Famous 16th Century Scientists

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Find out more about the greatest 16th Century Scientists, including Galileo Galilei, René Déscartes, Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe.
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 1 
Galileo Galilei
(Known as “Father” of Observational Astronomy who Invented the ‘Thermoscope’ and Various Military Compasses)
Galileo Galilei
166
Birthdate: February 15, 1564
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pisa, Italy
Died: January 8, 1642

An Italian astronomer, engineer, and physicist, Galileo Galilei is widely regarded as the father of observational astronomy, the father of the scientific method, the father of modern physics, and the father of modern science. He is credited with popularizing the telescope, which changed the course of history.

 2 
Nicolaus Copernicus
(Polish Astronomer Who Proposed That the Earth Revolves Around the Sun)
Nicolaus Copernicus
28
Birthdate: February 19, 1473
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Toruń, Poland
Died: May 24, 1543

Nicolaus Copernicus was a mathematician and astronomer. He is credited with formulating Heliocentrism, which led to the Copernican Revolution. Although Aristarchus of Samos had formulated Heliocentrism 18 centuries earlier, Copernicus was responsible for popularizing it. Copernicus is also credited with formulating an economic principle, which was later called Gresham's law.

 3 
Johannes Kepler
(Astronomer Best Known for his Laws of Plantery Motion)
Johannes Kepler
19
Birthdate: December 27, 1571
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Weil der Stadt, Germany
Died: November 15, 1630

This 17th-century German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer is remembered for his pathbreaking work on optics. He invented a developed version of the refracting telescope. He also laid down Kepler's laws of planetary motion and wrote Astronomia Nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae.

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 4 
Tycho Brahe
(16th Century Danish Astronomer Who is Known for His Accurate and Comprehensive Astronomical Observations)
Tycho Brahe
14
Birthdate: December 14, 1546
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Knutstorp Manor, 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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 5 
John Napier
(Inventor of Logarithms)
John Napier
7
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.

 6 
Gerolamo Cardano
(South African Politician and Zulu Tribal Leader Who Was Home Minister of South Africa from 1994 to 2004)
Gerolamo Cardano
5
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.

 7 
John Dee
(Mathematician, Philosopher)
John Dee
13
Birthdate: July 13, 1527
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tower Ward, London
Died: February 29, 1609

Anglo-Welsh mathematician, occultist, astronomer, teacher, astrologer and alchemist John Dee is best-remembered as advisor to Queen of England, Elizabeth I. Dee coined the term British Empire and advocated its formation by founding of English colonies in the New World. He had one of the largest libraries in England at the time and wrote on astrology, geography, trigonometry, navigation and calendar reform.

 8 
Giordano Bruno
(Philosopher & Mathematician Known For His Cosmological Theories)
Giordano Bruno
4
Birthdate: 1548
Sun Sign: Aquarius
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.

 9 
Robert Recorde
(mathematician, physician, physicist, philosopher)
Robert Recorde
4
Birthdate: 1512 AD
Birthplace: Tenby
Died: 1558 AD
 10 
William Gilbert
(Physician)
William Gilbert
4
Birthdate: May 24, 1544
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Colchester , England, United Kingdom
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. 

 11 
Simon Stevin
(mathematician, engineer, military personnel)
Simon Stevin
3
Birthdate: 1548 AD
Birthplace: Bruges
Died: January 31, 1620

Simon Stevin was a Flemish physicist, mathematician, and military engineer. He is best remembered for his contributions to various fields of science and engineering. Simon Stevin is also credited with several discoveries and inventions. He pioneered the practical application of surveying and hydraulic engineering. 

Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland
4
Birthdate: April 27, 1564
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Tynemouth Castle, Northumberland, England
 13 
Robert Fludd
(British Paracelsian Physician, Astrologer and Mathematician Known for His Compilations in Occult Philosophy)
Robert Fludd
3
Birthdate: January 17, 1574
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Milgate House, Bearsted, Kent, England
Died: September 8, 1637

Best remembered for his study of occult philosophy, Robert Fludd, the son of English diplomat Sir Thomas Fludd, was also a physician. However, he was criticized for being a medical professional who believed in magic and defended Rosicrucianism. His other interests included cosmology, astrology, and Freemasonry.

 14 
Jan Evangelista Purkinje
3
Birthdate: December 17, 1787
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Libochovice, Bohemia
Died: July 28, 1869
 15 
Marin Mersenne
(Mathematician)
Marin Mersenne
4
Birthdate: September 8, 1588
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Oizé, France
Died: September 1, 1648
 16 
Pierre Gassendi
(Philosopher, Mathematician, Astronomer, Professor, Astrologer)
Pierre Gassendi
4
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.

