Famous 18th Century British Scientists

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Find out more about the greatest 18th Century British Scientists, including Michael Faraday, Charles Babbage, John Dalton, Humphry Davy and William Herschel.
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 1 
Charles Babbage
(Father of the computer)
Charles Babbage
20
Birthdate: December 26, 1791
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: London, England
Died: October 18, 1871
Charles Babbage, or the “father of the computer,” invented the prototype of the world’s first mechanical calculator, the Difference Engine. With the help of mathematician Ada Lovelace, he also created the Analytical Engine, the first general-purpose computer and a precursor of the modern computer, with its looping and sequential mechanism.
 2 
John Dalton
(Chemist, Physicist and Meteorologist Best Known for Developing the 'Atomic Theory')
John Dalton
12
Birthdate: September 6, 1766
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Eaglesfield, Cumberland, England
Died: July 27, 1844

John Dalton was an English chemist, physicist, and meteorologist most famous for introducing the atomic theory into chemistry. He also contributed a lot to the study of color blindness, sometimes referred to as Daltonism in his honor. He was the first scientist to refer to the smallest particle of matter as an “atom.” He was a Quaker and lived modestly. 

 3 
Joseph Priestley
(Discoverer of Oxygen)
Joseph Priestley
7
Birthdate: March 24, 1733
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Birstall, England
Died: February 6, 1804

Best remembered for his contribution to the chemistry of gases, Joseph Priestley was an English scientist, clergyman, political theorist and educator, who has been credited with discovering oxygen independently, publishing his findings before Carl Wilhelm could. A prolific writer, he has authored 150 works on various subjects including electricity. He also contributed immensely to the advancement of political and religious thoughts.

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 4 
William Herschel
(Astronomer Known for His Discovery of 'Uranus' and 'Infrared Radiation')
William Herschel
6
Birthdate: November 15, 1738
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Hanover, Germany
Died: August 23, 1822

William Herschel was a German-born British astronomer and composer. He pioneered the use of astronomical spectrophotometry and discovered infrared radiation. Impressed by his work, King George III appointed him the Court Astronomer. Herschel often collaborated with his sister, Caroline Lucretia Herschel, a fellow astronomer. In 1816, he was made a Knight of the Royal Guelphic Order. 

 5 
Henry Cavendish
(English Scientist Who Discovered Hydrogen)
Henry Cavendish
4
Birthdate: October 10, 1731
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Nice, France
Died: February 24, 1810

English natural philosopher, scientist, and a prominent experimental and theoretical physicist and chemist Henry Cavendish is best-remembered for his discovery of hydrogen and his Cavendish experiment. He first recognized that hydrogen, which he termed inflammable air, is a discrete substance which produces water on combustion. He conducted the Cavendish experiment to measure and produce a value for Earth’s density.

 6 
Edmond Halley
(Mathematician known for Calculating the Orbit of a Comet & Was the Second Astronomer Royal in Britain)
Edmond Halley
6
Birthdate: November 8, 1656
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Haggerston, London, England
Died: January 14, 1742

Edmond Halley was an English astronomer and mathematician who was mainly concerned with practical applications of science. He abandoned college education to travel to St. Helena. He published catalogue of 341 southern stars with telescopically determined locations. Known for his wide range of interest, he helped Newton to publish his magnum opus,  Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. He used Newton's Law of Motion to compute periodicty of Halley’s Comet.

 7 
Thomas Young
(Physician)
Thomas Young
4
Birthdate: June 13, 1773
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Milverton
Died: May 10, 1829

Often referred as The Last Man Who Knew Everything, British polymath Thomas Young made significant contributions to a wide range of subjects like vision, light, energy, musical harmony etc. Especially famous for Wave Theory of Light, he also made significant contribution in deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphs. Young-Helmholtz theory, Young temperament and Young's Modulus carry his legacy to these days.

