Famous 20th Century Geneticists

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 1 Norman Borlaug

Norman Borlaug.
Famous As: Father of the Green Revolution
Birthdate: March 25, 1914
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Cresco, Iowa
Died: September 12, 2009

Norman Borlaug was an American agronomist who played a key role in the Green Revolution, a set of research technology transfer initiatives that increased agricultural production, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. Nicknamed the Father of the Green Revolution, Borlaug was also honored with the Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work.

 2 Ronald Fisher

Ronald Fisher.
Famous As: Statistician
Birthdate: February 17, 1890
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: East Finchley, London, England
Died: July 29, 1962

Ronald Fisher was a British polymath, statistician, geneticist, mathematician, and academic. He is credited to have single-handedly created the foundations for modern statistical science. He made important contributions to the field of genetics and is known as one of the three principal founders of population genetics. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1929. 

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 3 Nettie Stevens

Nettie Stevens.
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: July 7, 1861
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cavendish, Vermont, United States
Died: May 4, 1912

Nettie Stevens was an American geneticist. She is credited with discovering sex chromosomes which later came to be known as the X and Y chromosomes. In 1994, Nettie Stevens was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

 4 M. S. Swaminathan

M. S. Swaminathan.
Famous As: Agricultural Scientist
Birthdate: August 7, 1925
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kumbakonam

Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning geneticist M. S. Swaminathan is best known for his contribution to the Indian Green Revolution. Featured on Time, he introduced high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice seedlings to Indian farmers. He is also known for his administrative work as part of the Indian civil services.

 5 Barbara McClintock

Barbara McClintock.
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: June 16, 1902
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Died: September 2, 1992

Barbara McClintock was a scientist and cytogeneticist who received the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. She earned her Ph.D. in botany from Cornell University and began her lifelong work in the development of maize cytogenetics. She eventually gained recognition as among the best in the field and was honored with several prestigious awards.  

 6 George R. Price

George R. Price
Famous As: Mathematician, Geneticist
Birthdate: October 6, 1922
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: United States of America
Died: January 6, 1975

Best known for his theory of Price Equation, American population geneticist, George R. Price, worked as a chemist for more than two decades before shifting to theoretical biology. On reading W.D. Hamilton's paper on kin selection, he eventually started working on it, in the process devising what is today known as Price Equation and also introducing the evolutionarily stable strategy.

 7 Joshua Lederberg

Joshua Lederberg.
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: May 23, 1925
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Montclair, New Jersey, United States
Died: February 2, 2008

Joshua Lederberg was an American molecular biologist best remembered for his work in the field of artificial intelligence, microbial genetics, and the US space program. In 1958, Lederberg won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine when he was just 33; he won the prize for discovering bacterial conjugation. In 2006, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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 8 Theodosius Dobzhansky

Theodosius Dobzhansky
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: January 24, 1900
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Nemyriv, Ukraine
Died: December 18, 1975

Theodosius Dobzhansky was a Ukrainian-American geneticist and evolutionary biologist. He played a key role in shaping modern synthesis in the field of evolutionary biology.  His 1937 book, Genetics and the Origin of Species, is a seminal work on modern synthesis. He was the recipient of several awards, including the US National Medal of Science and the Franklin Medal.  

 9 Massimo Pigliucci

Massimo Pigliucci
Famous As: Biologist, Philosopher, Geneticist, Writer, University teacher
Birthdate: January 16, 1964
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Monrovia

Massimo Pigliucci is an academician currently serving as a professor of philosophy at the City College of New York. A staunch critic of pseudoscience and creationism, he advocates for secularism and science education. He was once the co-host of the Rationally Speaking Podcast. He often writes on topics, such as climate change denial, pseudoscience, intelligent design, and philosophy. 

 10 Carol W. Greider

Carol W. Greider
Famous As: Biologist, Molecular biologist, Geneticist, Physician
Birthdate: April 15, 1961
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Davis

Carol W. Greider is a molecular biologist who discovered the enzyme telomerase in 1984. Her discovery was honored several years later when she received the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, along with Blackburn and Jack W. Szostak for their work on telomeres.  The trio also shared the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research for the same work.  

 11 Harold E. Varmus

Harold E. Varmus.
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: December 18, 1939
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Oceanside, New York, US

Harold E. Varmus is an American scientist who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with J. Michael Bishop for their discovery of the retroviral oncogenes' cellular origin. From 1993 to 1999, he served as the director of the National Institutes of Health. From 2010 to 2015, he served as the director of the National Cancer Institute.

