Famous 20th Century Astrophysicists

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 1 Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson
21
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: October 5, 1958
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York, United States

Public Welfare Medal-winning astrophysicist and academic Neil deGrasse Tyson hosted shows such as NOVA ScienceNow, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, and Star Talk. He is the director of Hayden Planetarium and contributed to the dismissal of Pluto’s status as the ninth planet. He has also written a monthly column as "Merlin.”

 2 Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan
11
Famous As: Astronomer, Astrophysicist, Writer
Birthdate: November 9, 1934
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died: December 20, 1996
Pulitzer- and Emmy-winning astrophysicist and author Carl Sagan was best known for co-writing the TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. His novel Contact was adapted into a film. He was known for his extensive research on extra-terrestrial life, had taught at major universities, and written countless papers and science books.

 3 Walter Lewin

Walter Lewin
10
Famous As: Astronomer, University teacher, Astrophysicist, Physicist
Birthdate: January 29, 1936
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: The Hague
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 4 Sergei Korolev

Sergei Korolev
4
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: January 1, 1907
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Zhytomyr, Ukraine
Died: January 14, 1966

Sergei Korolev was a Soviet spacecraft designer and rocket engineer who played an important role during the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States of America in the 1950s and 1960s. He was largely responsible for developing the R-7 Rocket and launching Yuri Gagarin into space. Sergei Korolev also launched Belka, Strelka, and Laika into space.

 5 J. Allen Hynek

J. Allen Hynek
4
Famous As: Astronomer, Ufologist
Birthdate: May 1, 1910
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: April 27, 1986

When the American government, baffled by unexplained sightings of flying objects, assigned J. Allen Hynek the task of solving the mystery, Hynek was sceptical. However, he later became the first person to scientifically analyze such sightings. He also established the "Close Encounter" classification system to study UFOs.

 6 Dilhan Eryurt

Dilhan Eryurt
6
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: November 29, 1926
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: İzmir, Turkey
Died: September 13, 2012

 7 Jayant Narlikar

Jayant Narlikar
5
Famous As: Physicist, Astronomer, Astrophysicist, Scientist, University teacher, Science fiction writer
Birthdate: July 19, 1938
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kolhapur

Born to a math professor father and a Sanskrit scholar mother, Astrophysicist and IUCAA professor Jayant Narlikar grew up to collaborate with Sir Fred Hoyle, leading to the conformal gravity theory, also known as the Hoyle-Narlikar theory. He has won the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan and penned sci-fi novels, too.

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 8 Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Jocelyn Bell Burnell
6
Famous As: Astronomer, Astrophysicist
Birthdate: July 15, 1943
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Belfast

Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist from Northern Ireland. As a postgraduate student, she discovered the first radio pulsars. She graduated from the University of Glasgow and pursued an academic career. In 2018, she received the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her discovery of radio pulsars. She donated the three million dollars she received as prize money.  

 9 Max Tegmark

Max Tegmark
5
Famous As: Physicist, Astronomer, Astrophysicist
Birthdate: May 5, 1967
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Sweden

Born to math professor Harold S. Shapiro, Max Tegmark grew up to co-establish the Future of Life Institute, with funding from Elon Musk. The MIT professor is a specialist in cosmology, physics, and machine learning and had also penned a book on artificial intelligence, titled Life 3.0.

 10 Martin Rees

Martin Rees
5
Famous As: Cosmologist
Birthdate: June 23, 1942
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: York, United Kingdom

Born to educator parents, Martin Rees excelled in math since childhood. The cosmologist and astrophysicist later taught at Cambridge, Princeton, and Harvard. Known for his research on the big-bang theory, he also won awards such as the Templeton Prize and penned books such as Our Final Century.

 11 Lawrence M. Krauss

Lawrence M. Krauss
5
Famous As: Astronomer, Physicist, Astrophysicist, Academic, Non-fiction writer, University teacher, Theoretical physicist
Birthdate: May 27, 1954
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New York City

American-Canadian theoretical physicist Lawrence M. Krauss has taught at institutes such as ASU and Yale and also penned several bestselling books. Known for his research on dark energy and zero-energy states, he was later accused of sexual misconduct and thus lost the directorship of the ASU’s Origins Project.

