Famous American Chemists

If you ever had a vaccine shot or have used polythene or have taken in penicillin to get rid of that sore throat, thank the chemists from around the world, for had it not been for them, the world indeed wouldn’t have been the same that it is today. Chemistry is, by far, the most overlooked branch of science but has nonetheless contributed for much of our necessities and luxuries. And while talking about chemists, the contribution made by their American counterparts is noteworthy. Had it not been for Ira Remsen the world wouldn’t have been as sweet as it is today! Quite literally, for he is credited with the discovery of the first artificial sweetener, saccharin! Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian-American, is often known as the father of the plastic industry. The nylon that you frequently use today was a baby of the American chemist Wallace Carothers study. Imagine analytical chemistry without Izaak Kolthoff. This Dutch-American chemist was known for developing the cold process of rubber synthesis. Niacin, the new vitamin found in meat and yeast was a brainchild of American biochemist Conrad Arnold Elvejhem. These are just the handful of the numerous American chemists who have through their intensive study and experiments, made the world a better place to live in. The section below throws light on the life and works of some of the renowned American chemists.

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 George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver
4
Famous As: Scientist & Inventor
Birthdate: January 1, 1864
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Diamond, Missouri, United States
Died: January 5, 1943
Agricultural scientist George Washington Carver is best remembered for promoting crops that were alternative to cotton, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes. He invented ways to prevent soil depletion and developed scores of products made from peanuts, including paints and cosmetics. He won numerous honors, such as the Spingarn Medal.

 2 Linus Pauling

Linus Pauling
8
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 Glenn T. Seaborg

Glenn T. Seaborg
4
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: April 19, 1912
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Ishpeming, Michigan
Died: February 25, 1999

Glenn T. Seaborg was an American chemist who shared the 1951 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Edwin McMillan for discovering the first transuranium elements. He also authored or co-authored several books and articles, including 500 scientific journals. In 2005, Glenn T. Seaborg was inducted posthumously into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

 4 Stephanie Kwolek

Stephanie Kwolek
4
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: July 31, 1923
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New Kensington, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: June 18, 2014

Stephanie Kwolek was an American chemist remembered for her invention of Kevlar. She worked at the DuPont Company for over four decades and was awarded the company's Lavoisier Medal for her discovery. In 1995, she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, becoming the fourth woman to be inducted. She also won other awards including the Perkin Medal.

 5 Alexander Shulgin

Alexander Shulgin
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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.

 6 Jerry Buss

Jerry Buss
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Famous As: Businessman
Birthdate: January 27, 1933
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Died: February 18, 2013
Legendary LA Lakers co-owner Jerry Buss lived through a poverty-stricken childhood during the Great Depression. Growing up working odd jobs, he also once quit school to work for the railroads. He grew up to be a chemist and later also taught chemistry, before investing in real estate.

 7 Percy Lavon Julian

Percy Lavon Julian
4
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: April 11, 1899
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama, United States
Died: April 19, 1975

Percy Lavon Julian was an American chemist whose work paved the way for the production of birth control pills and corticosteroids. Julian went on to start his own company which helped reduce the price of steroid intermediates. In 1973, Percy Lavon Julian was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences and became the first African-American to receive this honor.

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 8 Retta

Retta
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Famous As: Stand-up Comedian
Birthdate: April 12, 1970
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, U.S.

 9 Thomas Midgley, Jr.

Thomas Midgley, Jr.
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Birthdate: May 19, 1889
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Beaver Falls
Died: November 2, 1944

Thomas Midgley Jr. was an American chemical and mechanical engineer. Midgley played a key role in the development of leaded gasoline and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were later banned due to their negative impact on the environment and human health. Thomas Midgley Jr. was granted over 100 patents during his lifetime.

 10 Josiah Willard Gibbs

Josiah Willard Gibbs
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Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: February 11, 1839
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New Haven, Connecticut, United States
Died: April 28, 1903

Josiah Willard Gibbs was an American scientist best remembered for making major theoretical contributions to mathematics, physics, and chemistry. As a mathematician, Gibbs is credited with inventing modern vector calculus. In 1901, he was honored with the prestigious Copley Medal for his contributions. Josiah Willard Gibbs's work had a major influence on physicists like J. D. van der Waals.

 11 Charles Goodyear

Charles Goodyear
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Famous As: Inventor, Chemist, Engineer
Birthdate: December 29, 1800
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New Haven
Died: July 1, 1860

Charles Goodyear was an American manufacturing engineer and self-taught chemist who developed vulcanized rubber. He invented the chemical process to manufacture pliable, moldable, and waterproof rubber which revolutionized the automobile industry. In 1976, Charles Goodyear was inducted posthumously into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

 12 Harold Urey

Harold Urey
3
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: April 29, 1893
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Walkerton
Died: January 5, 1981

 13 Elias James Corey

Elias James Corey
3
Famous As: Organic Chemist
Birthdate: July 12, 1928
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Methuen, Massachusetts, United States

 14 Peter Debye

Peter Debye
3
Famous As: American-Dutch chemist
Birthdate: March 24, 1884
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Maastricht
Died: November 2, 1966

 15 Sidney Gottlieb

Sidney Gottlieb
4
Famous As: Chemist, Psychiatrist
Birthdate: August 3, 1918
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York City
Died: March 7, 1999

Sidney Gottlieb was an American spymaster and chemist who played a major role in the CIA's mind-control program and assassination attempts during the 1950s and 1960s; the illegal human experimentation program which he headed was called Project MKUltra.

 16 Robert Burns Woodward

Robert Burns Woodward
3
Famous As: Organic Chemist
Birthdate: April 10, 1917
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died: July 8, 1979

 17 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.

