Famous 20th Century Biochemists

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

Vote for Your Favourite 20th Century Biochemists

Har Gobind Khorana
4
Birthdate: January 9, 1922
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Punjab, India
Died: November 9, 2011

Born into a poor family in British India, Har Gobind Khorana studied on scholarships and later bagged a seat at the University of Liverpool and thus moved to England. The renowned biochemist ended up winning the Nobel Prize for his research on how nucleotides in nucleic acids control protein synthesis.

 2 
Linus Pauling
(Chemist, Biochemist)

Linus Pauling
6
Birthdate: February 28, 1901
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Portland, Oregon, United States
Died: August 19, 1994

Only person to win two unshared Nobel Prizes, Linus Carl Pauling was an American theoretical physical chemist, who received the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on nature of chemical bond and 1962 Nobel Prize for Peace for his efforts to stop nuclear weapon testing. Also a prolific writer and educator, he has published 1,200 books and papers.  

 3 
Jennifer Doudna
(Biochemist)

Jennifer Doudna
4
Birthdate: February 19, 1964
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States

American biochemist Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, who has made fundamental contributions in biochemistry and genetics, is best-known for her pioneering work in CRISPR gene-editing. Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing a method for genome editing through CRISPR, marking them as the only two women to share science Nobel ever.

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 4 
Peggy Whitson
(Astronaut, Biochemist)

Peggy Whitson
4
Birthdate: February 9, 1960
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Beaconsfield, Iowa, United States

The first woman to command the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson was born to farmers and decided to become an astronaut after watching the moon landing on TV. She also boasts of a PhD in biochemistry and has been a researcher and educator of biochemistry and genetic engineering.

 5 
Kary B. Mullis
(Biochemist)

Kary B. Mullis
6
Birthdate: December 28, 1944
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Lenoir, North Carolina, United States
Died: August 7, 2019
Biochemist Kary Mullis won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for inventing the polymerase chain reaction. He was also known for practicing clandestine chemistry and researching on hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD. He also wrote several books, including an autobiography named Dancing Naked in the Mind Field.

 6 
Otto Heinrich Warburg
(Physiologist)

Otto Heinrich Warburg
4
Birthdate: October 8, 1883
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
Died: August 1, 1970

Otto Heinrich Warburg was a German medical doctor and physiologist. In 1931, his discovery of the nature of the respiratory enzyme earned him the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He also played an important role during World War I where he served as an officer in the cavalry regiment; he was honored with the Iron Cross for bravery.

 7 
Frederick Sanger
(Biochemist)

Frederick Sanger
4
Birthdate: August 13, 1918
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Rendcomb
Died: November 19, 2013

Frederick Sanger remains one of only two people to have won the Nobel Prize twice in the same category. The British biochemist is remembered for his ground-breaking work on nucleic acids and the insulin molecule. The son of a Quaker medical missionary, Sanger, too, grew up believing in Quakerism.

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 8 
Dorothy Hodgkin
(Biochemist)

Dorothy Hodgkin
4
Birthdate: May 12, 1910
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Cairo, Egypt
Died: July 29, 1994

Dorothy Hodgkin received the 1964 Nobel Prize for mapping the structure of penicillin and Vitamin B12. She is also known for her work on insulin. Beginning her work on structure of an organic compound by using X-ray crystallography as an undergraduate student, she later developed it further and used it to determine the three-dimensional structure of complex organic molecules.

 9 

Emmanuelle Charpentier
4
Birthdate: December 11, 1968
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Juvisy-sur-Orge, France

 10 
Erwin Chargaff
(Biochemist)

Erwin Chargaff
4
Birthdate: August 11, 1905
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chernivtsi, Ukraine
Died: June 20, 2002

Erwin Chargaff was a biochemist and writer who worked at the Columbia University medical school as a professor of biochemistry. He is credited with discovering the Chargaff's rules, which played an important role in the discovery of the DNA's double helix structure. Also a prolific writer, Erwin Chargaff authored several books, including an autobiography.

 11 
Eric Kandel
(Neurologist, Psychiatrist, Neuroscientist, Psychologist, Biochemist)

Eric Kandel
4
Birthdate: November 7, 1929
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Vienna

Nobel Prize-winning neurobiologist Eric Kandel is known for his research on the role of synapses in memory and learning. An Austrian Jew, he left his country with his family and moved to the U.S. in the wake of anti-Semitism. A doctor, specializing in psychiatry, he later taught at Columbia University.

 12 
John Kendrew
(Biochemist and Crystallographer)

John Kendrew
4
Birthdate: March 24, 1917
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
Died: August 23, 1997

Nobel Prize-winning biochemist John Kendrew revolutionized science with his 3-D model of the muscle protein myoglobin. The Cambridge alumnus later co-founded the European Molecular Biology Organization and had been the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Molecular Biology. He had also worked on operational research for the Royal Air Force.

