Famous Chemists Of The 20th Century

Chemists are scientists who specialize in the field of chemistry. Having said that, the job of a chemist does not limit to a chemistry laboratory alone! Today, with rapid industrialization, almost every industry employs chemists in their industrial set-ups be it pharmaceuticals or plastics, medicine or paints, chemical industry or detergent industry and so on. Chemists generally investigate the chemical nature of substances and observe how they behave under different conditions to search for new knowledge. They examine both organic and inorganic compounds to determine their chemical and physical properties, composition, structure, and reactivity. Chemists try to decode the details of the chemical molecules and their component atoms. It is this knowledge that comes in assistance to comprehend the composition and properties of unknown substances. Over the years, there have been innumerable chemists from every century who have greatly contributed to the society’s chemical future. However, the largest influx in the subject was seen in the 20th century as more and more individuals dedicated themselves to this field of study. 20th century was home to some of most famous and renowned chemists of the era including Dan Shechtman, Derek Barton, Charles J Pederson and Albert Hofmann. Given below is an extensive list of famous chemists of the 20th century.

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 Marie Curie

Marie Curie.
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: November 7, 1867
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Warsaw, Poland
Died: July 4, 1934
Amongst the most notable scientists of her time, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the sole person to win two Nobel Prize in two different category, and the first woman professor at the University of Paris—Marie Curie’s list of achievements is incredible. She did extensive research in the field of radioactivity and discovered polonium and radium.

 2 Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin.
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: July 25, 1920
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Notting Hill, London, England
Died: April 16, 1958
Chemist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin is remembered for her pathbreaking X-ray diffraction studies of DNA, which helped in the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of the double helix structure of DNA by Francis Crick, James Watson, and Maurice Wilkins later. She also worked on the molecular structures of viruses. 
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 3 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.  

 4 William Henry Perkin

William Henry Perkin.
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: March 12, 1838
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: London, England
Died: July 14, 1907

William Henry Perkin is best remembered for his chance discovery of the dye mauveine, made of aniline purple. He had apparently discovered the dye while attempting to synthesize quinine. The Royal Medal-winning British chemist also studied salicyl alcohol and flavoring agents and synthesized the first artificial perfume.

 5 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.

 6 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.

 7 Glenn T. Seaborg

Glenn T. Seaborg.
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: April 19, 1912
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Ishpeming, Michigan
Died: February 25, 1999
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 8 Stephanie Kwolek

Stephanie Kwolek.
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: July 31, 1923
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New Kensington, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: June 18, 2014

 9 Albert Hofmann

Albert Hofmann.
Famous As: The First Person to Synthesize LSD
Birthdate: January 11, 1906
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Baden
Died: April 29, 2008

Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann was the first known person to synthesize the psychedelic effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Interested in science from a young age, he studied chemistry at the University of Zürich. As a chemist, he conducted several significant studies and authored more than 100 scientific articles and books. He was a recipient of the prestigious Scheele Award.

 10 Alexander Shulgin

Alexander Shulgin
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.

 11 Tu Youyou

Tu Youyou
Famous As: chemist, pharmacologist, inventor, university teacher
Birthdate: December 30, 1930
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Ningbo

Chinese phytochemist and malariologist Tu Youyou is best remembered for her Nobel Prize-winning discovery of the anti-malarial drug qinghaosu, or artemisinin. She is the first Chinese female Nobel laureate. A tuberculosis infection in her younger days had inspired her to step into medicine. She later studied traditional Chinese medicine, too.

 12 Owsley Stanley

Owsley Stanley
Famous As: Chemist, Engineer, Audio engineer
Birthdate: January 19, 1935
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kentucky
Died: March 12, 2011

 13 George de Hevesy

George de Hevesy
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: August 1, 1885
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Budapest, Austria-Hungary
Died: July 5, 1966

 14 Joachim Sauer

Joachim Sauer
Famous As: Chemist, University teacher
Birthdate: April 19, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hosena

 15 Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff

Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: August 30, 1852
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rotterdam, Netherlands
Died: March 1, 1911

 16 Robert Burns Woodward

Robert Burns Woodward.
Famous As: Organic Chemist
Birthdate: April 10, 1917
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died: July 8, 1979

