Famous 21st Century Physicists

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 Vera Rubin

Vera Rubin.
3
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: July 23, 1928
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died: December 25, 2016

American astronomer Vera Rubin is best known for her pioneering discoveries on galaxy rotation rates, her groundbreaking work confirming the existence of dark matter and for her life-long advocacy for women in science. She studied the galactic rotation curves and provided strong evidence of the existence of dark matter. The Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile is named after her.

 2 Peter Higgs

Peter Higgs.
4
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: May 29, 1929
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Wallsend, Newcastle upon Tyne, England

Peter Higgs is a British theoretical physicist. He studied at King's College London and was awarded a Ph.D. in 1954. He went on to have a brilliant academic career and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1983. In 2013, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Belgian physicist François Englert.  

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 3 Sally Ride

Sally Ride.
11
Famous As: First American Woman To Go in Space, Physicist
Birthdate: May 26, 1951
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Encino, Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: July 23, 2012
Astronaut and physicist Sally Ride was the first American woman and the youngest American astronaut to enter space. Following her death, it was revealed that she had been in a 27-year lesbian relationship with tennis player and professor Tam O'Shaughnessy. Sally herself was a ranked junior tennis player, too.

 4 Brian Cox

Brian Cox.
12
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: March 3, 1968
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Oldham, Lancashire, England

Brian Cox is an English physicist and former musician. He has presented numerous science programs for BBC radio and TV, especially the Wonders of... series. He is also the author of several popular science books. He has been lauded for his efforts to publicize science and was awarded the British Association's Lord Kelvin Award in 2006. 

 5 Andre Geim

Andre Geim.
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: October 21, 1958
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Sochi, Russia

Andre Geim is a Russian-born Dutch-British physicist. He has been associated with the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester for several years. In 2010, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics jointly with Konstantin Novoselov in recognition of his work on graphene. He is also a recipient of the 2000 Ig Nobel Prize in Physics. 

 6 Francis Collins

Francis Collins
4
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: April 14, 1950
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Staunton, Virginia, U.S.

American physician-geneticist Francis Collins is known for his discovery of the genes related with several diseases and for leading the Human Genome Project while serving as director of NHGRI. Recipient of Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science, Collins wrote the New York Times bestseller The Language of God and presently serves as director of the NIH.

 7 Donna Strickland

Donna Strickland
4
Famous As: Optical physicist
Birthdate: May 27, 1959
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Guelph, Canada

Donna Strickland is a Canadian optical physicist who is considered a pioneer in the field of pulsed lasers. In recognition of her research on the practical implementation of chirped pulse amplification, she was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018, together with Gérard Mourou. She is currently a professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. 

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 8 John B. Goodenough

John B. Goodenough
4
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: July 25, 1922
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Jena, Germany

John B. Goodenough is an American solid-state physicist and materials scientist. He is credited with developing the lithium-ion battery. In 2019, he became the oldest person to receive a Nobel Prize when he was honored with the prestigious award for his work on lithium-ion batteries. He is also a recipient of the Copley Medal and the National Medal of Science.

 9 Boris Nemtsov

Boris Nemtsov
6
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: October 9, 1959
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Sochi, Russia
Died: February 27, 2015

 10 Sean M. Carroll

Sean M. Carroll
5
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: October 5, 1966
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Philadelphia Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.

Theoretical physicist Sean M. Carroll is a renowned Caltech professor who considers himself an old-school theorist and often maps his research using pencil and paper. Interested in field theory, gravitation, and cosmology, he blogs often, had written popular books, and has also appeared on shows such as The Universe.

 11 Jim Al-Khalili

Jim Al-Khalili
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: September 20, 1962
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Baghdad, Iraq

 12 Alicia Nash

Alicia Nash
6
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: January 1, 1933
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: San Salvador, El Salvador
Died: May 23, 2015

Born in El Salvador, Alicia Nash later moved to the U.S., where she became one of the first women to join MIT as a student. The physicist met her husband, renowned mathematician John Nash at MIT. Both Alicia and John were killed in car crash while returning home from Norway.

 13 Freeman Dyson

Freeman Dyson
6
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: December 15, 1923
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Crowthorne, England
Died: February 28, 2020

Freeman Dyson was a British-American theoretical and mathematical physicist, mathematician, and statistician. He made major contributions in the fields of quantum field theory, astrophysics, random matrices, quantum mechanics, and nuclear physics. He originated the concept that went on to be known as Dyson's transform. He received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 1986. 