 13 
Gertrude B. Elion
(Biochemist, Pharmacologist)

Gertrude B. Elion
3
Birthdate: January 23, 1918
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: February 21, 1999

The daughter of Jewish immigrants in New York, Gertrude B. Elion excelled in chemistry at Hunter College, where she studied for free, but was initially unable to find a job due to gender bias. The renowned biochemist and pharmacologist later won a Nobel and became a pioneer in medical research.

 14 
Alexander Shulgin
(Rediscoverer of MDMA)

Alexander Shulgin
6
Birthdate: June 17, 1925
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Berkeley, California, United States
Died: June 2, 2014

A pioneer of psychedelic drug synthesis, Alexander Shulgin came to be known as The Godfather of Ecstasy, for reinventing the drug MDMA, or ecstasy, for medical use. The Harvard drop-out, who later studied psychiatry and pharmacology, would often experiment his newly invented drugs on himself, his wife, and his friends.

 15 

Rupert Sheldrake
4
Birthdate: June 28, 1942
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England, UK

 16 
Hans Adolf Krebs
(Biologist)

Hans Adolf Krebs
5
Birthdate: August 25, 1900
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Hildesheim, Germany
Died: November 22, 1981

Born to an ENT surgeon in Germany, Hans Adolf Krebs followed in his father’s footsteps and studied medicine. After fleeing Nazi Germany, he went to England, where he joined the University of Cambridge as a researcher. The Nobel Prize-winning scientist is remembered for his groundbreaking discovery of cellular respiration.

 17 
Pierre Joliot
(Biologist and researcher for the CNRS.)

Pierre Joliot
4
Birthdate: March 12, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France

 18 
Tasuku Honjo
(Immunologist)

Tasuku Honjo
7
Birthdate: January 27, 1942
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

 19 
Rudolf Vrba
(Former biochemist became known for having escaped from the camp in April 1944, at the height of the Holocaust)

Rudolf Vrba
4
Birthdate: September 11, 1924
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Topoľčany, Slovakia
Died: March 27, 2006

 20 
Tim Hunt
(Biochemist, Chemist)

Tim Hunt
3
Birthdate: February 19, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Neston

Nobel Prize-winning British biochemist Tim Hunt is best known for his research on cell cycle regulation. He was the first to isolate cyclin, while studying sea urchins. His work helped scientists working on cancer research. He has been knighted for his achievements and has also won the Royal Medal.

 21 
Rashad Khalifa
(Chemist, Translator, Biochemist, Computer scientist)

Rashad Khalifa
3
Birthdate: November 19, 1935
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Egypt
Died: January 31, 1990

Born in Egypt, Rashad Khalifa later moved to the U.S., where he earned a PhD in biochemistry. Part of the USI and a supporter of the Quranist movement, he was found stabbed multiple times in a mosque in Arizona. It was later revealed that Sunni extremists had killed him.

 22 
Severo Ochoa
(Physician and Biochemist)

Severo Ochoa
3
Birthdate: September 14, 1905
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Luarca, Spain
Died: November 1, 1993

Nobel Prize-winning Spanish biochemist Severo Ochoa is remembered for his discovery of the enzyme polynucleotide phosphorylase and his subsequent success in synthesizing RNA. His research took him to top institutes such as the universities of Oxford and Heidelberg. He had also taught at the New York University.

 23 
Selman Waksman
(Biochemist and Microbiologist Who Discovered ‘Streptomycin’ and Several Other Antibiotics)

Selman Waksman
3
Birthdate: July 22, 1888
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Nova Pryluka, Ukraine
Died: August 16, 1973
Nobel Prize-winning Ukrainian-American biochemist and microbiologist Selman Waksman revolutionized science with his pathbreaking discovery of a number of antibiotics. His research on soil microbes helped in the discovery of streptomycin, the first successful treatment of tuberculosis, though he was sued by his student Albert Schatz for stealing credits.

 24 
Satoshi Ōmura
(Biochemist)

Satoshi Ōmura
3
Birthdate: July 12, 1935
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Nirasaki, Yamanashi, Japan

 25 
Paul Berg
(Biochemist)

Paul Berg
3
Birthdate: June 30, 1926
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York

Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Paul Berg is best known for his research on recombinant DNA techniques. The Stanford professor was born to Russian Jewish immigrants in New York and is a Penn State alumnus. He has also won the National Medal of Science, among other awards.

