein - German/Swiss/American - Developed Theories of Special and General Relativity. Described Brownian Motion. Nobel Prize winner for his work on the photoelectric effect. Showed mass-energy equivalence.

3. Galileo Galilei - Italian - Discovered the law of Uniformly accelerated motion. Improved on the refracting telescope. Discovered the Four largest moons of Jupiter. Described projectile motion and the concept of weight. He is however best known for his championing of the Copernican theory of heliocentricity against church opposition.

4. Michael Faraday - Self taught English Physicist - Showed how a changing magnetic field can be used to generate an electric current. This is the Principle of Electromagnetic Induction that is used in today's electric generators. He applied this knowledge to the development of several electrical machines as well. Described principles of electrolysis. Early pioneer in the field of low temperature study

5. Johannes Kepler - German - Outlined Three fundamental laws of planetary motion. Described elliptical motion of planets around the sun. Work served as the precursor to that of Newton's.

6. Archimedes - Greek - Described concept of buoyancy. Developed formulae for the areas and volumes of spheres, cylinders, parabolas, and several other solids. Worked extensively with levers. Also invented the Archimedes screw to raise water. In warfare he developed several siege engines that served to hamper the Roman invasion of his home city of Syracuse.

7. Nikolai Tesla - Yugoslavian/American - Champion of alternating current flow (which is the means by which electric power is carried in our modern network). Improved on the dynamo, transformer and electric bulb and invented the Tesla coil.

8. Max Planck - German - Father of Quantum mechanics. Showed how the energy of a photon is proportional to its frequency.

9. James Maxwell - Scottish - Developed equations for electromagnetism and the kinetic theory of gases. He predicted that other that there were other types of radiation beyond that of visible light. Showed that light was a type of electromagnetic radiation.

10. Marie Curie - Polish - Two time Nobel Prize winner. With Henri Becquerel and her Pierre she discovered radioactivity. She also isolated Plutonium and Radium.

11. Niels Bohr - Danish - Used Quantum mechanical model to show how electron energy levels are related to Spectral lines.

12. Erwin Schrödinger - Austrian - Famous for the equation that bears his name. Describes the wave action and behaviour of matter.

13. Werner Heisenberg - German - Developed method to express Quantum mechanics in terms of matrices. Best known for his Uncertainty Principle.

14. Ernest Rutherford - New Zealander/British - Father of Nuclear Physics. Showed how the atomic nucleus has a positive charge. Was the first to change one element into another by an artificial nuclear reaction.

15. Nicolas Copernicus - Polish Monk - Wrote 400 Page treatise 'On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres' that argued that the Earth revolved around the sun. The book challenged the way the world was viewed leading to much ecclesiastical opposition.

16. Christiaan Huygens - Dutch - Developed Wave Theory of Light and discovered polarization.

17. James Joule - English - Showed that heat is a form of energy. Also demonstrated that gas expansion with no work leads to a fall in temperature. Work led to the Theory of Conservation of Energy.

18. Henry Cavendish - English - Showed that water was made up of the union of two gases. Determined the Universal Gravitation constant.

19. William Thomson Kelvin - Scottish - Major figure in Thermodynamics. Helped develop Law of Conservation of Energy. Studied Wave motion and vortex motion in hydrodynamics and produced a dynamical theory of heat.

20. Thomas Young - English - Furthered the doctrine of wave interference. Famous for his 'slit' experiments.

21. Enrico Fermi - Italian/American - Split the nucleus by bombarding it with neutrons. Built first Nuclear reactor in the US.

22. Richard Feynman - American - Known for his work on quantum electrodynamics, as well as for his visual representation of the behaviour patterns of interacting particles (Feynman diagrams).

23. Alessandro Volta - Italian - Built the first electrical battery. First scientist to do substantial work with Electric currents.

24. Heinrich Hetrz - German - Discovered radio waves and determined their velocity.

25. Benjamin Franklin - American - Worked with electricity. Defined positive and negative charges.

26. John Bardeen - American - Developed the point contact transistor (won Nobel Prize with Walter Brattain and William Shockley in 1956). Won a second Nobel Prize (1972) for work on Superconductivity (shared with Leon Cooper and John Schrieffer).

27. Georg Ohm - German - Determined law in electricity that states that current is equal to the ratio of voltage to resistance.

28. Paul Dirac - English - Developed theory of the spinning electron. Proposed the existence of anti-matter.

29. Robert Millikan - American - Determined the charge on an electron. Did vital work with Cosmic Rays.

30. Edwin Hubble - American - Discovered that the universe is expanding. Established a ratio between the rate of expansion and the distance between galaxies.

31. Pieter Zeeman - Dutch - Discovered the Zeeman effect, whereby a ray of light placed in a magnetic field is split spectroscopically into several components. This has helped physicists investigate atoms, study electromagnetic radiation and for astronomers to measure the magnetic field of stars.

32. Andre-Marie Ampere - French - Worked in field of Electrodynamics. Showed how an electric current produces a magnetic field.