 12 Jack W. Szostak

Jack W. Szostak
Famous As: Biologist, Molecular biologist, Geneticist, Physician, Professor
Birthdate: November 9, 1952
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: London

Nobel Prize-winning Canadian-American biochemist and geneticist Jack W. Szostak revolutionized medical science with his research on the manipulation of genes. The Cornell alumnus is credited with creating the first yeast artificial chromosome. He has also taught at the Harvard Medical School. In spite of being Polish, he doesn’t speak the language.

 13 Sewall Wright

Sewall Wright
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: December 21, 1889
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Melrose, Massachusetts, United States
Died: March 3, 1988

 14 Ian Wilmut

Ian Wilmut
Famous As: Biologist
Birthdate: July 7, 1944
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hampton Lucy, England

British biologist Ian Wilmut revolutionized embryology by leading the team of researchers who successfully created the first cloned mammal, the sheep named Dolly. A leading proponent of cryopreservation, he also implanted the first calf embryo, Frostie, in a surrogate cow. He was later knighted for his achievements.

 15 Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard

Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard.
Famous As: Researcher
Birthdate: October 20, 1942
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Magdeburg

Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard is a German developmental biologist. She studied at the University of Tübingen where she earned a Ph.D. for her research on protein–DNA interactions. Together with biologist Eric Wieschaus and geneticist Edward B. Lewis, she received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1995. She is also a recipient of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize. 

 16 Cyril Burt

Cyril Burt
Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: March 3, 1883
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Westminster, London, England
Died: October 10, 1971

Cyril Burt was an English geneticist and educational psychologist who also made immense contributions to statistics. A prolific writer, Cyril Burt published several books and articles on topics ranging from psychometrics to parapsychology over the course of his career.

 17 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.

 18 Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer

Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer
Famous As: Human biologist
Birthdate: July 16, 1896
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Wildeck, Germany
Died: August 8, 1969

German biologist and eugenicist Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer was an advocate of racial hygiene and the mandatory sterilization of the physically and mentally disabled. He also led the Nazi experiments on twins based on body parts made available to him from the inmates of various concentration camps.

 19 Philip Allen Sharp

Philip Allen Sharp.
Famous As: Geneticist, Molecular Biologist
Birthdate: June 6, 1944
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Falmouth, Kentucky

Philip Allen Sharp is an American molecular biologist and geneticist best known for co-discovering RNA splicing. In 1993, he received the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Sir Richard John Roberts. Philip Allen Sharp has also won several other awards, such as the National Medal of Science, the Benjamin Franklin Medal, and the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize. 

 20 Francisco J. Ayala

Francisco J. Ayala
Famous As: Biologist, Geneticist, Philosopher, University teacher
Birthdate: March 12, 1934
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Madrid

Francisco J. Ayala is a Spanish-born American evolutionary geneticist and molecular biologist, best known for his investigation on the process of genetic variation and natural selection at molecular level. He also undertook research on public health, providing new ideas on the prevention and treatment of diseases and expounded how Darwin’s theory of evolution is well-matched to religious theory of creation.  

 21 Spencer Wells

Spencer Wells
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: April 6, 1969
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Marietta

Renowned population geneticist Spencer Wells is best known for his study of human diversity. His analysis has led him to believe that all humans have descended from a single man from Africa, the Y-chromosomal Adam, who lived around 60,000-90,000 years back. He has also headed National Geographic’s Genographic Project.

 22 Reginald Punnett

Reginald Punnett
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: June 20, 1875
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Tonbridge, England
Died: January 3, 1967

Reginald Punnett was a British geneticist who is credited with creating the Punnett square, which is used by biologists even today to evaluate the probability of genotypes of offspring. He is also credited with co-founding the Journal of Genetics alongside William Bateson in 1910. Reginald Punnett’s book Mendelism is considered by some to be the first textbook on genetics.

 23 Alfred Day Hershey

Alfred Day Hershey.
Famous As: Nobel Prize Winner in Medicine
Birthdate: December 4, 1908
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Owosso, Michigan
Died: May 22, 1997

Nobel Prize-winning biologist Alfred Day Hershey is best remembered for his research on bacteriophages, or viruses that infect bacteria. He was associated with the Washington University throughout most of his life. He is also known for his blender experiment, which he conducted with his work partner Martha Chase.