 8 
Isaac Newton
(One of the Most Influential Scientists of All Time )
Isaac Newton
63
Birthdate: January 4, 1643
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Lincolnshire, England
Died: March 31, 1727

One of the most influential and popular scientists of all time, Sir Isaac Newton played a prominent role in our understanding of natural phenomena. He formulated the law of universal gravitation and laws of motion. He also developed the Newtonian telescope among other devices. Apart from science, Newton was also intrigued by religion, occult, and alchemy.

 9 
Edward Jenner
(Physicians)
Edward Jenner
4
Birthdate: May 17, 1749
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Berkeley, England
Died: January 26, 1823

Edward Jenner was an English scientist and physician. Referred to as the father of immunology, Jenner is credited with pioneering the concept of vaccines. Jenner's work laid the foundation for subsequent discoveries in the field of immunology; his work is believed to have saved more lives than any other work. In 2002, Jenner was included in BBC’s Greatest Britons list.

 10 
Humphry Davy
(Inventor of Davy Lamp)
Humphry Davy
5
Birthdate: December 17, 1778
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Penzance, England
Died: May 29, 1829

Best remembered for his invention of the Davy lamp, a safety lamp for miners, Humphry Davy initially aspired to be a doctor but later deviated to chemistry. The Copley Medal winner had co-founded the Zoological Society of London. He also excelled in writing poetry and loved fishing.

 11 
Mary Somerville
(Mathematician, Linguist, Translator, Astronomer, Scientist)
Mary Somerville
6
Birthdate: December 26, 1780
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Jedburgh
Died: November 28, 1872

One of the two pioneering female honorary members of the Royal Astronomical Society, Mary Somerville was a 19th-century polymath and science writer. Though she specialized in math and astronomy, she was also well-versed in botany and geology. The Connection of the Physical Sciences remains her most notable work.

 12 
Joseph Banks
(British Explorer, Naturalist and Botanist)
Joseph Banks
5
Birthdate: February 24, 1743
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: London, England
Died: June 19, 1820

British naturalist Joseph Banks is remembered for accompanying Captain James Cook on his voyage across places such as Brazil and Tahiti. He had also been the president of the Royal Society for over 40 years. Both his herbarium and library now find a place at the British Museum.

 13 
Charles Lyell
4
Birthdate: November 14, 1797
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Angus
Died: February 22, 1875

Charles Lyell was a Scottish geologist best remembered for his work Principles of Geology, which explains the origin of the earth. He is also remembered for his pioneering explanation of climate change. A close friend of Charles Darwin, Charles Lyell is also credited with influencing many of Darwin's works pertaining to the theories of evolution.  

 14 
James Hutton
(Geologist)
James Hutton
4
Birthdate: June 3, 1726
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Edinburgh
Died: March 26, 1797

The pioneer of modern geology, James Hutton laid down the principle of uniformitarianism in geology. While he was initially interested in chemistry, he had later also studied law and had then moved on to medicine. His iconic Theory of the Earth explained the science behind rock formations.

 15 
Robert Brown
(Botanist)
Robert Brown
5
Birthdate: December 21, 1773
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Montrose, Scotland
Died: June 10, 1858

Copley Medal-winning Scottish botanist Robert Brown is remembered for his detailed descriptions on topics such as the cell nuclei and what later came to be known as the Brownian motion. After studying medicine, he had also served the British Army as a surgeon and also toured the Australian shores aboard The Investigator.

 16 
Thomas Bayes
(Former Statistician who is known for formulating a specific case of the theorem that bears his name: Bayes' theorem)
Thomas Bayes
3
Birthdate: 1701 AD
Birthplace: London, England
Died: April 7, 1761
 17 
John Soane
(Architect, Archaeologist)
John Soane
3
Birthdate: September 10, 1753
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Reading
Died: January 20, 1837

English architect John Soane contributed immensely to the Neo-Classical style of architecture. Born to a bricklayer, Soane began training as an architect at 15. He soared to fame during his 45-year stint as an architect of the Bank of England and was also knighted for his achievements.

