Famous 19th Century American Scientists

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 Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein
49
Famous As: Theoretical Physicist
Birthdate: March 14, 1879
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ulm, Germany
Died: April 18, 1955
Deemed as the most influential physicist of the 20th century, the German-born physicist Albert Einstein was one of the greatest minds to have ever lived. Even his name is now synonymous with the term genius. The father of Modern Physics is credited with developing the theory of relativity and explaining the photoelectric effect. The latter won him the Nobel Prize.

 2 Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla
21
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: July 10, 1856
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Smiljan, Croatia
Died: January 7, 1943

Inventor, engineer and futurist, Nikola Tesla, is best remembered for his contribution to the development of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system. A prolific inventor, he had around 300 patents for his inventions. Even though he earned a considerable amount of money, he had poor money management skills and died a poor man.

 3 George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver
29
Famous As: Scientist & Inventor
Birthdate: January 1, 1864
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Diamond, Missouri, United States
Died: January 5, 1943
Agricultural scientist George Washington Carver is best remembered for promoting crops that were alternative to cotton, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes. He invented ways to prevent soil depletion and developed scores of products made from peanuts, including paints and cosmetics. He won numerous honors, such as the Spingarn Medal.
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 4 Edwin Powell Hubble

Edwin Powell Hubble
6
Famous As: Astronomer & Mathematician
Birthdate: November 20, 1889
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Marshfield, Missouri, USA
Died: September 28, 1953

While the Hubble Telescope, named after Edwin Powell Hubble, reminds one of his contribution to astronomy, he failed to get a Nobel Prize, as back in his time, the Nobel Committee didn’t recognize astrophysics as a valid science. He is best remembered for his work on galaxies and extragalactic astronomy.

 5 Thomas Hunt Morgan

Thomas Hunt Morgan
4
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: September 25, 1866
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Lexington
Died: December 4, 1945

Thomas Hunt Morgan was an evolutionary biologist, geneticist, and embryologist. He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1933. He worked extensively on the role that the chromosome plays in heredity and demonstrated that genes are carried on chromosomes. In his later career, he established the division of biology at the California Institute of Technology. 

 6 Louis Agassiz

Louis Agassiz
8
Famous As: Geologist
Birthdate: May 28, 1807
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Montier
Died: December 14, 1873

Louis Agassiz was a biologist and geologist. He was famous as a scholar of Earth's natural history. Born in Switzerland, he completed his education in Europe and emigrated to USA. He was appointed a professor of zoology and geology at Harvard University. He later founded the Museum of Comparative Zoology at the Lawrence Scientific School.  

 7 John Muir

John Muir
4
Famous As: Naturalist
Birthdate: April 21, 1838
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Dunbar
Died: December 24, 1914

John Muir was a Scottish-American naturalist, environmental philosopher, glaciologist, botanist, zoologist, and author. Nicknamed Father of the National Parks and John of the Mountains, Muir was an influential proponent of the preservation of wilderness in the US. He is credited with co-founding the American conservation organization, The Sierra Club. Muir is considered a hero by many environmentalists around the world.

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 8 Karl Landsteiner

Karl Landsteiner
18
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: June 14, 1868
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Vienna
Died: June 26, 1943

Karl Landsteiner was a physician, biologist, and immunologist. He is credited with distinguishing the main blood groups as well as identifying the Rhesus factor. He is also credited with discovering the polio virus along with Erwin Popper and Constantin Levaditi. He won the Aronson Prize in 1926. In 1930, Landsteiner was honored with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

 9 Annie Jump Cannon

Annie Jump Cannon
3
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: December 11, 1863
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dover
Died: April 13, 1941

After studying physics and astronomy at Wellesley College, Annie Jump Cannon traveled across Europe and focused on photography for a decade, before venturing to study astronomy again. At the Harvard Observatory, she made a considerable contribution to the classification of stellar bodies. She was almost deaf due to scarlet fever.

 10 Robert Stroud

Robert Stroud
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 8, 1890
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, USA
Died: November 21, 1963

 11 Lewis Howard Latimer

Lewis Howard Latimer
4
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: September 4, 1848
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chelsea, Massachusetts, United States
Died: December 11, 1928
Lewis Howard Latimer was born to former slaves and went on to become a skilled patent draftsman. He had worked with Alexander Graham Bell on the patent of his telephone, and with the Edison Electric Light Company. He had also invented a modification of the process of making carbon filaments. 