 18 Roald Hoffmann

Roald Hoffmann
3
Famous As: Theoretical Chemist
Birthdate: July 18, 1937
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Złoczów, Poland (now Ukraine)

 19 George M. Whitesides

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

 20 Irving Langmuir

Irving Langmuir
3
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: January 31, 1881
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: August 16, 1957

Irving Langmuir was an American physicist, chemist, and engineer. He is credited with popularizing the concentric theory of atomic structure. Irving Langmuir is also credited with inventing the hydrogen welding technique and the gas-filled incandescent lamp. In 1932, Langmuir won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his contribution to surface chemistry. He also won other prestigious awards like Faraday Medal.

 21 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.

 22 Roger Y. Tsien

Roger Y. Tsien
3
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: February 1, 1952
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York City
Died: August 24, 2016

Co-recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, Roger Yonchien Tsien began working on the subject in collaboration with Osamu Shimomura and Martin Chalfie while serving as professor of chemistry and biochemistry at University of California. Also a pioneer of calcium imaging, he is known for developing various dyes including Fura-2.    

 23 Wallace Carothers

Wallace Carothers
3
Famous As: Inventor of Neoprene & Nylon
Birthdate: April 27, 1896
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Burlington, Iowa, United States
Died: April 29, 1937

Wallace Carothers was an American inventor and chemist. He worked for DuPont where he was the leader of organic chemistry. Carothers, who played a major role at the DuPont Experimental Station, is credited with inventing nylon. Despite his success, Carothers was unhappy with his life and committed suicide at the age of 41; he was troubled by bouts of depression.

 24 Charles Pfizer

Charles Pfizer
4
Famous As: Chemist, Entrepreneur
Birthdate: March 22, 1824
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Ludwigsburg, Germany
Died: October 19, 1906

 25 Stanley Miller

Stanley Miller
3
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.

 26 Albert C. Barnes

Albert C. Barnes
3
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: January 2, 1872
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: July 24, 1951

 27 Willard Libby

Willard Libby
3
Famous As: Physical Chemist
Birthdate: December 17, 1908
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Grand Valley, Colorado, United States
Died: September 8, 1980

 28 Catherine Coleman

Catherine Coleman
3
Famous As: Chemist, Air force officer, Astronaut, Engineer
Birthdate: December 14, 1960
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Charleston

 29 Harvey Washington Wiley

Harvey Washington Wiley
3
Famous As: American chemist
Birthdate: October 18, 1844
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Indiana, United States
Died: June 16, 1930

 30 Yuan T. Lee

Yuan T. Lee
3
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: November 19, 1936
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Hsinchu

 31 Richard E. Smalley

Richard E. Smalley
3
Famous As: Father of Nanotechnology
Birthdate: June 6, 1943
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ohio, United States
Died: October 28, 2005

 32 Ellen Swallow Richards

Ellen Swallow Richards
3
Famous As: Chemist, University teacher, Economist
Birthdate: December 3, 1842
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dunstable
Died: March 30, 1911

 33 Peter Agre

Peter Agre
3
Famous As: Chemist, Molecular biologist, Professor
Birthdate: January 30, 1949
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Northfield

 34 Alice Ball

Alice Ball
0
Famous As: Chemist, Pharmacist
Birthdate: July 24, 1892
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, United States
Died: December 31, 1916

 35 Robert H. Grubbs

Robert H. Grubbs
3
Famous As: Chemist, Autobiographer, University teacher
Birthdate: February 27, 1942
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Possum Trot

 36 Crawford Long

Crawford Long
3
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: November 1, 1815
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Danielsville, Georgia, United States
Died: June 16, 1878

American surgeon and pharmacist Crawford Long is best-known as the inventor of modern anaesthetics in the West. Long is believed to be the first to apply inhaled sulfuric ether as a general anaesthesia. He applied it for the first time in 1842 for removing a tumour from a patient’s neck and went on to perform several other surgeries using ether anaesthetic.

 37 Paul Lauterbur

Paul Lauterbur
3
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: May 6, 1929
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Sidney, Ohio, United States
Died: March 27, 2007

 38 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.

 39 Thomas Cech

Thomas Cech
3
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: December 8, 1947
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chicago, USA

 40 Herbert C. Brown

Herbert C. Brown
2
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: May 22, 1912
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: London, England,
Died: December 19, 2004

 41 Susan Solomon

Susan Solomon
2
Famous As: chemist
Birthdate: January 19, 1956
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chicago

 42 Arnold Orville Beckman

Arnold Orville Beckman
2
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: April 10, 1900
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Cullom
Died: May 18, 2004

 43 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.

 44 Karl Barry Sharpless

Karl Barry Sharpless
2
Famous As: Chemist, University teacher
Birthdate: April 28, 1941
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Philadelphia

 45 George Sarton

George Sarton
3
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: August 31, 1884
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Ghent, Belgium
Died: March 22, 1956

 46 Roderick MacKinnon

Roderick MacKinnon
2
Famous As: Professor, Chemist
Birthdate: February 19, 1956
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Burlington

 47 Richard R. Schrock

Richard R. Schrock
2
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: January 4, 1945
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Berne

 48 George Wiley

George Wiley
0
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: February 26, 1931
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Bayonne, New Jersey, United States
Died: August 8, 1973

 49 Paul Flory

Paul Flory
2
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: June 19, 1910
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Sterling, Illinois, United States
Died: September 9, 1985

 50 Robert S. Mulliken

Robert S. Mulliken
2
Famous As: Chemist, Physicist
Birthdate: June 7, 1896
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Newburyport, Massachusetts, US
Died: October 31, 1986