American mathematician and aerospace engineer Mary Jackson went down in history as the first African-American woman to work as a NASA engineer. Initially a math teacher, she later joined NACA under Dorothy Vaughan and contributed to countless American space programs at a time when racial segregation was the norm.
While he grew up to be a Harvard math professor, that didn’t stop Tom Lehrer from pursuing his childhood love for music. He gained fame as a satirical composer, with songs such as So Long, Mom, I’m Off to Drop the Bomb and That Was The Year That Was.
Claude Shannon was an electrical engineer, mathematician, and cryptographer. He is credited with publishing the article A Mathematical Theory of Communication which gave rise to the field of information theory. Hence, Shannon is considered the father of information theory. He is also credited with founding digital circuit design theory. During World War II, he contributed to the field of cryptanalysis.
Hailed as one of the greatest logicians since Aristotle, Kurt Gödel was Austrian-born American mathematician, logician, and philosopher, who earned international stardom for his incompleteness theorem. Also credited with developing a technique called Gödel numbering, he later started working on Mathematical Platonism, a philosophical theory that failed to attract wide acceptance.
The son of a shoe factory owner, mathematician-turned-hedge-fund-manager James Harris Simons studied math at MIT and helped the U.S. break codes during the Vietnam War. He later founded his own hedge fund firm, Renaissance Technologies. He supports autism research and funds Math for America. In 2021, he was America’s 23rd-richest person.
While the Hubble Telescope, named after Edwin Powell Hubble, reminds one of his contribution to astronomy, he failed to get a Nobel Prize, as back in his time, the Nobel Committee didn’t recognize astrophysics as a valid science. He is best remembered for his work on galaxies and extragalactic astronomy.
Mathematician George Dantzig, known for his research on linear programming, was the first to develop the simplex method. The National Medal of Science winner was the son of mathematician and linguist Tobias Dantzig. He was associated with RAND Corporation and also taught computer science and operations research at Stanford.
American mathematician Dorothy Vaughan was also known as a "human computer." Initially a math teacher, she became the first African-American supervisor of NACA, later part of NASA, at a time when racial segregation was rampant in the U.S. Her contribution to the early American space programs is invaluable.
One of the “Martians,” or eminent Hungarian scientists who had migrated to the U.S., Eugene Wigner won a Nobel Prize for his work on nuclear physics and the law of conservation of parity in particular. He taught at Princeton and Wisconsin and was also associated with the Manhattan Project.
18 Donald Knuth
Mathematician and computer scientist Donald Ervin Knuth is best known for his contribution to the development of the rigorous analysis of the computational complexity of algorithms. Also the creator of the TeX computer typesetting system as well as the WEB and CWEB computer programming systems, he has published twenty books, most significant among them being The Art of Computer Programming.
Apart from being the MD of Thiel Capital, mathematician and economist Eric Weinstein is also a researcher at Oxford. The Harvard alumnus had quit academia for 20 years before he returned again. He coined the term “intellectual dark web” and works on topics such as gauge theory, risk management, and immigration.
Born into the famous Brahmin Lowell family of Massachusetts, Percival Lowell studied at Harvard, where he excelled in math. He managed a cotton mill and also spent time in Asia as a diplomat. He is best remembered for initiating the discovery of Pluto and for studying the canals on Mars.
30 Jef Raskin
32 Alan Sokal
New York University physics professor Alan Sokal made headlines for creating what is now known as the Sokal Hoax. He wrote gibberish using flowery jargon and submitted it to the journal Social Text, which published it as postmodernist criticism, thus proving the lack of credibility of such journals.
36 George Pólya
39 Mark Adler
41 John Backus
42 David Gale
47 Sal Khan
What began as amateur math tutorials for his cousin later became Sal Khan’s dream project, the online education platform Khan Academy, which now has over 42 million users worldwide. Named to Time 100 in 2012, the American-born Bengali former hedge fund analyst is an MIT and Harvard alumnus.