 18 
Joseph Black
(Chemist, Physicist, Scientist, University teacher)
Joseph Black
3
Birthdate: April 16, 1728
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Bordeaux
Died: December 6, 1799

Joseph Black was an 18th-century Scottish physicist and chemist. He is remembered for his discoveries of magnesium, specific heat, latent heat, and carbon dioxide. He spent several years of his career as a professor of medicine and chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. In 1783, he became one of the founders of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. 

 19 
David Brewster
(Scientist)
David Brewster
3
Birthdate: December 11, 1781
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Jedburgh, Scotland
Died: February 10, 1868

David Brewster was a British scientist, inventor, and author. He conducted many experiments in physical optics, especially concerned with the study of the polarization of light. Fellow scientist William Whewell dubbed him the "father of modern experimental optics." He was also a pioneer in photography and invented an improved stereoscope. He wrote numerous works of popular science as well. 

 20 
William Whewell
(Economist, Physicist, Historian, Philosopher, Writer, University teacher, Mathematician)
William Whewell
3
Birthdate: May 24, 1794
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lancaster
Died: March 6, 1866

William Whewell was an English polymath, scientist, philosopher, theologian, and historian of science. He worked in a wide range of fields, publishing works in the disciplines of physics, mechanics, geology, economics, and astronomy. He also wrote poetry, sermons, and theological tracts. He is credited with coining the terms linguistics, physicist, consilience, scientist, catastrophism, and uniformitarianism.

 21 
Charles Mason
(astronomer)
Charles Mason
3
Birthdate: 1728
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Oakridge
Died: October 25, 1786
 22 
Brook Taylor
(Mathematician)
Brook Taylor
3
Birthdate: August 18, 1685
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Edmonton
Died: December 29, 1731
 23 
William Playfair
(Economist, Mathematician, Engineer, Statistician)
William Playfair
3
Birthdate: September 22, 1759
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Dundee
Died: February 11, 1823

Scottish engineer and political economist William Playfair is best-remembered as the inventor of statistical graphs and secret agent for Great Britain during its war with France. He published the first data graphs in his book The Commercial and Political Atlas. He used line, area and bar charts to represent the economy of 18th Century England and introduced the pie chart.

 24 
Benjamin Thompson
(Physicist and Inventor)
Benjamin Thompson
3
Birthdate: March 26, 1753
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Woburn, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 21, 1814
 25 
Thomas Addison
(Physician, scientist)
Thomas Addison
3
Birthdate: April 2, 1793
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Longbenton, Northumberland
Died: June 29, 1860

The man behind the discoveries of ailments such as Addison's disease and Addison’s (pernicious) anemia, British physician Thomas Addison also co-wrote the first book on the effect of poisonous agents on the human body. He plunged into depression in his later years and eventually committed suicide.

 26 
William Smith
(Pioneering British Geologist Who Created the World's First Detailed Country Map)
William Smith
3
Birthdate: March 23, 1769
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Churchill
Died: August 28, 1839

British geologist William Smith, who is regarded as the Father of English Geology, is remembered for developing the science of stratigraphy. His geologic map of England and Wales was the world’s first nationwide and detailed geologic map. He was also the recipient of the first Wollaston Medal.

 27 
Gilbert White
(Naturalist)
Gilbert White
3
Birthdate: July 18, 1720
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Selborne, Hampshire, England
Died: June 26, 1793
 28 
Colin Maclaurin
(Edinburgh)
Colin Maclaurin
4
Birthdate: February 1, 1698
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Argyll
Died: June 14, 1746

Colin Maclaurin was a Scottish mathematician best remembered for his contributions to algebra and geometry. A child prodigy, Maclaurin became one of the youngest professors in history when he became a professor of mathematics at the age of 19. Colin Maclaurin also contributed immensely to the study of elliptic integrals and is credited with discovering the Euler–Maclaurin formula.