 12 Josiah Willard Gibbs

Josiah Willard Gibbs
5
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: February 11, 1839
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New Haven, Connecticut, United States
Died: April 28, 1903

Josiah Willard Gibbs was an American scientist best remembered for making major theoretical contributions to mathematics, physics, and chemistry. As a mathematician, Gibbs is credited with inventing modern vector calculus. In 1901, he was honored with the prestigious Copley Medal for his contributions. Josiah Willard Gibbs's work had a major influence on physicists like J. D. van der Waals.

 13 Arthur Compton

Arthur Compton
3
Famous As: Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics
Birthdate: September 10, 1892
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Wooster, Ohio, USA
Died: March 15, 1962

American physicist Arthur Compton is best-known for introducing Compton wavelength, discovering Compton scattering, first identifying the Compton–Getting effect in the intensity of cosmic rays along with Ivan A. Getting, and for the Compton generator. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1927 for discovering Compton effect. He also remained a prominent figure during the Manhattan Project.

 14 Alfred Kinsey

Alfred Kinsey
6
Famous As: Sexologist
Birthdate: June 23, 1894
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hoboken
Died: August 25, 1956

Alfred Kinsey was an American biologist, sexologist, and professor of zoology and entomology. He is credited with founding the Indiana University's Institute for Sex Research in 1947. Kinsey's research on human sexuality and his other works have influenced cultural and social values in the USA as well as internationally. In 2012, Kinsey was inducted into Chicago's Legacy Walk.

 15 Samuel Colt

Samuel Colt
6
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: July 19, 1814
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Died: January 10, 1862

 16 Fritz Zwicky

Fritz Zwicky
4
Famous As: Astronomer, Physicist, University teacher
Birthdate: February 14, 1898
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Varna
Died: February 8, 1974

Born to a businessman and diplomat father in Bulgaria, Fritz Zwicky was initially sent to Switzerland to study commerce but ended up deviating to math and physics. He then moved to the U.S. to work with Caltech and gained fame for his research on what he called the supernova.

 17 Robert H. Goddard

Robert H. Goddard
4
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: October 5, 1882
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 10, 1945

The son of a machine shop owner, Robert H. Goddard grew up to become a pioneer of rocketry. Interested in physics and mechanics since childhood, he dreamed of space flight. He developed the world’s first rocket that ran on liquid fuel. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is named after him.

 18 Nettie Stevens

Nettie Stevens
5
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: July 7, 1861
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cavendish, Vermont, United States
Died: May 4, 1912

Nettie Stevens was an American geneticist. She is credited with discovering sex chromosomes which later came to be known as the X and Y chromosomes. In 1994, Nettie Stevens was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

 19 Harold Urey

Harold Urey
3
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: April 29, 1893
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Walkerton
Died: January 5, 1981

 20 Harlow Shapley

Harlow Shapley
3
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: November 2, 1885
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Nashville
Died: October 20, 1972

American scientist Harlow Shapley is best-remembered for ascertaining correct position of Sun within Milky Way Galaxy and for heading the Harvard College Observatory. He determined the size and shape of the Milky Way Galaxy and the Sun’s position within it using the Cepheid variable stars and wrote the Liquid Water Belt that provided scientific acceptance to Hubertus Strughold’s ecosphere theory.

 21 Percy Lavon Julian

Percy Lavon Julian
4
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: April 11, 1899
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama, United States
Died: April 19, 1975

Percy Lavon Julian was an American chemist whose work paved the way for the production of birth control pills and corticosteroids. Julian went on to start his own company which helped reduce the price of steroid intermediates. In 1973, Percy Lavon Julian was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences and became the first African-American to receive this honor.

 22 Charles Sanders Peirce

Charles Sanders Peirce
6
Famous As: Scientist, Philosopher
Birthdate: September 10, 1839
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 19, 1914

 23 Norbert Wiener

Norbert Wiener
6
Famous As: Father of Cybernetics
Birthdate: November 26, 1894
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Columbia, Missouri, United States
Died: March 18, 1964

 24 Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold
4
Birthdate: January 11, 1887
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Burlington
Died: April 21, 1948

 25 Peter Debye

Peter Debye
3
Famous As: American-Dutch chemist
Birthdate: March 24, 1884
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Maastricht
Died: November 2, 1966