 26 
Duane Gish
(biochemist)

Duane Gish
3
Birthdate: February 17, 1921
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: White City
Died: March 5, 2013

Apart from being a renowned biochemist, Duane Gish was also a World War II veteran and a prominent Creationist. He taught at Cornell and penned iconic books such as Evolution: The Fossils Say No! He was also known for his fiery debates and had headed the Institute for Creation Research.

 27 
Alberto Granado
(Scientist, Writer, Screenwriter)

Alberto Granado
3
Birthdate: August 8, 1922
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Hernando, Córdoba
Died: March 5, 2011

Alberto Granado was an Argentine-Cuban doctor, biochemist, scientist, and writer. He is credited with establishing the University of Santiago de Cuba School of Medicine. Alberto Granado was also a traveling companion and friend of Che Guevara. His memoir about the 1952 motorcycle tour with Che inspired the 2004 biopic, The Motorcycle Diaries.

 28 
Marie Maynard Daly
(Biochemist)

Marie Maynard Daly
5
Birthdate: April 16, 1921
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Corona, New York, United States
Died: October 28, 2003

Marie Maynard Daly was the first Black lady to earn a doctoral degree in chemistry in the U.S. She was inspired by her father, who had to drop out of Cornell due to lack of funds. A pioneer of biochemistry, Daly later introduced a scholarship for African-American students at Queens College.

 29 
Melvin Calvin
(Biochemist)

Melvin Calvin
3
Birthdate: April 8, 1911
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Died: January 8, 1997

The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Melvin Calvin earned scholarships to fund his studies and eventually earned a PhD in chemistry from the University of Minnesota. The University of California, Berkeley professor later won a Nobel for co-discovering the Calvin cycle, which explained the chemical pathways of photosynthesis.

 30 
Arthur Kornberg
(Biochemist)

Arthur Kornberg
3
Birthdate: March 3, 1918
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New York City, United States
Died: October 26, 2007

Nobel Prize-winning biochemist and doctor Arthur Kornberg is best remembered for his research on DNA synthesis. Born to Jewish immigrants in New York, Kornberg assisted his father at his hardware shop as a child. He had also been a ship doctor for the U.S. Coast Guard.

 31 
Johanna Budwig
(Biochemist)

Johanna Budwig
3
Birthdate: September 30, 1908
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Germany
Died: May 19, 2003

German biochemist and pharmacist Johanna Budwig is best remembered for her anti-cancer diet known as the Budwig diet. Her extensive research on fatty acids helped her create the diet that consists of flaxseed oil, cottage cheese, and low-fat milk. However, there’s no scientific evidence that proves the effectiveness of the diet.

 32 
Tomas Lindahl
(Scientist)

Tomas Lindahl
3
Birthdate: January 28, 1938
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kungsholmen, Stockholm, Sweden

Tomas Lindahl is a Swedish-British scientist who specializes in cancer research. He is best known as the winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which he received alongside Turkish chemist Aziz Sancar and American chemist Paul L. Modrich. Over the years, Tomas Lindahl has also been honored with other prestigious awards such as the Royal Medal and Copley Medal.

 33 
Shirley M. Tilghman
(Molecular biologist, University teacher, Biochemist)

Shirley M. Tilghman
3
Birthdate: September 17, 1946
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Toronto

Shirley Marie Tilghman, the nineteenth President of Princeton University, currently the Emeritus Professor of Molecular Biology and Public Affairs, is considered to be one of the most influential female scientists of our time. Although she is no longer involved in active research she is known for her contributions in the fields of molecular genetics, especially in genomic imprinting.

 34 
Alexander Oparin
(Former Biochemist known for contributions to the theory of the origin of life, oacervates)

Alexander Oparin
3
Birthdate: March 2, 1894
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Uglich, Russia
Died: April 21, 1980

 35 
Marshall W. Nirenberg
(Biochemist and Geneticist)

Marshall W. Nirenberg
3
Birthdate: April 10, 1927
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, United States
Died: January 15, 2010

American biochemist and Nobel laureate Marshall W. Nirenberg is best known for his research on solving the genetic code. The son of a Jewish shirtmaker father, Nirenberg showed an early interest in biology. He led the National Heart Institute’s genetics department and was associated with the National Institutes of Health.

 36 
Shannon Lucid
(Biochemist)

Shannon Lucid
3
Birthdate: January 14, 1943
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Shanghai, China

Shannon Lucid once held the record for the longest space stay by any woman and by any American. Born in China, to missionaries, she was imprisoned by the Japanese, along with her parents, as an infant. The family then moved to the U.S., where Lucid studied at the University of Oklahoma.

 37 
Stanley B. Prusiner
(Neurologist and Biochemist)

Stanley B. Prusiner
3
Birthdate: May 28, 1942
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Des Moines, Iowa, United States

The son of an architect, Stanley B. Prusiner earned the nickname "little Genius" for inventing a bug repellent in school. The Nobel Prize-winning biochemist and neurologist is best known for discovering prions, or proteins that cause diseases, and thus suggesting an explanation for the mad cow disease.

