Famous 16th Century Scientists

Find out more about the greatest 16th Century Scientists, including Galileo Galilei, René Déscartes, Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 René Déscartes

René Déscartes.
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher and Writer
Birthdate: March 31, 1596
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: La Haye en Touraine, Touraine, France
Died: February 11, 1650
René Descartes, the father of modern philosophy, laid down the idea of rationalism, later followed by Spinoza and Leibniz. Descartes also contributed to the field of analytical geometry and led to the Cartesian coordinate system being named after him. His Meditations on First Philosophy is still taught at many universities.

 2 Tycho Brahe

Tycho Brahe.
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: December 14, 1546
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Knutstorp Castle, Sweden
Died: October 24, 1601
Danish astronomer and writer Tycho Brahe, an heir to a noble family, was one of the last greatest naked-eye astronomers. According to the Tychonic system of astronomy, the Sun orbited the Earth. His assistant Johannes Kepler used Tycho's astronomical data to form his laws of planetary motion.
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 3 John Napier

John Napier.
Famous As: Inventor of Logarithms
Birthdate: February 1, 1550
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Merchiston Tower, Edinburgh
Died: April 4, 1617

John Napier was a Scottish mathematician, astronomer, and physicist. He is credited with introducing logarithms as a means of simplifying calculations. He also invented Napier's bones, a manually-operated calculating device. In addition to his interest in mathematics, John Napier was also known for his skills as a magician; it is said that he dabbled in necromancy and alchemy.

 4 Gerolamo Cardano

Gerolamo Cardano.
Famous As: Polymath
Birthdate: September 24, 1501
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Pavia, Italy
Died: September 21, 1576

Italian polymath Gerolamo Cardano is best known for his iconic work Ars magna, or The Great Art, which contributed immensely to the field of algebra. Throughout his illustrious life, he had been a physician, a math lecturer, and an astrologer. He was also the first to describe typhus fever clinically.

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 5 Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci.
Famous As: Polymath
Birthdate: April 15, 1452
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Anchiano, Italy
Died: May 2, 1519

Widely regarded as one of the greatest painters ever, Leonardo da Vinci was an extremely talented polymath. While his work The Mona Lisa became the most famous portrait, his drawing The Vitruvian Man became a cultural icon. A man well ahead of his time, Leonardo is also known for his notes on science and invention.

 6 William Harvey

William Harvey.
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: April 1, 1578
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Folkestone, England
Died: June 3, 1657

The first to discover the entire process of human blood circulation, physician William Harvey was a Royal College of Physicians fellow. He also served as the personal physician of James I. He later worked at the Bartholomew’s Hospital but was replaced for being a staunch monarchist.

 7 Giordano Bruno

Giordano Bruno.
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 1548 AD
Birthplace: Nola, Italy
Died: February 17, 1600

Giordano Bruno was an Italian philosopher, friar, mathematician, cosmological theorist, poet, and Hermetic occultist. Best remembered for his cosmological theories, Bruno insisted that the universe could have no center as it is infinite. In 2004, Herbert Steffen founded the Giordano Bruno Foundation in Bruno's honor.

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 8 William Gilbert

William Gilbert.
Famous As: Astronomer, Physicist and Physician
Birthdate: May 24, 1544
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Colchester
Died: November 30, 1603

William Gilbert was a 16th-century English physician, physicist, astronomer, and natural philosopher. He earned his MD from Cambridge and practiced medicine in London. He was a much-respected figure and was made the president of the Royal College of Physicians. He served as Queen Elizabeth I's and King James VI and I’s personal physician. 

 9 Robert Recorde

Robert Recorde
Famous As: mathematician, physician, physicist, philosopher
Birthdate: 1512 AD
Birthplace: Tenby
Died: 1558 AD

 10 Simon Stevin

Simon Stevin
Famous As: mathematician, engineer, military personnel
Birthdate: 1548 AD
Birthplace: Bruges
Died: January 31, 1620

 11 Marin Mersenne

Marin Mersenne
Famous As: Philosopher, Theologian, Mathematician, Musicologist, Music theorist, Physicist
Birthdate: September 8, 1588
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Oizé
Died: September 1, 1648

 12 Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland

Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland
Famous As: Nobleman
Birthdate: April 27, 1564
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Tynemouth Castle, Northumberland, England

 13 Thomas Harriot

Thomas Harriot
Famous As: Mathematician, explorer, astronomer
Birthdate: 1560 AD
Birthplace: Oxford
Died: July 2, 1621

 14 Pierre Gassendi

Pierre Gassendi
Famous As: Philosopher, Mathematician, Astronomer, Professor, Astrologer
Birthdate: January 22, 1592
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Champtercier
Died: October 24, 1655

French Catholic priest and astronomer Pierre Gassendi is remembered for his efforts to reconcile atomism with Christian ideals and for his anti-Aristotelianism. His studies included research on Epicurean philosophy. Apart from observing the transit of Mercury, he also studied the speed of sound and horizontal momentum.