 14 Chen Ning Yang

Chen Ning Yang.
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: October 1, 1922
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hefei, Anhui Province, China

Chen Ning Yang is a Chinese theoretical physicist known for his significant contributions to statistical mechanics, gauge theory, integrable systems, and both particle physics and condensed matter physics. He and Tsung-Dao Lee were awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on parity nonconservation of weak interaction. The men also elucidated the Lee-Yang circle theorem. 

 15 Charles K. Kao

Charles K. Kao.
3
Famous As: Electrical Engineer
Birthdate: November 4, 1933
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Shanghai, China
Died: September 23, 2018

Nobel Prize-winning Chinese physicist Charles K. Kao is best remembered for his discovery of how light is transmitted through fibre-optic cables. Named the Godfather of Broadband, he was also knighted by the U.K. Following his diagnosis of Alzheimer disease, he co-founded the Charles K. Kao Foundation for Alzheimer’s Disease.

 16 David Deutsch

David Deutsch
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: May 18, 1953
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Haifa, Israel

David Deutsch is a British physicist, currently serving as a visiting professor at the University of Oxford. He is a pioneer in the field of quantum computation and gave a description for a quantum Turing machine. He is a proponent of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. He received the Dirac Prize of the Institute of Physics in 1998. 

 17 Lene Hau

Lene Hau
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: November 13, 1959
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Vejle, Denmark

 18 Rainer Weiss

Rainer Weiss
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: September 29, 1932
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany

 19 Abdul Qadeer Khan

Abdul Qadeer Khan
5
Famous As: Nuclear Physicist, Metallurgical Engineer
Birthdate: April 1, 1936
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India
Died: October 10, 2021

Pakistani engineer Abdul Qadeer Khan was a major figure in the development of his country’s nuclear plans. His research also focused on uranium enrichment. He was later apparently involved in transfer of nuclear technology to Iran, among other countries, but was pardoned by then-president Pervez Musharraf.

 20 Taylor Wilson

Taylor Wilson
3
Famous As: Nuclear scientist
Birthdate: May 7, 1994
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Texarkana, Arkansas, United States

Taylor Wilson is an American nuclear physics enthusiast who is the youngest person ever to produce nuclear fusion using a fusor. He achieved this feat in 2008, at the age of 14.

 21 Hélène Langevin-Joliot

Hélène Langevin-Joliot
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: September 19, 1927
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France

French nuclear-physicist Hélène Langevin-Joliot comes from the distinguished Curie family, which includes five Nobel Laureates, including her maternal-grandparents Marie and Pierre Curie, her parents Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie, and her maternal uncle-in-law Henry Labouisse. Hélène serves as a director of research at CNRS and as professor of nuclear physics at the Institute of Nuclear Physics at the University of Paris.   

 22 Duncan Haldane

Duncan Haldane
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: September 14, 1951
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: London, England

Duncan Haldane is a British-born physicist who is currently serving as the Sherman Fairchild University Professor of Physics at Princeton University. He has made numerous fundamental contributions to condensed matter physics. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. In 2016, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics along with David J. Thouless and J. Michael Kosterlitz. 

 23 Leon M. Lederman

Leon M. Lederman.
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: July 15, 1922
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: October 3, 2018

 24 Konstantin Novoselov

Konstantin Novoselov
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: August 23, 1974
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Nizhny Tagil, Russia

Konstantin Novoselov is a Russian-British physicist, currently serving as a professor at the Centre for Advanced 2D Materials, National University of Singapore. He is the Langworthy Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester as well. Along with Andre Geim, he jointly received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. 

 25 Barry C. Barish

Barry C. Barish
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: January 27, 1936
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Omaha, Nebraska, United States

 26 David Thouless

David Thouless
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: September 21, 1934
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bearsden, United Kingdom
Died: April 6, 2019

David Thouless was a British physicist specializing in condensed-matter physics. He had a brilliant academic career and was the first director of studies in physics at Churchill College, Cambridge. He also taught at the University of Birmingham and the University of Washington. He won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Physics jointly with F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz. 

 27 Zhores Ivanovich Alferov

Zhores Ivanovich Alferov.
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: March 15, 1930
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Vitebsk, Byelorussian SSR, Soviet Union

Zhores Ivanovich Alferov was a Soviet and Russian academic and physicist whose work, which led to the formation of semiconductor heterostructures, earned him the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics. Alferov's work helped revolutionize semiconductor design, which in turn played a major role in the development of satellite communications and mobile phones.