 26 Thomas J. Watson

Thomas J. Watson
4
Famous As: Entrepreneur
Birthdate: February 17, 1874
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Campbell, New York, United States
Died: June 19, 1956

 27 C. W. Post

C. W. Post
6
Famous As: Nutritionist
Birthdate: October 26, 1854
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Springfield, Illinois, United States
Died: May 9, 1914

 28 Walter Reed

Walter Reed
5
Famous As: Military physician, Zoologist, Entomologist
Birthdate: September 13, 1851
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Belroi
Died: November 22, 1902

 29 Thomas Midgley, Jr.

Thomas Midgley, Jr.
4
Birthdate: May 19, 1889
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Beaver Falls
Died: November 2, 1944

Thomas Midgley Jr. was an American chemical and mechanical engineer. Midgley played a key role in the development of leaded gasoline and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were later banned due to their negative impact on the environment and human health. Thomas Midgley Jr. was granted over 100 patents during his lifetime.

 30 Robert Andrews Millikan

Robert Andrews Millikan
4
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: March 22, 1868
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Morrison
Died: December 19, 1953

Nobel Prize-winning experimental physicist Robert Andrews Millikan had begun his career as a faculty member at the University of Chicago and penned countless physics books. He later devoted himself to his research on elementary electronic charge and the photoelectric effect. His famous oil-drop experiment is known to all physics enthusiasts.

 31 Charles Goodyear

Charles Goodyear
4
Famous As: Inventor, Chemist, Engineer
Birthdate: December 29, 1800
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New Haven
Died: July 1, 1860

Charles Goodyear was an American manufacturing engineer and self-taught chemist who developed vulcanized rubber. He invented the chemical process to manufacture pliable, moldable, and waterproof rubber which revolutionized the automobile industry. In 1976, Charles Goodyear was inducted posthumously into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

 32 John Pemberton

John Pemberton
7
Famous As: Pharmacist
Birthdate: July 8, 1831
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Knoxville, Georgia, United States
Died: August 16, 1888

John Pemberton was an American pharmacist best remembered for his invention of Coca-Cola. A Confederate States Army veteran, Pemberton suffered from a wound sustained during the Battle of Columbus. The injury led him to experiment with different kinds of toxins and painkillers, which in turn helped him invent the recipe to make Coca-Cola.

 33 Alfred North Whitehead

Alfred North Whitehead
9
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
Birthdate: February 15, 1861
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ramsgate, Kent, England
Died: December 30, 1947

Alfred North Whitehead was a British mathematician and philosopher, best known for his collaboration with his student Bertrand Russell on Principal of Mathematics, a three-volume work on the foundations of mathematics. Also known for his pioneering works on process philosophy and metaphysics, he is credited with developing a comprehensive metaphysical system that differs from most Western philosophies.

 34 Gifford Pinchot

Gifford Pinchot
6
Famous As: Forestry scientist
Birthdate: August 11, 1865
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Simsbury, Connecticut, United States
Died: October 4, 1946

 35 Auguste Piccard

Auguste Piccard
4
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: January 28, 1884
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Basel, Switzerland
Died: January 28, 1963

 36 Henrietta Swan Leavitt

Henrietta Swan Leavitt
4
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: July 4, 1868
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lancaster, Massachusetts
Died: December 12, 1921

Born to a church minister, Henrietta Swan Leavitt grew up to work as a “human computer” at the Harvard Observatory. The American astronomer gained fame for discovering the period-luminosity relation of Cepheid variables. However, her brilliant scientific career was halted by her death due to stomach cancer at 53.

 37 Leo Baekeland

Leo Baekeland
3
Famous As: Chemist & Inventor
Birthdate: November 14, 1863
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Sint-Martens-Latem, Belgium
Died: February 23, 1944

Industrial chemist Leo Baekeland is remembered as The Father of the Plastics Industry for creating Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic of the world, thus marking the beginning of the Polymer Age. His many inventions include Velox, a special photographic paper, the rights of which he sold to George Eastman.

 38 John Wesley Powell

John Wesley Powell
5
Famous As: Explorer, Geologist
Birthdate: March 24, 1834
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Mount Morris
Died: September 23, 1902

John Wesley Powell was a geologist and explorer of the American West. He undertook a series of adventures as a young man and later joined the military. He is best known for the three-month-long geographic expedition he undertook down the Green and Colorado rivers. He was made the director of the U.S. Geological Survey in 1881.  

