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.

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 1 Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov.
6
Famous As: Novelist, Professor
Birthdate: January 2, 1920
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Petrovichi, Russia
Died: April 6, 1992

Isaac Asimov was an American writer. Best known for his science fiction works, Asimov was regarded as one of the Big Three writers along with Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein. Asimov is credited with influencing most sci-fi writers since the 1950s. Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman stated that one of Asimov's works inspired him to take up Economics.

 2 Har Gobind Khorana

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.

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 3 Linus Pauling

Linus Pauling.
4
Famous As: Chemist, Biochemist
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.  

 4 Kary B. Mullis

Kary B. Mullis.
4
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: December 28, 1944
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Lenoir, North Carolina, United States
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.

 5 Peggy Whitson

Peggy Whitson.
4
Famous As: Astronaut, Biochemist
Birthdate: February 9, 1960
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Mount Ayr, 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.

 6 Alexander Shulgin

Alexander Shulgin
4
Famous As: Biochemist
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.

 7 Frederick Sanger

Frederick Sanger.
4
Famous As: Biochemist
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

Dorothy Hodgkin.
4
Famous As: Biochemist
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 John Kendrew

John Kendrew.
4
Famous As: Biochemist and Crystallographer
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.

 10 Pierre Joliot

Pierre Joliot
4
Famous As: Biologist, Biochemist, Professor
Birthdate: March 12, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: 6th arrondissement of Paris

 11 Erwin Chargaff

Erwin Chargaff.
4
Famous As: Biochemist
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.

 12 Gertrude B. Elion

Gertrude B. Elion.
3
Famous As: Biochemist, Pharmacologist
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.

 13 Eric Kandel

Eric Kandel
4
Famous As: Neurologist, Psychiatrist, Neuroscientist, Psychologist, Biochemist
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.

 14 Tim Hunt

Tim Hunt
3
Famous As: Biochemist, Chemist
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.

 15 Hans Adolf Krebs

Hans Adolf Krebs.
5
Famous As: Biochemist
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.

 16 Rashad Khalifa

Rashad Khalifa
3
Famous As: Chemist, Translator, Biochemist, Computer scientist
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.

 17 Severo Ochoa

Severo Ochoa.
3
Famous As: Physician and Biochemist
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.

 18 Duane Gish

Duane Gish
3
Famous As: biochemist
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.

 19 Alberto Granado

Alberto Granado
3
Famous As: Scientist, Writer, Screenwriter
Birthdate: August 8, 1922
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Hernando, Córdoba
Died: March 5, 2011

 20 Marie Maynard Daly

Marie Maynard Daly
3
Famous As: Biochemist
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.

 21 Johanna Budwig

Johanna Budwig
3
Famous As: Biochemist
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.

 22 Melvin Calvin

Melvin Calvin.
3
Famous As: Biochemist
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.

 23 Paul Berg

Paul Berg.
3
Famous As: Biochemist
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.

 24 Arthur Kornberg

Arthur Kornberg.
3
Famous As: Biochemist
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.

 25 Rosalyn Sussman Yalow

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow.
3
Famous As: Medical Physicist
Birthdate: July 19, 1921
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York City, New York, U.S.
Died: May 30, 2011

Medical physicist Rosalyn Sussman Yalow was the second woman and the first American woman to earn the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Best known for her research on the radioimmunoassay, or RIA, technique, she studied science at a time when women weren’t hired for science jobs.

 26 Shirley M. Tilghman

Shirley M. Tilghman
3
Famous As: Molecular biologist, University teacher, Biochemist
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.

 27 Marshall W. Nirenberg

Marshall W. Nirenberg.
3
Famous As: Biochemist and Geneticist
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.

 28 Christian de Duve

Christian de Duve.
3
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: October 2, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Thames Ditton, United Kingdom
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. 

 29 Walter Gilbert

Walter Gilbert.
5
Famous As: Biochemist, Physicist, Molecular Biologist
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.

 30 Stanley B. Prusiner

Stanley B. Prusiner.
3
Famous As: Neurologist and Biochemist
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.

 31 Roger D. Kornberg

Roger D. Kornberg
3
Famous As: biochemist, chemist, university teacher
Birthdate: April 24, 1947
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: St. Louis

American chemist Roger D. Kornberg studied at Harvard and Stanford and later taught at both these institutes. His research focuses on transcription, or the process of the conversion of DNA into RNA. Both he and his father have won the Nobel Prize, becoming the sixth father-son duo to achieve the feat.

 32 Cesar Milstein

Cesar Milstein.
2
Famous As: Biochemist, Immunologist
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.

 33 Gregory Goodwin Pincus

Gregory Goodwin Pincus
3
Famous As: Biologist
Birthdate: April 9, 1903
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Woodbine, New Jersey, United States
Died: 1967 AD

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.

 34 Richard J. Roberts

Richard J. Roberts.
3
Famous As: Biochemist, Molecular Biologist
Birthdate: September 6, 1943
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Derby, England,

 35 Osamu Shimomura

Osamu Shimomura
3
Famous As: Chemist, Biochemist, Professor
Birthdate: August 27, 1928
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kyoto

 36 Peter Mitchell

Peter Mitchell.
2
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: September 22, 1920
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mitcham, Surrey, England
Died: April 10, 1992

 37 Michael Smith (Chemist)

Michael Smith (Chemist).
2
Famous As: Biochemist
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.