 15 Conrad Gessner

Conrad Gessner
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: March 26, 1516
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Zürich, Switzerland
Died: December 13, 1565

 16 William Oughtred

William Oughtred
Famous As: mathematician, inventor, minister
Birthdate: March 5, 1575
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Eton
Died: June 30, 1660

 17 Willebrord Snell

Willebrord Snell.
Famous As: Astronomer & Mathematician
Birthdate: June 13, 1580
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Leiden, Dutch Republic
Died: October 30, 1626

Willebrord Snell was a Dutch mathematician and astronomer. He is credited with rediscovering the law of refraction, which is named Snell's law in his honor. A much-revered mathematician in the Netherlands, Willebrord Snell was honored by the Royal Netherlands Navy by naming three of its survey ships after him. Snellius, a lunar crater, is also named in his honor.

 18 Mikael Agricola

Mikael Agricola
Famous As: linguist, priest, translator, theologian
Birthdate: 1509 AD
Birthplace: Pernå
Died: April 19, 1557

 19 Li Shizhen

Li Shizhen
Famous As: Chinese scholar
Birthdate: July 3, 1518
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: China
Died: 1593 AD

 20 John Gerard

John Gerard
Famous As: Botanist
Birthdate: 1545 AD
Birthplace: Nantwich, Cheshire, England
Died: January 31, 1612

 21 Christopher Clavius

Christopher Clavius
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: March 25, 1538
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Bamberg, Germany
Died: February 6, 1612

Christopher Clavius was a Jesuit German astronomer and mathematician. Clavius was one of the members of the Vatican commission that gave a green signal to Aloysius Lilius' calendar which came to be known as the Gregorian calendar. He was one of Europe's most respected astronomers; his books were used for over 50 years for astronomical education in and around Europe.

 22 Xu Guangqi

Xu Guangqi
Famous As: mathematician, astronomer, writer
Birthdate: May 4, 1562
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Shanghai
Died: November 8, 1633

 23 Petrus Ramus

Petrus Ramus
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 1515 AD
Birthplace: Picardy, France
Died: August 26, 1572

 24 Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq

Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: 1522 AD
Birthplace: Comines, France
Died: October 28, 1592

 25 Bernard Palissy

Bernard Palissy
Famous As: French potter and scientist
Birthdate: 1510 AD
Birthplace: France
Died: 1589 AD

 26 Simon Marius

Simon Marius
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: January 20, 1573
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Gunzenhausen, Germany
Died: January 5, 1625

Simon Marius was a German astronomer who was one of the first observers of Jupiter's four largest moons. He was charged with plagiarism for publishing his discovery. He is now credited with naming the moons of Jupiter. Simon Marius is also remembered for being Galileo Galilei's one of foremost rivals.

 27 Leonhart Fuchs

Leonhart Fuchs
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: January 17, 1501
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Wemding, Germany
Died: May 10, 1566

Sixteenth-century German physician and botanist Leonhart Fuchs is best known for his extensive research on the medicinal properties of plants and herbs. His work Historia Stirpium is an invaluable treatise on the history of plants. The plant Fuchsia found in the Caribbean was named in his honor.

 28 Gemma Frisius

Gemma Frisius
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: December 9, 1508
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dokkum, Netherlands
Died: May 25, 1555

 29 Pedro Nunes

Pedro Nunes
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: 1502 AD
Birthplace: Alcácer do Sal, Portugal
Died: August 11, 1578

 30 Thomas Digges

Thomas Digges
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: 1546 AD
Birthplace: Wootton, Kent, England
Died: August 24, 1595

 31 Johann Bayer

Johann Bayer
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Rain

Johann Bayer was a German uranographer and lawyer. He is best remembered for gauging the positions of several objects on the celestial sphere. His book Uranometria, which was published in 1603, publicized a system of identifying stars that are visible to the naked eye. The moon’s crater Bayer is named so in his honor.