 28 Robert Woodrow Wilson

Robert Woodrow Wilson.
3
Famous As: Physicist, Astronomer
Birthdate: January 10, 1936
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, United States

 29 Jacob Bekenstein

Jacob Bekenstein
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: May 1, 1947
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Mexico City, Mexico
Died: August 16, 2015

 30 Svyatoslav Vakarchuk

Svyatoslav Vakarchuk
3
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: May 14, 1975
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Mukachevo, Ukraine

 31 J. Michael Kosterlitz

J. Michael Kosterlitz
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: June 22, 1943
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Aberdeen, Scotland

Nobel Prize-winning British-American physicist J. Michael Kosterlitz, son of renowned biochemist Hans Walter Kosterlitz, is best known for his research on superconductivity and superfluidity. Apart from teaching physics at Brown University, he has also mastered Alpine climbing and lent his name to a climbing route. He is also an atheist.

 32 Eric Betzig

Eric Betzig
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: January 13, 1960
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Ann Arbor, Michigan

 33 Fred Singer

Fred Singer
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: September 27, 1924
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: April 6, 2020

Austrian-American physicist and University of Virginia environmental sciences professor Fred Singer was one of the first to deny the harmful effects of global warming and second-hand smoking. He co-authored books such as Climate Change Reconsidered and pioneered numerous studies on space research and atmospheric physics. He also established the SEPP.

 34 Adam Riess

Adam Riess
2
Famous As: Professor
Birthdate: December 16, 1969
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States

Adam Guy Riess is an American astrophysicist, known for his work on Type Ia supernovae. Teaming up with Saul Perlmutter and Brian Schmidt, he started working on the supernovae, using it as cosmological probe, eventually discovering that the expansion rate of the universe is accelerating. He received the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work.

 35 Nicanor Parra

Nicanor Parra
2
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: September 5, 1914
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: San Fabian, Chile
Died: January 23, 2018

 36 M. A. Wazed Miah

M. A. Wazed Miah
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: February 16, 1942
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pirganj, Bangladeshi
Died: May 9, 2009

 37 Alexei Alexeyevich Abrikosov

Alexei Alexeyevich Abrikosov
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: June 25, 1928
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
Died: March 29, 2017

 38 Yuri Orlov

Yuri Orlov
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: August 13, 1924
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
Died: September 27, 2020

 39 Eric Allin Cornell

Eric Allin Cornell
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: December 19, 1961
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Palo Alto, California, United States

 40 Isamu Akasaki

Isamu Akasaki
2
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: January 30, 1929
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Chiran, Kawanabe District, Kagoshima Prefecture

 41 David J. Wineland

David J. Wineland
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: February 24, 1944
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States

 42 Carl Wieman

Carl Wieman
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: March 26, 1951
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Corvallis, Oregon, United States

 43 Philip Morrison

Philip Morrison
2
Famous As: Professor
Birthdate: November 7, 1915
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Somerville, New Jersey, United States
Died: April 22, 2005

 44 Burton Rose

Burton Rose
2
Famous As: Nephrologist
Birthdate: November 19, 1942
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: April 24, 2020

 45 Val Logsdon Fitch

Val Logsdon Fitch.
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: March 10, 1923
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Merriman, Nebraska
Died: February 5, 2015

 46 Laura Mersini-Houghton

Laura Mersini-Houghton
2
Famous As: Cosmologist
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Tirana, Albania

 47 Joseph Engelberger

Joseph Engelberger
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: July 26, 1925
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York City, United States
Died: December 1, 2015

Known as the Father of Robotics, Joseph Engelberger went down in history as the developer of the first industrial robot in the U.S., the Unimate, which was installed in a GM plant. His book Robotics in Practice is classic in the field of robotics and has been translated in multiple languages.

 48 Bernard Lovell

Bernard Lovell
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: August 31, 1913
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Oldland Common, England
Died: August 6, 2012

Bernard Lovell was a British physicist and radio astronomer who served as the first director of Jodrell Bank Observatory, holding this position from 1945 to 1980. He studied at the University of Bristol and embarked on an academic career. During World War II, he worked for the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE). He was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal in 1980. 

 49 Gerd Binnig

Gerd Binnig.
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: July 20, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Nobel Prize-winning German physicist Gerd Binnig invented the scanning tunneling microscope, with fellow Nobel laureate Heinrich Rohrer. As a child, he devoted a lot of time to music, playing the violin and performing for an orchestra. He spent most of his scientific career with the IBM research team.

 50 Wubbo Ockels

Wubbo Ockels
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: March 28, 1946
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Almelo, Netherlands
Died: May 18, 2014