 12 Amy Mainzer

Amy Mainzer
5
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: January 2, 1974
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Mansfield, Ohio, United States

Astronomer Amy Mainzer has been associated with NASA's NEOWISE mission and specializes in asteroid detection. The Stanford and Caltech alumna now teaches at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona and has also appeared on the History Channel series The Universe and in several documentaries.

 13 Rainer Weiss

Rainer Weiss
5
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: September 29, 1932
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany

Born to a doctor and psychoanalyst father and an actor mother in Berlin, physicist Rainer Weiss fled to the US along with his family, to avoid the Nazi terror. Associated with institutes such as MIT and Princeton, he invented the laser interferometric technique used in LIGO and even won a Nobel Prize later.

 14 Brian Schmidt

Brian Schmidt
5
Famous As: Vice-Chancellor
Birthdate: February 24, 1967
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Missoula, Montana, United States

Nobel Prize-winning astronomer Brian Schmidt is best known for discovering what is known as dark energy of the universe. Born in the US, the Harvard alumnus later moved to Australia for his work. He has taught at the Australian National University and is now the university’s vice chancellor.

 15 Michael Foale

Michael Foale
5
Famous As: Astronaut, Astrophysicist, Physicist
Birthdate: January 6, 1957
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Louth

The first British astronaut to perform a space-walk, Michael Foale was also the only NASA astronaut to be on missions aboard both the Mir and the International Space Station. Born to a Royal Air Force pilot father, he was well-traveled. He was the only survivor of a car accident in Yugoslavia.

 16 Dennis W. Sciama

Dennis W. Sciama
5
Famous As: Physicist, Astrophysicist
Birthdate: November 18, 1926
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Manchester
Died: December 18, 1999

Dennis W. Sciama was a British physicist credited to have played a major role in the development of British physics following World War II. He is considered a co-father of modern cosmology and supervised the doctoral works of many famous cosmologists, including Martin Rees and Stephen Hawking.  He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1983. 

 17 Hubert Reeves

Hubert Reeves
3
Famous As: Popularizer of science, Astrophysicist, Science writer
Birthdate: July 13, 1932
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Montreal

Known as “The Poet of the Stars,” Canadian astrophysicist Hubert Reeves has been a NASA advisor. His research covers neutrinos and thermonuclear reactions in stars. Having penned numerous science and astronomy books such as Soleil, he is known as a popularizer of science and has an asteroid named after him.

 18 Margherita Hack

Margherita Hack
5
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: June 12, 1922
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Florence, Italy
Died: June 29, 2013

 19 Jacob Bekenstein

Jacob Bekenstein
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: May 1, 1947
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Mexico City, Mexico
Died: August 16, 2015

Jacob Bekenstein was born to Polish Jew immigrant parents in Mexico. The Rothschild Prize-winning physicist later also gained both American and Israeli citizenships. He is best remembered for his discovery of thermodynamic properties in black holes. The Princeton alumnus and Technion professor was also quite a religious man.

 20 Robert Hofstadter

Robert Hofstadter
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: February 5, 1915
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York City
Died: November 17, 1990

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Robert Hofstadter is remembered for his path-breaking research on the structures of the particles of the atomic nuclei, such as protons and neutrons. The Princeton alumnus initially worked with the National Bureau of Standards, where he developed the proximity fuse, and then taught at Princeton and Stanford.

 21 Conrad Schlumberger

Conrad Schlumberger
5
Famous As: Geophysicist
Birthdate: October 2, 1878
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Guebwiller, France
Died: May 9, 1936

Along with his brother, Marcel Schlumberger, Conrad Schlumberger formed one of the most well-known geophysicist duos of Germany. A pioneer in petroleum production, he co-established Schlumberger Ltd., one of the world’s largest oil-field service companies, with Marcel. Their technique of oil exploration offered a cheap alternative than the existing coring methods.