 38 Richard Kuhn

Richard Kuhn.
2
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: December 3, 1900
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Died: August 1, 1967

Richard Kuhn was an Austrian-German biochemist whose work on vitamins and carotenoids earned him the prestigious Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1938. Over the course of his illustrious career, Richard Kuhn also won several other prestigious awards, such as the Wilhelm Exner Medal in 1952 and the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art in 1961.

 39 Phoebus Levene

Phoebus Levene
2
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: February 25, 1869
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Žagarė, Lithuania
Died: September 6, 1940

A Lithuanian Jew, Phoebus Levene moved with his family to the U.S. in the wake of anti-Semitic attacks. While he initially studied medicine, Levene later focused on biochemistry. Known for his path-breaking research on nucleic acids, he worked at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research for over three decades.

 40 Luis Federico Leloir

Luis Federico Leloir.
2
Famous As: Biochemist, Physician
Birthdate: September 6, 1906
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: December 2, 1987

Luis Federico Leloir was an Argentine biochemist and physician whose discovery of metabolic pathways in lactose earned him the prestigious Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1970. His research into renal hypertension, carbohydrate metabolism, and sugar nucleotides has led to progress in understanding and treating galactosemia. During his career, he won many awards, such as the Legion of Honour.

 41 Joseph L. Goldstein

Joseph L. Goldstein.
2
Famous As: Molecular Geneticist
Birthdate: April 18, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Kingstree, South Carolina, United States

American molecular geneticist Joseph L. Goldstein was born to clothing store owner parents in South Carolina. He ended up winning a Nobel Prize for his research on cholesterol metabolism, which later helped researchers develop statin drugs. He currently chairs the molecular genetics department of the University of Texas.

 42 Bruce Ames

Bruce Ames
2
Famous As: Biochemist, University teacher, Chemist
Birthdate: December 16, 1928
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York City

University of California, Berkeley professor, biochemist, and geneticist Bruce Ames is largely known for his invention of the Ames test, used to test the ability of chemicals to cause mutations, and his studies on cancer and ageing. The Cornell and Caltech alumnus has been associated with the NIAMD, too.

 43 Bruce Alberts

Bruce Alberts
2
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: April 14, 1938
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Bruce Alberts switched to biophysics at Harvard after getting bored with physical chemistry. He later led the NAS as its president and co-wrote iconic text books such as Molecular Biology of the Cell. Apart from teaching at Princeton and Harvard, he worked to improve science education in schools.

 44 Christian Anfinsen

Christian Anfinsen.
2
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: March 26, 1916
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Monessen, Pennsylvania
Died: May 14, 1995

Born to Norwegian immigrants in the U.S., Christian Anfinsen initially excelled in both chemistry and football. His research on the structure of complex proteins and their biological functions earned him a Nobel Prize. He was also associated with the NIH and taught at Johns Hopkins University.

 45 Charles Best

Charles Best.
2
Famous As: Co-discoverer of Insulin
Birthdate: February 27, 1899
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: West Pembroke, Pembroke, Maine, United States
Died: March 31, 1978

Charles Best made history with his discovery of insulin, along with Sir Frederick Banting, thus paving the path for its use as a treatment for diabetes. He, however, failed to get the 1923 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, like Banting, as he didn’t receive his medical degree till 1925.

 46 Adolf Butenandt

Adolf Butenandt
2
Famous As: Biochemist, Chemist, Politician, University teacher
Birthdate: March 24, 1903
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Bremerhaven
Died: January 18, 1995

 47 Carl Ferdinand Cori

Carl Ferdinand Cori.
2
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: December 5, 1896
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Prague, Czech Republic
Died: October 20, 1984

Czech-American biochemist Carl Ferdinand Cori’s interest in science was not surprising, with him being a zoologist’s son. Along with his wife, Gerty Cori, and Argentine physiologist Bernardo Houssay, Cori won the Nobel Prize for finding out that glycogen is an energy storehouse of the body.

 48 Alfred G. Gilman

Alfred G. Gilman.
2
Famous As: Pharmacologist, Biochemist
Birthdate: July 1, 1941
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New Haven, Connecticut
Died: December 23, 2015

American pharmacologist and Nobel laureate Alfred G. Gilman is best remembered for his research on G proteins. Born to a Yale pharmacology professor and author father, he was destined to make it big in science. He also taught at the University of Virginia and other institutes and co-established a biotechnology company.

 49 Rudolf Jaenisch

Rudolf Jaenisch
2
Famous As: Professor
Birthdate: April 22, 1942
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Międzygórze, Poland

 50 Ernst Boris Chain

Ernst Boris Chain.
2
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: June 19, 1906
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: August 12, 1979

Born to a chemist father in Berlin, Ernst Boris Chain moved to the U.K. amid the rise of the Nazis. The Nobel Prize-winning biochemist later worked at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford. He is best remembered for isolating and purifying penicillin, along with Howard Walter Florey.