 17 
François Viète
(Mathematician whose work on new algebra)
François Viète
4
Birthdate: 1540 AD
Birthplace: Fontenay-le-Comte, France
Died: February 23, 1603
 18 
Conrad Gessner
(Swiss Physician, Naturalist and Philologist Known for His Systematic Compilations of Information on Animals and Plants)
Conrad Gessner
4
Birthdate: March 26, 1516
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Zürich, Switzerland
Died: December 13, 1565

Born to a poor fur dealer, Conrad Gessner was sent to study under an uncle who dealt in medicinal herbs. He then studied theology but later grew up to become a Renaissance polymath, excelling in subjects such as natural history and medicine. His Bibliotheca universalis remains a major work in bibliography.

 19 
Niccolò Fontana Tartaglia
3
Birthdate: 1499 AD
Birthplace: Brescia, Italy
Died: December 13, 1557

Niccolò Fontana Tartaglia was the first to apply math to the science of ballistics. During the French invasion of Brescia, his jaw was sliced by a sword, causing him a speech difficulty, and thus gaining him the nickname Tartaglia, or "Stammerer." His Nova Scientia remains a significant work on mechanics.

 20 
Thomas Harriot
(Mathematician, explorer, astronomer)
Thomas Harriot
3
Birthdate: 1560 AD
Birthplace: Oxford
Died: July 2, 1621
 21 
Willebrord Snell
(Astronomer & Mathematician)
Willebrord Snell
3
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.

 22 
Mikael Agricola
(Finnish Lutheran Clergyman & Founder of Literary Finnish)
Mikael Agricola
2
Birthdate: 1510 AD
Birthplace: Pernå, Finland
Died: April 9, 1557

Mikael Agricola was a Finnish Lutheran clergyman. Referred to as the father of literary Finnish, Agricola is credited with founding literary Finnish. Mikael Agricola is also credited with translating the New Testament into Finnish and producing the hymns and prayer book used regularly in Finland's new Lutheran Church. 

 23 
Georgius Agricola
(Former Humanist scholar, mineralogist and metallurgist known for his groundbreaking work De Natura Fossilium published in 1546, he is generally referred to as the Father of Mineralogy)
Georgius Agricola
3
Birthdate: March 24, 1494
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Glauchau, Germany
Died: November 21, 1555
 24 
Xu Guangqi
(Ming Dynasty Official and One of the Most Prominent Chinese Converts to Christianity)
Xu Guangqi
2
Birthdate: April 24, 1562
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Shanghai, Songjiang, Southern Zhili, China
Died: November 8, 1633

Xu Guangqi, or Paul, was a Chinese official of the Ming dynasty and one of the most prominent Chinese converts before the 20th century. An agronomist, a mathematician, an astronomer, a politician, and an author, he translated many Western works. He was also known as one of the Three Pillars of Chinese Catholicism.

 25 
Li Shizhen
(Chinese Pharmacologist and Scholar Who Compiled the Treatise Compendium of Materia Medica)
Li Shizhen
2
Birthdate: July 3, 1518
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Qizhouzhen, Huanggang, China
Died: 1593 AD

Chinese pharmacologist and scholar of the Ming dynasty Li Shizhen is remembered for his elaborate compilation Compendium of Materia Medica, which offered descriptions of over 1,000 drugs and provided instructions for about 11,000 prescriptions. His book was a benchmark in Chinese medicine and was translated into several languages.

 26 
William Oughtred
(mathematician, inventor, minister)
William Oughtred
3
Birthdate: March 5, 1575
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Eton
Died: June 30, 1660
 27 
Christopher Clavius
(German Mathematician and Astronomer Who Was the Main Architect of the Modern 'Gregorian Calendar')
Christopher Clavius
3
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.

 28 
John Gerard
(British Botanist)
John Gerard
2
Birthdate: 1545 AD
Birthplace: Nantwich, Cheshire, England
Died: 1612 AD

British herbalist John Gerard is best remembered for his iconic book The Herball, known as the first catalogue for plants. However, experts feel it was mostly plagiarized from a similar collection by Flemish botanist Rembert Dodoens. Apart from details about plants, he also included folklore in his works.

 29 
Petrus Ramus
(Philosopher)
Petrus Ramus
2
Birthdate: 1515 AD
Birthplace: Picardy, France
Died: August 26, 1572
 30 
Pierre Vernier
(Mathematician)
Pierre Vernier
2
Birthdate: August 19, 1580
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ornans, France
Died: September 14, 1637
 31 
Leonhart Fuchs
(German Physician and Botanist)
Leonhart Fuchs
2
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.

 32 
Bernard Palissy
(French potter and scientist)
Bernard Palissy
2
Birthdate: 1510 AD
Birthplace: France
Died: 1589 AD
 33 
Henry Briggs
(Mathematician)
Henry Briggs
2
Birthdate: February 1, 1561
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Warleywood, Yorkshire, England
Died: January 26, 1630
 34 
Simon Marius
(Astronomer)
Simon Marius
3
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.