 29 
Jeremiah Dixon
(Astronomer)
Jeremiah Dixon
3
Birthdate: July 27, 1733
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Cockfield, County Durham, England
Died: January 22, 1779
 30 
William Jones
(Philologist)
William Jones
3
Birthdate: September 28, 1746
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London, England
Died: April 27, 1794
 31 
Richard Price
(Moral Philosopher and Mathematician Best Known for Editing, Publishing and Developing 'Bayes–Price Theorem')
Richard Price
3
Birthdate: February 23, 1723
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Llangeinor, Wales
Died: April 19, 1791
 32 
James Bruce
(Explorer, Archaeologist, Film editor, Botanist)
James Bruce
3
Birthdate: December 14, 1730
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Stirling
Died: April 27, 1794

Scottish explorer James Bruce is best known for his treatises of travel and his discovery of the source of the Blue Nile. Initially a wine merchant, he later became a British consul in Algiers and decided to explore North Africa. He traveled to places such as Syria, Ethiopia, and Egypt.

 33 
William Hyde Wollaston
(Chemist, Physicist, Engineer, Metallurgist)
William Hyde Wollaston
2
Birthdate: August 6, 1766
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Norfolk
Died: December 22, 1828

William Hyde Wollaston was a pioneer of powder metallurgy and the first to develop malleable platinum from its ore. He is also credited with the discoveries of palladium and rhodium. A Fellow of the Royal Society, he dictated his last Bakerian lecture, as he was too ill to deliver it.

 34 
William Cullen
(Physician, Chemist, Farmer, Academic, University teacher, Writer, Psychiatrist)
William Cullen
3
Birthdate: April 15, 1710
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hamilton
Died: February 5, 1790

Apart from being a prominent Scottish physician, William Cullen was also a main pillar of the Scottish Enlightenment. Not only did he treat luminaries such as philosopher David Hume, but he also treated the poor free of cost. A University of Edinburgh professor of medicine, he was also a Royal Society Fellow.

 35 
John Needham
(British Naturalist, Biologist, and Clergyman Who Supported the 'Theory of Spontaneous Generation')
John Needham
2
Birthdate: September 10, 1713
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: London, England
Died: December 30, 1781

British naturalist and biologist John Needham was also a Roman Catholic priest who became the first Catholic clergyman to be named a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. He supported the theories of spontaneous generation and vitalism. He also served the Imperial Academy in Brussels as its director.

 36 
John Flamsteed
(Astronomer and the first Astronomer Royal)
John Flamsteed
2
Birthdate: August 19, 1646
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Denby, Derbyshire, England
Died: December 31, 1719
 37 
Gideon Mantell
(British Geologist and Palaeontologist)
Gideon Mantell
2
Birthdate: February 3, 1790
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lewes, Sussex, England
Died: November 10, 1852

Gideon Mantell was a British geologist, obstetrician, and palaeontologist. Mantell's attempt to reconstruct the structure of Iguanodon started the scientific study of dinosaurs. He is also credited with discovering the first fossil teeth of Iguanodon. Subsequently, Gideon Mantell went on to discover and identify much of the skeleton of Iguanodon.

 38 
James Rennell
(British Geographer, Historian and a Pioneer of Oceanography)
James Rennell
2
Birthdate: December 3, 1742
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chudleigh, Devon, England
Died: March 29, 1830

James Rennell was an English historian and geographer. A pioneer of oceanography, Rennell is often referred to as the Father of Oceanography. Rennell, who served as a Surveyor General of Bengal, India, is credited with producing some of the earliest accurate maps of Bengal. James Rennell is also credited with co-founding the Royal Geographical Society in London in 1830.

 39 
William Sturgeon
(Physicist, Inventor)
William Sturgeon
2
Birthdate: May 22, 1783
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Whittington
Died: December 4, 1850

William Sturgeon was an English physicist and inventor. He invented the first practical English electric motor and made the first electromagnets. A self-taught genius, he became a lecturer at the East India Company's Military Seminary at Addiscombe, Surrey. Along with John Peter Gassiot and Charles Vincent Walker, he was instrumental in founding the London Electrical Society in 1837. 

