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 Har Gobind Khorana

Har Gobind Khorana
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

Linus Pauling
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.  

 3 Kary B. Mullis

Kary B. Mullis
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.
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 4 Jennifer Doudna

Jennifer Doudna
Famous As: Biochemist
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.

 5 Peggy Whitson

Peggy Whitson
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
Famous As: Rediscoverer of MDMA
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
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
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 Emmanuelle Charpentier

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

 10 Rupert Sheldrake

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

 11 John Kendrew

John Kendrew
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.

 12 Pierre Joliot

Pierre Joliot
Famous As: Biologist and researcher for the CNRS.
Birthdate: March 12, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France

 13 Gertrude B. Elion

Gertrude B. Elion
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.

 14 Hans Adolf Krebs

Hans Adolf Krebs
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.

 15 Erwin Chargaff

Erwin Chargaff
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.

 16 Eric Kandel

Eric Kandel
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.

 17 Tim Hunt

Tim Hunt
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.

 18 Rashad Khalifa

Rashad Khalifa
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.

 19 Tasuku Honjo

Tasuku Honjo
Famous As: Immunologist
Birthdate: January 27, 1942
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

 20 Severo Ochoa

Severo Ochoa
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.

 21 Satoshi Ōmura

Satoshi Ōmura
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: July 12, 1935
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Nirasaki, Yamanashi, Japan

 22 Duane Gish

Duane Gish
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.

 23 Alberto Granado

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

 24 Melvin Calvin

Melvin Calvin
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.

 25 Paul Berg

Paul Berg
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.

 26 Johanna Budwig

Johanna Budwig
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.

 27 Marie Maynard Daly

Marie Maynard Daly
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.

 28 Arthur Kornberg

Arthur Kornberg
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.

 29 Tomas Lindahl

Tomas Lindahl
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: January 28, 1938
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kungsholmen, Stockholm, Sweden

 30 Gerhard Domagk

Gerhard Domagk
Famous As: Biochemist, Physician, University teacher
Birthdate: October 30, 1895
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Łagów
Died: April 24, 1964

Nobel Prize-winning German pathologist and bacteriologist Gerhard Domagk is best remembered for his pathbreaking discovery of Prontosil, the first sulfonamide antibiotic. The Nazis, however, didn’t allow him to accept the Nobel Prize immediately and detained him briefly instead. He had also served as a soldier in World War I.

 31 Rosalyn Sussman Yalow

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow
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.

 32 Shannon Lucid

Shannon Lucid
Famous As: Biochemist
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.

 33 Marshall W. Nirenberg

Marshall W. Nirenberg
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.

 34 Shirley M. Tilghman

Shirley M. Tilghman
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.

 35 Christian de Duve

Christian de Duve
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. 

 36 Stanley B. Prusiner

Stanley B. Prusiner
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.

 37 Paul L. Modrich

Paul L. Modrich
Famous As: Biochemist
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.

 38 Walter Gilbert

Walter Gilbert
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.

 39 Cesar Milstein

Cesar Milstein
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.

 40 Roger D. Kornberg

Roger D. Kornberg
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.

 41 David Julius

David Julius
Famous As: Physiologist and and Nobel Prize laureate known for his work on molecular mechanisms of pain
Birthdate: November 4, 1955
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States

 42 Elias Zerhouni

Elias Zerhouni
Famous As: Scientist
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.

 43 Robert Lefkowitz

Robert Lefkowitz
Famous As: Physician
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.

 44 Gregory Goodwin Pincus

Gregory Goodwin Pincus
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.

 45 Osamu Shimomura

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

 46 Richard J. Roberts

Richard J. Roberts
Famous As: Biochemist, Molecular Biologist
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.

 47 Peter Mitchell

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

 48 Michael Smith (Chemist)

Michael Smith (Chemist)
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.

 49 Richard Kuhn

Richard Kuhn
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.

 50 Stanley Cohen

Stanley Cohen
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: November 17, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: February 5, 2020

Nobel laureate Stanley Cohen was born to a Jewish immigrant tailor and initially worked as a bacteriologist. The American biochemist revolutionized science with his research on cellular growth factors, helping later scientists understand the development of cancer cells. He spent most of his career at the Washington and Vanderbilt universities.