Famous American Scientists

The United States is one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world; from the time it emerged as an independent nation, the United States has encouraged science and innovation. In fact, two of America’s founding fathers—Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson—were reputed scientists. Most scientists of the late 18th century, including Franklin and Jefferson were involved in the struggle to win American independence during the American Revolution and later engaged in nation building. The 19th century America saw the birth of great inventors like Robert Fulton, Samuel Morse, Eli Whitney, Cyrus McCormick, and Thomas Alva Edison, whose works in diverse fields contributed immensely to the nation’s growth and development. One of the biggest innovations by 19th century Americans was undoubtedly the designing and building of the world's first successful airplane by brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. In the 20th century, Americans like Herman Hollerith and Robert Goddard made pioneering advances in telecommunications and space technology. American scientists have dominated the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine since World War II. The nation is also home to some of the most prominent scientists alive today. Read on to discover about the life and works of various famous American scientists.

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 Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson.
11
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: October 5, 1958
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York, United States

Public Welfare Medal-winning astrophysicist and academic Neil deGrasse Tyson hosted shows such as NOVA ScienceNow, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, and Star Talk. He is the director of Hayden Planetarium and contributed to the dismissal of Pluto’s status as the ninth planet. He has also written a monthly column as "Merlin.”

 2 John Forbes Nash Jr.

John Forbes Nash Jr..
12
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: June 13, 1928
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bluefield, West Virginia, United States
Died: May 23, 2015
The inspiration behind the movie A Beautiful Mind, John F. Nash was a legendary mathematician whose work in the area of game theory earned him the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. In his later years, he was riddled with mental illness. He later died in a car crash.

 3 Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan.
19
Famous As: Astronomer, Astrophysicist, Writer
Birthdate: November 9, 1934
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died: December 20, 1996
Pulitzer- and Emmy-winning astrophysicist and author Carl Sagan was best known for co-writing the TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. His novel Contact was adapted into a film. He was known for his extensive research on extra-terrestrial life, had taught at major universities, and written countless papers and science books.

 4 George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver.
23
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.

 5 Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman.
11
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: May 11, 1918
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States
Died: February 15, 1988

Theoretical physicist Richard Feynman won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965, along with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichirō Tomonaga, for his research on quantum electrodynamics. He also contributed to the development of the atomic bomb. Feyman made it to Physics World’s list of the 10 greatest physicists of all time.

 6 Bill Gates

Bill Gates.
0
Famous As: Co-Founder of Microssoft
Birthdate: October 28, 1955
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, United States

Leading American technologist, business leader and philanthropist, Bill Gates is the co-founder of the world’s largest software company, Microsoft. His passion for computers made him one of the richest in the world and through his charity foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he and his ex-wife, Melinda, use this money generously to help people world over live a better life.

 7 J. Robert Oppenheimer

J. Robert Oppenheimer.
10
Birthdate: April 22, 1904
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City, United States
Died: February 18, 1967

Hailed as a brilliant scientific mind, American physicist J Robert Oppenheimer, led the Manhattan Project which resulted in the development of atomic bomb during the World War II. The bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. However, Oppenheimer was in a constant conflict over the moral issue of the weapons of mass destruction and rallied against nuclear proliferation.

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 8 Steve Wozniak

Steve Wozniak.
0
Famous As: Co-founder of Apple Computer (Apple Inc.)
Birthdate: August 11, 1950
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: San Jose, California, United States

Widely recognized as one of the two important pioneers of the personal computer revolution, Steve Wozniak is credited with co-founding Apple Inc. along with Steve Jobs. Not surprisingly, he has been described as one of the men that changed the course of history through technology. Apart from being a programmer and technology entrepreneur, Steve Wozniak is also a well-known philanthropist.

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 9 Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson.
0
Famous As: Marine biologist
Birthdate: May 27, 1907
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Springdale
Died: April 14, 1964

 10 Claude Shannon

Claude Shannon.
0
Famous As: Mathematician, Cryptographer
Birthdate: April 30, 1916
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Petoskey, Michigan, United States
Died: February 24, 2001

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.

 11 Kurt Gödel

Kurt Gödel.
4
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
Birthdate: April 28, 1906
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Brno
Died: January 14, 1978

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.