33. Joseph John Thomson - English - Showed that Cathode rays were rapidly moving particles. Worked out that the mass of these individual particles (electrons) was less than 2000 times that of the atom itself.

34. Henri Becquerel - French - Discovered the natural radioactivity of uranium.

35. Louis de Broglie - French - Discovered the wave nature of electrons and particles.

36. Charles Coulomb - French - Determined that positive and negative charges attract one another and showed that the magnitude of the force diminishes with distance.

37. Georges Lemaître - Belgian - Proposed the Big Bang Theory of the origin of the Universe.

38. Christian Doppler - Austrian - Discovered that a wave's frequency changes when its source and the observer are moving relative to one another (the Doppler Effect).

38. Lise Meitner - Austrian - Discovered with Otto Hahn the radioactive element protactinium. Known for her work in Nuclear Physics she developed, with her nephew Otto Frisch, the concept of Nuclear Fission.

39. Hans Oersted - Danish - Discovered magnetic effect of an electric current.

40. Robert Boyle - Irish - Showed that the pressure and volume of a mixed mass of gas are inversely proportional. Was highly active as a Chemist as well.

41. Hendrik Lorentz - Dutch - Clarified Electromagnetic Theory of light. Developed concept of local time. Work would influence Albert Einstein.

42. Joseph von Fraunhofer - German -First to realize that dark lines in spectra of light can be used to determine makeup of celestial bodies.

43. Ludwig Boltzmann - Austrian - Father of Statistical Mechanics. Worked on the kinetic theory of gases.

44. Robert Hooke - English - Formulated the law of elasticity. Invented the balance spring, the microscope and the Gregorian telescope.

45. Evangelista Torrecelli - Italian - Inventor of the Barometer. Father of Hydrodynamics.

46. Wilhelm Weber - German - invented the electrodynamometer. First to apply the mirror and scale method of reading deflections.

47. Ernst Mach - Austrian - Showed how airflow is disturbed at the speed of sound.

48. John Wheeler - American - Theoretical physicist. Coined the terms black hole and worm hole.

49. Wilhelm Roentgen - German - Discovered x-rays.

50. Stephen Hawking - English - Noteworthy for his work in cosmology especially with respect to singularities. Predicts that a Black hole will convert its mass to radiation, then disappear.


Marcial said...

Why is Hawkings in this list!?, his most famous theory has been proven wrong. Black holes DO NOT destroy information. NRC.

Danilo said...

Wolfgang Pauli not in this list? Kind of ridiculous. Pauli's exclusion principle is a corner stone in physics! It explains the diversity of all the different elements, the immense variety we see in nature and ultimately gives rise to modern chemistry.

Wayne Chastain said...

Robert Oppenheimer?????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Wayne Chastain said...

Robert Oppenheimer?????????????????????????????????????????????????????

burke said...

Ed Witten--string theory. considered the most important physicist since Einstein. Dr. Brian Greene called him "possibly the greatest
theoretical physicist of all time"

takeo said...

Why is Stephen Hawking on here and not Roger Penrose?

Tewelde said...

And why Maxwell is so low in the list?

Maja Amanovic said...

Neton was not a physicist, he was mathematician. And, Tesla done much, much more than what is written... But, who am I to speak, I'm not the one who created this list.

Denny Plowman said...

What about George Green? (1793-1841) whose work on the mathematical analysis of electricity and magnetism led to Green's Theorem and Green's functions. These techniques have found application in almost all branches of engineering and the physical sciences including quantum thermodynamics. Richard Feynman's famous Feynman's Diagrams were essentially visual representations of Green's mathematics

Steven Szabo said...

Leo Szilard?! Patented nuclear chain reaction in 1934, years before others even thought about it, because he got mad listening to a lecture by Rutherford claiming that chain reaction was impossible. Rutherford denied him lab space in London so he wasn't the one who found Uranium. He's also widely regarded as the original inventor of the electron microscope and liner accelerator as well as the cyclotron, for which other people got the credit for similar reasons. How about Eugene Wigner?!

saturnseeker said...

Where's me? I can do my 7 times table yeah

Farhad Sultanov said...

Susskind > Hawking. Know your history.

Metamatician said...

Pauli, Szilard belong in the top 50. Hawking does not. Maxwell should be top 5. Feynman should be higher. The jury is out on people like Witten - time will tell. Wheeler should me MUCH higher than #49, probably in the 20s... These lists are nearly impossible, though. You'll never please everyone, or probably anyone!

Naveed N Malik said...

Why Abdus Salam (1926-1996) for his work electroweak unification is not in the list?

Carl Swagan said...

If I am correct Newton was a physicist, I mean he was the one who laid the foundations for classical mechanics, he was also a mathematician, obviously (I mean he did create calculus...). As for Tesla, yeah he did so much that is unaccounted for.

Denis Siduna said...

James Clerk Maxwell was placed way too low. He did the second greatest unification of physics. Nobody had ever thought of unifying electricity, magnetism and light. even Einstein acknowledges his greatness