 17 Elias James Corey

Elias James Corey.
Famous As: Organic Chemist
Birthdate: July 12, 1928
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Methuen, Massachusetts, United States

 18 Roald Hoffmann

Roald Hoffmann.
Famous As: Theoretical Chemist
Birthdate: July 18, 1937
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Złoczów, Poland (now Ukraine)

 19 George M. Whitesides

George M. Whitesides
Famous As: Chemist, University teacher
Birthdate: August 3, 1939
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Louisville

 20 James Lovelock

James Lovelock
Famous As: Biologist, Chemist, University teacher, Mythographer
Birthdate: July 26, 1919
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Letchworth

Renowned James Lovelock is best known for propagating the Gaia hypothesis, which states that every living being on planet Earth is part of a single self-regulating superorganism. He is also known for his long association with NIMR, London, and Harvard University and has over 50 patents under his name.

 21 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.

 22 Sidney Gottlieb

Sidney Gottlieb
Famous As: Chemist, Psychiatrist
Birthdate: August 3, 1918
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York City
Died: March 7, 1999

 23 Martyn Poliakoff

Martyn Poliakoff
Famous As: Chemist, University teacher
Birthdate: December 16, 1947
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: England

Chemist and University of Nottingham professor Martyn Poliakoff is also a YouTube sensation, popular for his channel Periodic Videos and the short video series The Periodic Table of Videos. A Fellow of The Royal Society, he has also been honored by the scientific communities of Ethiopia, Russia, and China.

 24 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.

 25 John Cornforth

John Cornforth.
Famous As: Nobel Prize Winner Chemist
Birthdate: September 7, 1917
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Sydney, Australia
Died: December 8, 2013

John Cornforth was an Australian-British chemist who became the first Nobel laureate from New South Wales when he was honored with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1975. Over the course of his career, Cornforth also won other prestigious awards like the Royal Medal, Copley Medal, and Centenary Medal. In 1975, he was adjudged the Australian of the Year.

 26 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.

 27 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.

 28 Michael Levitt

Michael Levitt
Famous As: Physicist, Biologist, Bioinformatician, Chemist, Scientist, Educationist, University teacher
Birthdate: May 9, 1947
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pretoria

Michael Levitt is a biophysicist who has been serving as a Stanford University professor of structural biology since 1987. Along with Arieh Warshel and Martin Karplus, Levitt received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2013. He has also received several other awards, including the DeLano Award for Computational Biosciences and was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences in 2002.

 29 Ernest Solvay

Ernest Solvay
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: April 16, 1838
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Rebecq, Belgium
Died: May 26, 1922

 30 Clara Immerwahr

Clara Immerwahr
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: June 21, 1870
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Wojczyce, Poland
Died: May 2, 1915

 31 Dan Shechtman

Dan Shechtman.
Birthdate: January 24, 1941
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Tel Aviv, Israel

Dan Shechtman is a scientist currently serving as the Philip Tobias Professor of Materials Science at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. He is best known for his work in the field of quasiperiodic crystals. He received the  Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2011. He unsuccessfully ran for the post of president of Israel in 2014.

 32 Ada Yonath

Ada Yonath.
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: June 22, 1939
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Jerusalem, Isreal

Ada Yonath is an Israeli crystallographer. She is best known for her work on the structure of the ribosome, for which she received the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas A. Steitz. The first Israeli woman to win the Nobel Prize, she occupies the Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professorial Chair at the Weizmann Institute.  

 33 Herbert Henry Dow

Herbert Henry Dow
Famous As: Industrialist
Birthdate: February 26, 1866
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Belleville, Canada
Died: October 15, 1930

Herbert Henry Dow taught chemistry before venturing into a business career. Though his first company was a failure, his work impressed investors, and he was soon able to establish Dow Chemical, which supplied low-cost bromine to the US markets. He later made auto pistons out of spare magnesium.

 34 James Dewar

James Dewar
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: September 20, 1842
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kincardine, Scotland
Died: March 27, 1923

James Dewar was a British chemist and physicist best known for his invention of the vacuum flask. He conducted considerable research into the liquefaction of gases and atomic and molecular spectroscopy. He also wrote papers on the qualities of hydrogen and organic chemistry. He was awarded the Albert Medal of the Royal Society of Arts and the Rumford Medal. 