 38 
Elias Zerhouni
(Scientist)

Elias Zerhouni
3
Birthdate: April 12, 1951
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nedroma, Algeria

Elias Zerhouni was born to a math professor in Algeria and later studied medicine, specializing in radiology, inspired by an uncle. He has been associated with the faculty of the Johns Hopkins University medical school. The former NIH director also developed the existing MRI and CAT scan technologies.

 39 
Walter Gilbert
(Biochemist, Physicist, Molecular Biologist)

Walter Gilbert
5
Birthdate: March 21, 1932
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

American molecular biologist and Nobel laureate Walter Gilbert pioneered research on the sequence of nucleotide links in DNA and RNA molecules. The Harvard and Cambridge alumnus later taught at Harvard. He also co-established firms dealing with genetic engineering and pharmaceutical research and was part of the Human Genome Project.

 40 
Richard J. Roberts
(Biochemist, Molecular Biologist)

Richard J. Roberts
3
Birthdate: September 6, 1943
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Derby, England,

Molecular biologist Richard J. Roberts is best known for his Nobel Prize-winning research on split genes. The Harvard alumnus had wished to be a detective as a child but changed his mind after being gifted a chemistry set. He was also made a Fellow of the Royal Society and knighted.

 41 
Cesar Milstein
(Biochemist, Immunologist)

Cesar Milstein
2
Birthdate: October 8, 1927
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bahía Blanca, Argentina
Died: March 24, 2002

Cesar Milstein was an Argentine biochemist renowned for his work in antibody research. He is credited with developing the Hybridoma technology, a method to produce identical antibodies in large numbers, for which he was honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1984. He also received several other awards, including the Copley Medal in 1989.

 42 
Christian de Duve
(Biochemist, Cytologist)

Christian de Duve
3
Birthdate: October 2, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Thames Ditton, England
Died: May 4, 2013

Christian de Duve was an English-born Belgian cytologist and biochemist. For his discoveries of two cell organelles, peroxisome and lysosome, he shared the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Albert Claude and George E. Palade. He was the founder of the International Institute of Cellular and Molecular Pathology in Brussels, which was later renamed in his honor. 

 43 
Osamu Shimomura
(Chemist, Biochemist, Professor)

Osamu Shimomura
3
Birthdate: August 27, 1928
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kyoto

 44 
Robert Lefkowitz
(Physician)

Robert Lefkowitz
3
Birthdate: April 15, 1943
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York, United States

Born into a family of Polish immigrants, Robert Lefkowitz grew up to be a cardiologist and biochemist, and later taught at Duke University. He is best known for his research on the signal-receiving receptor molecules, such as the GPCRs, which eventually won him a Nobel Prize.

 45 
Paul L. Modrich
(Biochemist)

Paul L. Modrich
3
Birthdate: June 13, 1946
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Raton, New Mexico, United States

Nobel Prize-winning biochemist and Duke University professor Paul L. Modrich was born to a biology teacher and sports coach father. He studied at both MIT and Stanford and did his postdoctoral research at Harvard. He is best known for his discovery of DNA mismatch repair.

 46 
Gregory Goodwin Pincus
(Former biologist and researcher who co-invented the combined oral contraceptive pill)

Gregory Goodwin Pincus
3
Birthdate: April 9, 1903
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Woodbine, New Jersey, United States
Died: August 22, 1967

Gregory Goodwin Pincus revolutionized medical science by co-inventing the first oral contraceptive or birth control pill. The Cornell and Harvard alumnus was born to Russian Jewish immigrants and had an IQ of 210. Though he initially studied agriculture, he later focused on the study of hormones, steroids, and fertility.

 47 
David Julius
(Physiologist and and Nobel Prize laureate known for his work on molecular mechanisms of pain)

David Julius
0
Birthdate: November 4, 1955
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States

 48 

Michael Smith (Chemist)
2
Birthdate: April 26, 1932
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Blackpool, England
Died: October 4, 2000

Nobel Prize-winning British-Canadian biochemist Michael Smith is best remembered for his research on site-directed mutagenesis, which has paved the path for further research on topics such as gene therapy and Alzheimer disease. A professor of biotechnology and biochemistry, he later co-founded the biotechnology company ZymoGenetics Inc.

 49 
Peter Mitchell
(Biochemist)

Peter Mitchell
2
Birthdate: September 29, 1920
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mitcham, England
Died: April 10, 1992

 50 

Frederick Gowland Hopkins
2
Birthdate: June 20, 1861
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Eastbourne, England
Died: May 16, 1947