 24 Howard Martin Temin

Howard Martin Temin.
Famous As: Geneticist and Virologist
Birthdate: December 10, 1934
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: February 9, 1994

Virologist Howard Martin Temin won his Nobel Prize for co-discovering the enzyme reverse transcriptase. His initial research was in the area of animal cancers, as he was also a PhD in animal virology from Caltech. He spent almost his entire academic career teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  

 25 Andrew Fire

Andrew Fire
Famous As: Biologist
Birthdate: April 27, 1959
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Palo Alto, California, United States

Geneticist Andrew Fire is best known for his Nobel Prize-winning work on the double-stranded RNA. The MIT alumnus did most of his research under the guidance of Nobel laureate Philip A. Sharp. His discovery of the RNAi later aided scientists work on the cure for ailments such as AIDS and cancer.

 26 C.H. Waddington

C.H. Waddington
Famous As: Developmental Biologist
Birthdate: November 8, 1905
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Evesham, England
Died: September 26, 1975

British embryologist C.H. Waddington had studied paleontology before turning to biology. A professor of zoology and embryology, he later also taught animal genetics. His interests also included poetry, painting, and Marxism. He introduced concepts such as epigenetic landscape and genetic assimilation, and penned books such as Principles of Embryology.

 27 Baruch Samuel Blumberg

Baruch Samuel Blumberg.
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: July 28, 1925
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: April 5, 2011

Nobel Prize-winning physician Baruch Samuel Blumberg is best remembered for his research on the antigen-antibody reaction. His study of an antibody response against hepatitis B helped later scientists develop a vaccine for the disease. He died soon after delivering a speech at the NASA Ames Research Center.

 28 Joseph L. Goldstein

Joseph L. Goldstein.
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.

 29 Mathilde Krim

Mathilde Krim
Famous As: Geneticist, Physician
Birthdate: July 9, 1926
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Como

 30 Alfred Sturtevant

Alfred Sturtevant
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: November 21, 1891
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Jacksonville, Illinois, United States
Died: April 5, 1970

Alfred Sturtevant was an American geneticist. He is credited with constructing a chromosome's first genetic map in 1911. Throughout his career, Sturtevant did extensive research on Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) and his research on the Drosophila genome allowed other geneticists to map chromosomes of higher organisms like human beings. Alfred Sturtevant received the prestigious National Medal of Science in 1967.

 31 Rudolf Jaenisch

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

 32 Werner Arber

Werner Arber.
Famous As: Microbiologist & Geneticist
Birthdate: June 3, 1929
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Gränichen, Aarau, Aargau, Switzerland

Werner Arber is a Swiss geneticist and microbiologist whose discovery of restriction endonucleases earned him the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1978; he shared the award with Daniel Nathans and Hamilton Smith. Arber's work alongside Nathans and Smith led to the progression of recombinant DNA technology. Werner Arber is also credited with co-founding the World Cultural Council.

 33 Jérôme Lejeune

Jérôme Lejeune
Famous As: Pediatrician
Birthdate: June 13, 1926
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Montrouge, France
Died: April 3, 1994

 34 Edward B. Lewis

Edward B. Lewis.
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: May 20, 1918
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Died: July 21, 2004

Edward B. Lewis was an American geneticist who helped found evolutionary developmental biology, a field that compares the developmental processes of various organisms. In 1995, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Eric Wieschaus and Christine Nüsslein-Volhard. He also won several other prestigious awards like the National Medal of Science and the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize.

 35 Walter Sutton

Walter Sutton
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: April 5, 1877
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Utica, New York, United States
Died: November 10, 1916

Walter Sutton was an American physician and geneticist best remembered for his Boveri-Sutton chromosome theory, which is widely regarded as one of the most important contributions to present-day biology. Walter Sutton is also credited with improving several medical and surgical practices, such as anesthetic techniques.

 36 George Wells Beadle

George Wells Beadle.
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: October 22, 1903
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Wahoo, Nebraska, United States
Died: June 9, 1989

George Wells Beadle was an American geneticist who served as the president of the University of Chicago from 1961 until his retirement. In 1958, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering the role played by genes in controlling the biochemical events within cells. George Wells Beadle also won other awards like the Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal.

 37 Edmund Beecher Wilson

Edmund Beecher Wilson
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: October 19, 1856
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Geneva, Illinois, United States
Died: March 3, 1939

Edmund Beecher Wilson was an American geneticist and zoologist. He is credited with writing a textbook titled The Cell which is widely regarded as one of the most influential and important books in modern biology. Regarded as America's first cell biologist, Wilson is also credited with discovering the XY sex-determination system which is used to classify several mammals, including humans.