 39 Leó Szilárd

Leó Szilárd
6
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: February 11, 1898
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Budapest
Died: May 30, 1964

Physicist Leó Szilárd, one of the "Martians," or eminent scientists who had migrated from Hungary to the U.S., was the first to initiate a controlled nuclear chain reaction and was closely associated with the Manhattan Project, meant to develop the atomic bomb. He later advocated for responsible use of nuclear powers.

 40 Percival Lowell

Percival Lowell
5
Famous As: Astronomer, Mathematician
Birthdate: March 13, 1855
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Boston
Died: November 12, 1916

Born into the famous Brahmin Lowell family of Massachusetts, Percival Lowell studied at Harvard, where he excelled in math. He managed a cotton mill and also spent time in Asia as a diplomat. He is best remembered for initiating the discovery of Pluto and for studying the canals on Mars.

 41 Williamina Fleming

Williamina Fleming
3
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: May 15, 1857
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Dundee, Scotland
Died: May 21, 1911

Born in Scotland, Williamina Fleming moved to the U.S. with her husband, where she began working as a housekeeper for Harvard Observatory director Edward C. Pickering. Pickering secured her a job at the observatory, and Fleming went on to establish a classification and cataloguing system for stars.

 42 Matthew Fontaine Maury

Matthew Fontaine Maury
5
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: January 14, 1806
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Spotsylvania County, Virginia, United States
Died: February 1, 1873

American astronomer, naval officer, oceanographer and author Matthew Fontaine Maury, who first served the United States Navy and then the Confederacy States Navy, made significant contributions in oceanography. His book Physical Geography of the Sea is counted among the first comprehensive books on oceanography. Navies and merchant marines across the world adopted his uniform system of recording oceanographic data.

 43 Ananda Coomaraswamy

Ananda Coomaraswamy
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: August 22, 1877
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Died: September 9, 1947

Ananda Coomaraswamy was a Ceylonese Tamil philosopher of Indian art, metaphysician, and pioneering historian. He is credited for being one of the earliest interpreters of Indian culture to the West. He is also held responsible for introducing ancient Indian art to the West. Apart from bridging the gap between East and West, Coomaraswamy's works also aimed at rehabilitating original Buddhism.

 44 Luther Burbank

Luther Burbank
6
Famous As: Horticulturist, Geneticist, Botanist, Gardener, Academic, Non-fiction writer
Birthdate: March 7, 1849
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Santa Rosa
Died: April 11, 1926

Luther Burbank was an American horticulturist and botanist. A pioneer in agricultural science, Luther Burbank developed over 800 varieties of plants and strains in an illustrious career that spanned 55 years. He is also credited with developing a spineless cactus that served as cattle feed. In 1986, Luther Burbank was made an inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

 45 Gilbert N. Lewis

Gilbert N. Lewis
3
Famous As: Physical chemist
Birthdate: October 23, 1875
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Weymouth, Massachusetts, United States
Died: March 23, 1946

 46 Madison Grant

Madison Grant
3
Famous As: Lawyer, Anthropologist, Racial theorist, Historian, Zoologist
Birthdate: November 19, 1865
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: New York City
Died: May 30, 1937

A lawyer and a zoologist, Madison Grant is best remembered for his belief in eugenics and white supremacy, which he expressed through his best-selling book The Passing of the Great Race. He played a crucial role in the passing of immigration regulations in the U.S. He was also an avid conservationist.

 47 Albert A. Michelson

Albert A. Michelson
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: December 19, 1852
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Strzelno, Kingdom of Prussia (modern Poland)
Died: May 9, 1931

 48 Charles Proteus Steinmetz

Charles Proteus Steinmetz
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Electrical engineer, Engineer, Scientist, Inventor
Birthdate: April 9, 1865
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Wrocław
Died: October 26, 1923

 49 Gerty Cori

Gerty Cori
3
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: August 15, 1896
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Prague, Czechia
Died: October 26, 1957

Austro-Hungarian-American biochemist Gerty Cori is best-known for discovering the course of catalytic conversion of glycogen with her husband Carl Ferdinand Cori for which they jointly won the 1947 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. With this Gerty became the third woman to win a Nobel in science and the first to win it in this category.

 50 David Herold

David Herold
3
Famous As: Pharmacist's assistant
Birthdate: June 16, 1842
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Maryland, United States
Died: July 7, 1865