 32 Georg Joachim Rheticus

Georg Joachim Rheticus
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: February 16, 1514
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Feldkirch, Austria
Died: December 4, 1574

Having lost his doctor father to an execution after he was charged with stealing from his patients, Georg Joachim Rheticus ditched his paternal surname. The Austrian-born mathematician is best remembered for his tables of trigonometric functions. He was also one of the first to propagate the Copernican heliocentric theory.

 33 Oronce Finé

Oronce Finé
Birthdate: 0000 AD

Sixteenth-century French mathematician Oronce Finé was also a skilled cartographer. Some of his best works remain his heart-shaped map of the world, his ivory sundial, and his woodcut map of France. He also earned a degree in medicine and was imprisoned for opposing the French king’s concordat to universities.

 34 Petrus Apianus

Petrus Apianus
Birthdate: 0000 AD

Petrus Apianus was a German humanist whose published works pertaining to geography and astronomy are considered one of the most important works of his time. His works, such as Cosmographicus liber (1524) and Astronomicum Caesareum (1540), which were translated into several languages were being published even after his death.

 35 Jost Bürgi

Jost Bürgi
Birthdate: 0000 AD

 36 Ludolph van Ceulen

Ludolph van Ceulen
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Hildesheim

 37 Juan de Herrera

Juan de Herrera
Famous As: Architect
Birthdate: 1530 AD
Birthplace: Roiz, Spain
Died: January 15, 1597

 38 Sophia Brahe

Sophia Brahe
Birthdate: 0000 AD

 39 Scipione del Ferro

Scipione del Ferro
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: February 6, 1465
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bologna, Italy
Died: November 5, 1526

Scipione del Ferro was the first to find a technique to solve the depressed cubic equation x3 + px = q. He taught arithmetic and geometry throughout his life and also contributed to the study of fractions that had irrational denominators. Unfortunately, none of his written works exist anymore.

 40 Aloysius Lilius

Aloysius Lilius
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: 1510 AD
Birthplace: Cirò, Calabria, Italy
Died: 1576 AD

Aloysius Lilius, also known as Luigi Lilio, is best remembered as the main author of the Gregorian Calendar. Well-versed in medicine and astronomy, Lilius hailed from Calabria, Italy, though not much is known about his life. His calendar was presented to Pope Gregory XIII by his brother Antonio.

 41 Camillo Agrippa

Camillo Agrippa
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: 1520 AD
Birthplace: Milan, Italy
Died: January 1, 1600

Camillo Agrippa was a renowned 16th-century swordfighter who redefined the art of combat by applying geometric principles to it. He apparently also inspired the Spanish swordfight Destreza. Agrippa was also a skilled architect and mathematician. His written works include Treatise on the Science of Arms with Philosophical Dialogue.

 42 Michael Maestlin

Michael Maestlin
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: September 30, 1550
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Göppingen, Germany
Died: October 26, 1631

Once a Lutheran pastor, Michael Maestlin later became one of the greatest astronomers from Germany. He was one of the first to teach the heliocentric Copernican theory and later became famous as the mentor of Johannes Kepler. He was also apparently the first to measure the orbit of a comet.

 43 Hieronymus Bock

Hieronymus Bock
Famous As: Botanist
Birthdate: 1498 AD
Birthplace: Heidersbach, Germany
Died: February 21, 1554

Hieronymus Bock was a Lutheran minister, credited with helping the philological scholasticism of medieval botany to evolve into modern science by categorizing plants according to their structural similarities. His major work, New Kreuterbuch, not only includes detailed description, but also careful illustrations of around 700 plants. For a time he also served as the physician to the prince of Zweibrücken.

 44 Otto Brunfels

Otto Brunfels
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: 1488 AD
Birthplace: Mainz, Germany
Died: November 23, 1534

 45 Rembert Dodoens

Rembert Dodoens
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: June 29, 1517
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mechelen, Belgium
Died: March 10, 1585

 46 Vannoccio Biringuccio

Vannoccio Biringuccio
Famous As: Metallurgist
Birthdate: October 20, 1480
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Siena, Italy
Died: 1539 AD

 47 Francesco Maurolico

Francesco Maurolico
Birthdate: 0000 AD

 48 Al-Birjandi

Birthdate: 0000 AD

 49 Erasmus Reinhold

Erasmus Reinhold
Birthdate: 0000 AD

 50 Volcher Coiter

Volcher Coiter
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: 1534 AD
Birthplace: Groningen, Netherlands
Died: June 2, 1576