 38 Michael S. Brown

Michael S. Brown.
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: April 13, 1941
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Michael S. Brown is an American geneticist who received the 1985 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. His research on cholesterol metabolism along with Joseph L. Goldstein paved the way for the development of statin drugs, which are used today by 16 million Americans. For his contributions to medicine, Brown was honored with the National Medal of Science in 1988.

 39 Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen

Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen
Famous As: Botanist
Birthdate: February 3, 1857
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Copenhagen, Denmark
Died: November 11, 1927

 40 Theodor Boveri

Theodor Boveri
Famous As: Biologist
Birthdate: October 12, 1862
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bamberg, Germany
Died: October 15, 1915

 41 Calvin Bridges

Calvin Bridges
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: January 11, 1889
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Schuyler Falls, New York, United States
Died: December 27, 1938

Calvin Bridges was an American scientist best remembered for his work in the field of genetics. Bridges was part of the famous Fly Room experiments along with other popular scientists like H.J. Muller and Alfred Sturtevant. The experiments were the first in a series of other experiments that conducted research on Drosophila melanogaster.

 42 Carl Correns

Carl Correns
Famous As: Botanist
Birthdate: September 19, 1864
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Munich, Germany
Died: February 14, 1933

 43 Richard Goldschmidt

Richard Goldschmidt
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: April 12, 1878
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Frankfurt, Germany
Died: April 24, 1958

Richard Goldschmidt was a geneticist best remembered for becoming the first person to attempt to integrate evolution, genetics, and development. He pioneered understanding of genetic assimilation, reaction norms, sex determination, dynamical genetics, and heterochrony. He is also credited with describing a nematode's nervous system.

 44 George D. Snell

George D. Snell.
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: December 19, 1903
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: December 19, 1903, Bradford, Massachusetts, United States
Died: June 6, 1996

George D. Snell was an American basic transplant immunologist and mouse geneticist. In 1980, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, which he shared with Jean Dausset and Baruj Benacerraf. In 1978, Snell was honored with the William B. Coley Award for his research in immunology.

 45 Curt Richter

Curt Richter
Famous As: Biologist
Birthdate: February 20, 1894
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: United States
Died: December 21, 1988

Curt Richter is best remembered for his pioneering study on biorhythms. Born to a German immigrant engineer, Richter initially studied engineering but later switched to biology and then psychology. He later taught psychobiology and also worked on concepts such as the biological clock and circadian rhythms.

 46 George Harrison Shull

George Harrison Shull
Famous As: Plant biologist
Birthdate: April 15, 1874
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Clark County, Ohio, United States
Died: September 28, 1954

George Harrison Shull gained fame not just as a plant geneticist but also for his pioneering discovery of hybrid corn, or maize. He also coined the term heterosis. He taught at Princeton for 27 years and also established the journal Genetics, serving as its managing editor.

 47 E. B. Ford

E. B. Ford
Famous As: Ecological Geneticist
Birthdate: April 23, 1901
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Dalton-in-Furness, England
Died: January 2, 1988

Ecological geneticist B. Ford is remembered for his extensive research on natural selection. An Oxford professor, he had also penned books such as Mendelism and Evolution and Genetic Polymorphism. The Darwin Medal winner introduced the technique of marking animal specimens to determine their population. Single for life, he was considered eccentric.

 48 Ruth Sager

Ruth Sager
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: February 7, 1918
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: March 29, 1997

Though renowned geneticist Ruth Sager was involved in pioneering research on cytoplasmic genetics, her contribution wasn’t validated till the 1970s, largely due to gender bias. She later focused on cancer genetics. While she was initially interested in liberal arts, she later decided to join medical school but eventually settled for research.

 49 C. D. Darlington

C. D. Darlington
Famous As: Biologist
Birthdate: December 19, 1903
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chorley, England
Died: March 26, 1981

Biologist C. D. Darlington is remembered for his pathbreaking research on chromosomes, which later contributed to further research on evolution. He had a poverty-stricken childhood but later became an Oxford professor of botany. He penned books such as The Evolution of Man and Society, which claimed intelligence was hereditary.

 50 Theophilus Painter

Theophilus Painter
Famous As: Zoologist
Birthdate: August 22, 1889
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Salem, Virginia, United States
Died: October 5, 1969

Zoologist Theophilus Painter made some groundbreaking studies on chromosomes, with special focus on the X and Y chromosomes and chromosomes of the salivary glands of the Drosophila fly. The Yale alumnus was associated with the University of Texas, where he eventually became the president.