 35 Albert C. Barnes

Albert C. Barnes
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: January 2, 1872
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: July 24, 1951

 36 Giulio Natta

Giulio Natta.
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: February 25, 1903
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Imperia, Italy
Died: May 2, 1979

Giulio Natta was an Italian chemist whose work on high polymers alongside Karl Ziegler earned him the prestigious Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1963. He is also credited with developing Ziegler-Natta catalyst, which is named after him and Karl Ziegler. During his illustrious career, Giulio Natta won many other prestigious awards, such as the Lomonosov Gold Medal in 1969.

 37 Stanley Miller

Stanley Miller
Famous As: Chemist, Biologist, University teacher
Birthdate: March 7, 1930
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Oakland
Died: May 20, 2007

Stanley Miller was an American chemist best remembered for conducting several important experiments in abiogenesis. His 1952 Miller–Urey experiment proved that inorganic precursors could be used to synthesize complex organic molecules. Often referred to as the father of prebiotic chemistry, Miller was honored with the prestigious Oparin Medal in 1983.

 38 Willard Libby

Willard Libby.
Famous As: Physical Chemist
Birthdate: December 17, 1908
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Grand Valley, Colorado, United States
Died: September 8, 1980

 39 Catherine Coleman

Catherine Coleman
Famous As: Chemist, Air force officer, Astronaut, Engineer
Birthdate: December 14, 1960
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Charleston

 40 Elias Canetti

Elias Canetti
Famous As: Writer, Aphorist, Playwright, Chemist, Essayist
Birthdate: July 25, 1905
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Rousse
Died: August 14, 1994

Bulgarian-born author and Nobel laureate Elias Canetti interestingly became one of the greatest authors in German, his third language. Though equipped with a doctoral degree in chemistry, he gained fame for his iconic works such as The Tower of Babel and Crowds and Power, which focused on crowd psychology.

 41 Max Factor Sr.

Max Factor Sr.
Famous As: American makeup designer
Birthdate: September 15, 1877
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Łódź, Poland
Died: August 30, 1938

 42 Carl Djerassi

Carl Djerassi
Famous As: Chemist, Writer, University teacher, Science fiction writer, Scientist
Birthdate: October 29, 1923
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Vienna
Died: January 31, 2015

Known as the father of the pill, Carl Djerassi is best remembered for chemically synthesizing a steroid mimic of the hormone progesterone, which paved the way for the production of contraceptive pills.  That apart, he made important contributions to the synthesis of antihistamines, pest control, mass spectrometry etc. Also a successful author, he wrote several non-fictions, novels, dramas and poems.

 43 Marguerite Perey

Marguerite Perey
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: October 19, 1909
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Villemomble, France
Died: May 13, 1975

 44 Sir Harold W. Kroto

Sir Harold W. Kroto.
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: October 7, 1939
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Wisbech, United Kingdom
Died: April 30, 2016

 45 Lars Onsager

Lars Onsager
Famous As: Physicist, Engineer, Professor, Chemist, Theoretical physicist
Birthdate: November 27, 1903
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Oslo
Died: October 5, 1976

 46 Yuan T. Lee

Yuan T. Lee.
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: November 19, 1936
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Hsinchu

 47 Walter Kohn

Walter Kohn.
Famous As: Physicist and Chemist
Birthdate: March 9, 1923
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: April 19, 2016

Walter Kohn was an Austrian-American theoretical physicist and theoretical chemist. He and fellow theoretical chemist John Pople were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1998. Kohn made a major contribution to the development of density functional theory. He had an illustrious academic career and was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

 48 Richard E. Smalley

Richard E. Smalley.
Famous As: Father of Nanotechnology
Birthdate: June 6, 1943
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ohio, United States
Died: October 28, 2005

 49 Peter Agre

Peter Agre
Famous As: Chemist, Molecular biologist, Professor
Birthdate: January 30, 1949
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Northfield

 50 Paul Lauterbur

Paul Lauterbur
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: May 6, 1929
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Sidney, Ohio, United States
Died: March 27, 2007