 22 Adam Riess

Adam Riess
2
Famous As: Professor
Birthdate: December 16, 1969
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States

Adam Guy Riess is an American astrophysicist, known for his work on Type Ia supernovae. Teaming up with Saul Perlmutter and Brian Schmidt, he started working on the supernovae, using it as cosmological probe, eventually discovering that the expansion rate of the universe is accelerating. He received the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work.

 23 John C. Mather

John C. Mather
4
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: August 7, 1946
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Roanoke, Virginia, United States

 24 Hannes Alfvén

Hannes Alfvén
2
Famous As: Physicist, Astronomer, Astrophysicist, Engineer, University teacher
Birthdate: May 30, 1908
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Norrköping
Died: April 2, 1995

 25 Thomas Gold

Thomas Gold
2
Famous As: Professor
Birthdate: May 22, 1920
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: June 22, 2004

Austrian-born astrophysicist Thomas Gold is best-remembered for proposing the steady state theory of the universe and for his deep gas hypothesis through which he re-defined the abiogenic hypothesis and made it popular in the West. He served as professor of astronomy at Cornell University and remained a member of National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society.

 26 Riccardo Giacconi

Riccardo Giacconi
2
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: October 6, 1931
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Genoa
Nobel Prize-winning physicist Riccardo Giacconi was a pioneer in the field of X-ray astronomy. Born in Italy, he later went to the U.S. to pursue his research as a Fulbright scholar. He was the man behind the launch of the Einstein Observatory and the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

 27 Lyman Spitzer

Lyman Spitzer
2
Famous As: Astronomer, Astrophysicist, Physicist, University teacher
Birthdate: June 26, 1914
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Toledo
Died: March 31, 1997

Lyman Spitzer was an American theoretical physicist, mountaineer, and astronomer. He was known for his research into star formation and plasma physics. He is credited with the invention of the stellarator plasma device and he was the one who first conceived the idea of telescopes operating in outer space. He was a founding member of the World Cultural Council. 

 28 Fang Lizhi

Fang Lizhi
2
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: February 12, 1936
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Beijing, China
Died: April 6, 2012

 29 Margaret Burbidge

Margaret Burbidge
2
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: August 12, 1919
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Davenport,England

Margaret Burbidge was a British-American observational astronomer and astrophysicist. She was the first author of the influential B2FH paper and one of the founders of stellar nucleosynthesis. She held several leadership and administrative posts and was well known for her work opposing discrimination against women in astronomy. In 1988, she was awarded the Albert Einstein World Award of Science. 

 30 Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr.

Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr.
2
Famous As: Nobel Prize Winner in Physics
Birthdate: March 29, 1941
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

 31 Robert H. Dicke

Robert H. Dicke
2
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: May 6, 1916
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: March 4, 1997

American astronomer and Princeton University physicist Robert H. Dicke is best known for making significant contributions in the fields of atomic physics, astrophysics, gravity and cosmology. He designed and introduced the Dicke radiometer, the most common form of microwave radiometer; developed the Brans–Dicke theory of gravitation with Carl H. Brans; and is generally believed to have invented the lock-in amplifier.

 32 Alexei Filippenko

Alexei Filippenko
2
Famous As: Astronomer, Astrophysicist, University teacher
Birthdate: July 25, 1958
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Oakland

Renowned astrophysicist Alexei Filippenko, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, is primarily focused on supernovae and galaxies. Apart from writing 900 research papers, he has also penned a bestselling book and appeared on programs such as The Universe. He loves tennis and often travels to view solar eclipses.

 33 Andrew E. Lange

Andrew E. Lange
2
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: July 23, 1957
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Urbana, Illinois, United States
Died: January 22, 2010

 34 William Alfred Fowler

William Alfred Fowler
2
Famous As: Nuclear Physicist and Astrophysicist
Birthdate: August 9, 1911
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Pittsburgh
Died: March 14, 1995

 35 Rashid Sunyaev

Rashid Sunyaev
1
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: March 1, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tashkent, Uzbekistan

 36 Martin Schwarzschild

Martin Schwarzschild
2
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: May 31, 1912
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Potsdam, Germany
Died: April 10, 1997

Martin Schwarzschild was a German-American astrophysicist best remembered for his work in the fields of stellar evolution and stellar structure, which paved the way to an improved understanding of differential solar rotation, pulsating stars, hydrogen shell sources, the ages of star clusters, and the helium flash. In 1997, Martin Schwarzschild was honored with the prestigious National Medal of Science. 