 12 Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson.
29
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: August 26, 1918
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, United States
Died: February 24, 2020
Katherine Johnson was a physicist and mathematician, remembered as the first African-American female NASA scientist. Her calculations helped launch the space missions of Alan Shepard and John Glenn. She was crucial to the Apollo program and won a Congressional Gold Medal and a Presidential Medal of Freedom for her achievements.
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 13 Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov.
5
Famous As: Novelist, Professor
Birthdate: January 2, 1920
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Petrovichi, Russian SFSR
Died: April 6, 1992

Isaac Asimov was an American writer. Best known for his science fiction works, Asimov was regarded as one of the Big Three writers along with Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein. Asimov is credited with influencing most sci-fi writers since the 1950s. Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman stated that one of Asimov's works inspired him to take up Economics.

 14 Vint Cerf

Vint Cerf.
0
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: June 23, 1943
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New Haven, Connecticut, United States
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 15 Edwin Powell Hubble

Edwin Powell Hubble.
2
Famous As: Astronomer & Mathematician
Birthdate: November 20, 1889
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Marshfield, Missouri, USA
Died: September 28, 1953

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.

 16 Jonas Salk

Jonas Salk.
0
Famous As: Medical researcher
Birthdate: October 28, 1914
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: June 23, 1995

If the world is successful in its fight against polio, the credit goes to American virologist Jonas Salk who developed a vaccine for the disease. Described as a “miracle worker”, his concerns for humanity were reflected in the fact that he did not claim a patent for the vaccine. He founded the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, based in California.

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 17 Mayim Bialik

Mayim Bialik
0
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: December 12, 1975
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: San Diego, California, United States

 18 Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer.
8
Famous As: American musician
Birthdate: April 9, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York, Manhattan

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.

 19 Har Gobind Khorana

Har Gobind Khorana.
0
Birthdate: January 9, 1922
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Punjab, India
Died: November 9, 2011

Born into a poor family in British India, Har Gobind Khorana studied on scholarships and later bagged a seat at the University of Liverpool and thus moved to England. The renowned biochemist ended up winning the Nobel Prize for his research on how nucleotides in nucleic acids control protein synthesis.

 20 Mary Jackson

Mary Jackson
3
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: April 9, 1921
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hampton, Virginia, United States
Died: February 11, 2005

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.

 21 Dorothy Vaughan

Dorothy Vaughan
23
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: September 20, 1910
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Died: November 10, 2008

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.

 22 Michio Kaku

Michio Kaku
9
Famous As: Theoretical physicist, Science writer, Popularizer of science, Futurist, University teacher, Non-fiction writer, Radio personality
Birthdate: January 24, 1947
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: San Jose

Apart from teaching at the City College of New York, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku also often pens his thoughts in blogs and has written several bestselling books, such as The God Equation. His research is focused on the string theory. He also believes in the existence of aliens.

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 23 Deborah Birx

Deborah Birx
1
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: April 4, 1956
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Carlisle, Pennsylvania, United States

Doctor and diplomat Deborah Birx was the Trump administration’s coronavirus response co-ordinator. The renowned HIV/AIDS researcher, however, quit the virus team after reports suggested she had attended a Thanksgiving family gathering, breaching COVID-19 protocol. She later joined the air-cleaning company ActivePure, amid reports of it using banned technology.

 24 John G. Trump

John G. Trump
1
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: August 21, 1907
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: February 21, 1985

Better known as former U.S. president Donald Trump’s uncle, John G. Trump was an MIT physicist and engineer. Though he had initially aspired to be an architect and join his brother Fred’s real-estate business, John later concentrated on his research that led to the invention of high-voltage generators.

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 25 Robert Stroud

Robert Stroud
0
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 8, 1890
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, USA
Died: November 21, 1963

 26 Kip Thorne

Kip Thorne.
1
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: June 1, 1940
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Logan
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 27 Lewis Howard Latimer

Lewis Howard Latimer.
0
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: September 4, 1848
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chelsea, Massachusetts, United States
Died: December 11, 1928
Lewis Howard Latimer was born to former slaves and went on to become a skilled patent draftsman. He had worked with Alexander Graham Bell on the patent of his telephone, and with the Edison Electric Light Company. He had also invented a modification of the process of making carbon filaments. 