 40 
John Arbuthnot
(Physician)
John Arbuthnot
2
Birthdate: April 29, 1667
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kincardineshire
Died: February 27, 1735
 41 
James Ivory
(Mathematician)
James Ivory
1
Birthdate: February 17, 1765
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Dundee, Scotland
Died: September 21, 1842

James Ivory was a British mathematician and astronomer best remembered for developing Ivory's Theorem. In 1814, he was honored with the prestigious Copley Medal for publishing several important memoirs.

 42 
Adam Sedgwick
(Geologist)
Adam Sedgwick
2
Birthdate: March 22, 1785
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Dent
Died: January 27, 1873

Adam Sedgwick was a British Anglican priest and geologist. He is credited with guiding and mentoring Charles Darwin during his early years. However, Sedgwick went on to oppose Darwin's theory of evolution. The world's oldest student-run geological society, The Sedgwick Club, was established in his honor in 1880.

 43 
James Bradley
(Astronomer)
James Bradley
2
Birthdate: 1693
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Sherborne, Gloucestershire, England
Died: July 13, 1762
 44 
Dugald Stewart
(Philosopher)
Dugald Stewart
2
Birthdate: November 22, 1753
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Edinburgh,Scotland
Died: June 11, 1828

Dugald Stewart was a Scottish mathematician and philosopher best remembered for his efforts to popularize the works of Adam Smith and Francis Hutcheson. Considered one of the most prominent personalities of the Scottish Enlightenment, Stewart played a major role in explaining the Scottish Common Sense Realism. Among his students were Sir Walter Scott, Sir Archibald Alison, and Sir James Mackintosh. 

 45 
Nehemiah Grew
(British Botanist and Physiologist Known for His Careful and Novel Observations on Plant Anatomy)
Nehemiah Grew
2
Birthdate: September 26, 1641
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mancetter Parish, Warwickshire, England
Died: March 25, 1712

English botanist Nehemiah Grew is considered a pioneer of plant anatomy, along with Italian biologist and physician Marcello Malpighi. Initially a physician, he later penned iconic books on botany, such as The Anatomy of Plants. He also made pioneering studies in finger-print patterns. A genus of trees has been named after him.

 46 
Robert Bakewell
(Agriculturalist)
Robert Bakewell
2
Birthdate: May 23, 1725
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Dishley, England
Died: October 1, 1795
 47 
William Hopkins
(Mathematician, Geologist)
William Hopkins
2
Birthdate: February 2, 1793
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kingston on Soar
Died: October 13, 1866

William Hopkins was an English geologist and mathematician. He is remembered for serving as a private tutor of prospective undergraduate Cambridge mathematicians, which earned him the nickname senior-wrangler maker. Hopkins also played first-class cricket and was associated with Cambridge University Cricket Club. He had an unfortunate end to his life as he spent his final years in a lunatic asylum.

 48 
William Withering
(British Botanist, Geologist, Chemist and Physician Best Known for His Use of Extracts of Foxglove to Treat Dropsy)
William Withering
3
Birthdate: March 17, 1741
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Wellington, Shropshire, England
Died: October 6, 1799

Born to a surgeon, William Withering followed in his father’s footsteps to become a physician, though he also had immense knowledge of botany, geology, and chemistry. He not only treated edema, or dropsy, with the help of the foxglove plant but also studied scarlet fever and suggested rum as a medical substitute.

 49 
John Playfair
(Mathematician)
John Playfair
2
Birthdate: March 10, 1748
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Angus council, United Kingdom
Died: July 20, 1819
 50 
Francis Hauksbee
(Scientist)
Francis Hauksbee
2
Birthdate: 1660 AD
Birthplace: Colchester, England
Died: 1713 AD

Francis Hauksbee was an 18th-century English scientist. He is remembered for his work on electricity and electrostatic repulsion. He began his career as a draper and may have run his own drapery. He eventually became Isaac Newton's lab assistant and began his scientific career. With time, he gained a reputation as a talented scientific instrument-maker.