 37 Nikolay Aleksandrovich Kozyrev

Nikolay Aleksandrovich Kozyrev
1
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: September 2, 1908
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Died: February 27, 1983

 38 John N. Bahcall

John N. Bahcall
3
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: December 30, 1934
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Shreveport, Louisiana, United States
Died: August 17, 2005

 39 Edward Bullard

Edward Bullard
1
Famous As: Geophysicist
Birthdate: September 21, 1907
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Norwich, England
Died: April 3, 1980

A pioneer of marine geophysics, geophysicist Edward Bullard was best known for his work on geodynamo and seismology and was a professor at the University of Cambridge. Initially a nuclear physicist, he switched to geophysics to find a lucrative job during the Great Depression. He was eventually knighted for his achievements.

 40 Dirk Frimout

Dirk Frimout
1
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: March 21, 1941
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Poperinge, Belgium

 41 Edwin Ernest Salpeter

Edwin Ernest Salpeter
1
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: December 3, 1924
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: November 26, 2008

 42 Geoffrey Burbidge

Geoffrey Burbidge
1
Famous As: Professor
Birthdate: September 24, 1925
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Chipping Norton, England
Died: January 26, 2010

English astrophysicist Geoffrey Burbidge is remembered for his pioneering work on the elements in stars and was one of the authors of the B2FH paper. Initially aspiring to study history, he switched to physics later. A Fellow of The Royal Society, he also won many awards with his wife, fellow astrophysicist Margaret Burbidge.

 43 Viktor Hambardzumyan

Viktor Hambardzumyan
1
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: September 18, 1908
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Tbilisi, Georgia
Died: August 12, 1996

 44 David Schramm

David Schramm
1
Famous As: Educator
Birthdate: October 25, 1945
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: December 19, 1997

 45 Ken Freeman

Ken Freeman
1
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: August 27, 1940
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Perth, Australia

 46 James Edward Keeler

James Edward Keeler
1
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: September 10, 1857
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: La Salle, Illinois, United States
Died: August 12, 1900

James Edward Keeler initially worked at the Lick Observatory and later proved that the rings of Saturn aren’t solid but are made of tiny particles. He used the reflecting telescope for his astrophotography projects. He had also been the director of the Allegheny Observatory and had co-founded Astrophysical Journal.

 47 William Wilson Morgan

William Wilson Morgan
1
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: January 3, 1906
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bethesda, Tennessee, United States
Died: June 21, 1994

Mostly known for his life-long association with the University of Chicago’s Yerkes Observatory, astronomer William Wilson Morgan was the first to prove that the Milky Way has spiral arms. Apart from co-developing the MK system of classification of stars, he also co-established the Bautz-Morgan classification system for clusters.

 48 Robert Emden

Robert Emden
0
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: March 4, 1862
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: St. Gallen, Switzerland
Died: October 8, 1940

 49 Gerson Goldhaber

Gerson Goldhaber
0
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: February 20, 1924
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Chemnitz, Germany
Died: July 19, 2010

Particle physicist Gerson Goldhaber is best remembered for discovering charm hadrons and dark energy. The son of German parents who had escaped the Nazis and started a tour guide service in Egypt, Goldhaber later moved to the US for research and gained a US citizenship, too.

 50 Hermann Carl Vogel

Hermann Carl Vogel
0
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: April 3, 1841
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Leipzig, Germany
Died: August 13, 1907

Hermann Carl Vogel was a German astrophysicist who served as the director of Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) from 1882 to 1907. He is best remembered for making important discoveries by studying the spectral analysis of the stars. Over the course of his illustrious career, Hermann Carl Vogel was honored with several awards, including the Bruce Medal in 1906.