 28 Vera Rubin

Vera Rubin
0
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: July 23, 1928
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died: December 25, 2016
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 29 Jennifer Doudna

Jennifer Doudna
0
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: February 19, 1964
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States

 30 Thomas Hunt Morgan

Thomas Hunt Morgan.
0
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: September 25, 1866
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Lexington
Died: December 4, 1945
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 31 Glenn T. Seaborg

Glen T. Seaborg.
0
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: April 19, 1912
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Ishpeming, Michigan
Died: February 25, 1999

 32 Edward Teller

Edward Teller.
0
Birthdate: January 15, 1908
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Budapest
Died: September 9, 2003

Edward Teller was one of the famous "Martians,” or eminent Hungarian scientists who had migrated to the U.S. A prominent chemical engineer and nuclear physicist, he was part of the team that created the world’s first atomic bomb and also designed the first hydrogen bomb, or thermonuclear bomb.

 33 Ronald McNair

Ronald McNair
5
Famous As: Physicist, Astronaut
Birthdate: October 21, 1950
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Lake City
Died: January 28, 1986

A doctorate in physics from MIT Cambridge, Ronald McNair worked on chemical lasers before joining NASA and in 1984 flew as a mission specialist on STS-41-B aboard Challenger, becoming the second African-American to do so. In January 1986, he was selected to fly on STS-51-L, but was killed along with rest of the crews when Challenger disintegrated soon after liftoff.

 34 John James Audubon

John James Audubon.
0
Famous As: Naturalist, Painter, Ornithologist
Birthdate: April 26, 1785
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Les Cayes
Died: January 27, 1851
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 35 Ashton Carter

Ashton Carter
2
Birthdate: September 24, 1954
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Philadelphia

Yale and Oxford alumnus Ashton Carter had interestingly bagged his first job at a car wash at 11. He grew up to teach at Harvard and Stanford and also served as the U.S. Secretary of Defense under Barack Obama. The physicist now heads the Belfer Center for Science at Harvard.

 36 Alexander Shulgin

Alexander Shulgin
0
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.

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 37 William Shockley

William Shockley.
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: February 13, 1910
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Died: August 12, 1989

 38 Louis Agassiz

Louis Agassiz.
5
Famous As: Geologist
Birthdate: May 28, 1807
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Montier
Died: December 14, 1873

 39 Nettie Stevens

Nettie Stevens
0
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: July 7, 1861
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cavendish, Vermont, United States
Died: May 4, 1912

 40 Francis Collins

Francis Collins
0
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: April 14, 1950
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Staunton, Virginia, U.S.

 41 Thomas Kuhn

Thomas Kuhn.
1
Famous As: Physicist, Philosopher
Birthdate: July 18, 1922
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Died: June 17, 1996

 42 Hilary Putnam

Hilary Putnam
0
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher, University teacher, Non-fiction writer, Computer scientist
Birthdate: July 31, 1926
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: March 13, 2016

 43 Robert H. Goddard

Robert H. Goddard.
0
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: October 5, 1882
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 10, 1945

The son of a machine shop owner, Robert H. Goddard grew up to become a pioneer of rocketry. Interested in physics and mechanics since childhood, he dreamed of space flight. He developed the world’s first rocket that ran on liquid fuel. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is named after him.

 44 Arthur D. Levinson

Arthur D. Levinson.
2
Famous As: Microbiologist
Birthdate: March 31, 1950
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, United States

 45 Brian Greene

Brian Greene
0
Famous As: Physicist, Writer, Professor, Author, Actor, Theoretical physicist
Birthdate: February 9, 1963
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York City

 46 John Bardeen

John Bardeen.
0
Famous As: Nobel Laureate in Physics
Birthdate: May 23, 1908
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died: January 30, 1991

 47 J. Allen Hynek

Josef Allen Hynek.
2
Famous As: Astronomer, Ufologist
Birthdate: May 1, 1910
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: April 27, 1986

When the American government, baffled by unexplained sightings of flying objects, assigned J. Allen Hynek the task of solving the mystery, Hynek was sceptical. However, he later became the first person to scientifically analyze such sightings. He also established the "Close Encounter" classification system to study UFOs.

 48 Steven Chu

Steven Chu.
1
Famous As: Former United States Secretary of Energy
Birthdate: February 28, 1948
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: St. Louis

 49 Percy Lavon Julian

Percy Lavon Julian.
0
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: April 11, 1899
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Montgomery
Died: April 19, 1975

 50 Harrison Schmitt

Harrison Schmitt
0
Famous As: Geologist
Birthdate: July 3, 1935
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Santa Rita, New Mexico, United States