 35 
Gemma Frisius
(Physician)
Gemma Frisius
2
Birthdate: December 9, 1508
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dokkum, Netherlands
Died: May 25, 1555

Gemma Frisius introduced the triangulation method for map-making, that is still an integral part of surveys these days. He also created detailed globes and mathematical instruments and was a co-founder of the Netherlandish school of cartography. He also released the first published drawing of a pinhole camera obscura.

 36 
Santorio Santorio
(Italian Physician and Physiologist Known for His Discoveries Concerning Metabolism and Invention of Technical Instruments)
Santorio Santorio
2
Birthdate: March 29, 1561
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Koper, Slovenia
Died: February 25, 1636

Santorio Santorio was an Italian physician, physiologist, and professor. He is best remembered for inventing several medical devices during his lifetime. He was the first person to use a water current meter, a wind gauge, and a thermoscope. Among his best known work is De Statica Medicina, which is credited with influencing generations of physicians.

 37 
Pedro Nunes
(Mathematician)
Pedro Nunes
2
Birthdate: 1502 AD
Birthplace: Alcácer do Sal, Portugal
Died: August 11, 1578
 38 
Christoph Scheiner
(German Jesuit Priest, Physicist and Astronomer)
Christoph Scheiner
3
Birthdate: July 25, 1573
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Markt Wald, Germany
Died: June 18, 1650

Christoph Scheiner was a Jesuit priest, astronomer, and physicist. He is credited with inventing the pantograph which he demonstrated in Munich after he was invited by Duke William V of Bavaria. Several schools and streets in Germany are named after him. A lunar crater is also named in his honor.

 39 
Thomas Digges
(Mathematician)
Thomas Digges
3
Birthdate: 1546 AD
Birthplace: Wootton, Kent, England
Died: August 24, 1595
 40 
Benedetto Castelli
(Mathematician)
Benedetto Castelli
2
Birthdate: 1578 AD
Birthplace: Brescia, Italy
Died: April 9, 1643

Benedetto Castelli, a Benedictine priest and a student of Galileo, later became a math professor at the University of Pisa. His On the Measurement of Water Currents is considered a fundamental work in hydraulics. He was the first to work on the principle of the barometer and sustained vacuum.

 41 
Abraham Zacuto
(Royal Astronomer Under King John II of Portugal)
Abraham Zacuto
4
Birthdate: August 12, 1452
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Salamanca, Spain
Died: 1515 AD

Abraham Zacuto was a Castilian mathematician, astrologer, astronomer, historian, and rabbi. He is best remembered for his service as the Royal Astronomer under King John II of Portugal. Abraham Zacuto's maritime charts and astronomical tables played a prominent role in the Portuguese and Spanish navigation capability; they were used by the likes of Christopher Columbus and Vasco Da Gama. 

 42 
Georg Joachim Rheticus
(Austrian Mathematician and Astronomer Best Known for His 'Trigonometric Tables')
Georg Joachim Rheticus
3
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.

 43 
Gaspard Bauhin
(Swiss Botanist Who Introduced a Scientific Binomial System of Classification to Both Anatomy and Botany)
Gaspard Bauhin
2
Birthdate: January 17, 1560
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Basel, Switzerland
Died: December 5, 1624

Born to a French physician in Switzerland, Gaspard Bauhin was a qualified physician himself and later made some of the most significant contributions to the classification of plants. Known for his Pinax theatri botanica, he also provided one of the initial descriptions of the ileocecal (or Bauhin’s) valve.

Oronce Finé
3

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.

Johann Bayer
3
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.

 46 
Edmund Gunter
(Mathematician)
Edmund Gunter
3
Birthdate: 1581 AD
Birthplace: Hertfordshire, England
Died: December 10, 1626
Petrus Apianus
3

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.

 48 
Carolus Clusius
(French Botanist Who Developed Modern Botany)
Carolus Clusius
1
Birthdate: February 19, 1526
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Arras, France
Died: April 4, 1609

French botanist Carolus Clusius is remembered for his pioneering contribution to modern botany. He taught at the University of Leiden and was instrumental in the development of Hortus Botanicus Leiden. He is also remembered for his extensive study of tulip plants, which later encouraged the Dutch tulip industry.

 49 
Baha' al-din al-'Amili
(Iranian Mathematician, Theologian, Philosopher and Astronomers)
Baha' al-din al-'Amili
3
Birthdate: February 18, 1547
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Baalbek, Lebanon
Died: September 1, 1621

Baha' al-din al-'Amili was an Arab Iranian Shia philosopher, Islamic scholar, architect, astronomer, mathematician, and poet who flourished in Safavid Iran during the late 16th and early 17th century. Baha' al-din al-'Amili was one of the first astronomers in the Islamic world to advocate the possibility of the Earth's movement before the outspread of the Copernican theory.

Ludolph van Ceulen
1
Birthplace: Hildesheim