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 Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson
23
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: August 26, 1918
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American
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.

 2 Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman
8
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: May 11, 1918
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
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.

 3 George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver
20
Famous As: Scientist & Inventor
Birthdate: January 1, 1864
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
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.

 4 John Forbes Nash Jr.

John Forbes Nash Jr.
11
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: June 13, 1928
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
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.

 5 Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov
4
Famous As: Writer, Professor
Birthdate: January 2, 1920
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
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.

 6 Richard Phillips Feynman

Richard Phillips Feynman
0
Birthdate: May 11, 1918
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
Died: February 15, 1988

 7 J. Robert Oppenheimer

J. Robert Oppenheimer
9
Birthdate: April 22, 1904
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
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 Anthony Fauci

Anthony Fauci
4
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: December 24, 1940
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
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 9 Jonas Salk

Jonas Salk
0
Famous As: Medical researcher
Birthdate: October 28, 1914
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
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.

 10 Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson
11
Famous As: Astrophysicist
Birthdate: October 5, 1958
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American

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.”

 11 Dorothy Vaughan

Dorothy Vaughan
22
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: September 20, 1910
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American
Died: November 10, 2008

 12 Mary Jackson

Mary Jackson
2
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: April 9, 1921
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
Died: February 11, 2005
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 13 Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer
8
Famous As: American musician
Birthdate: April 9, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

 14 Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson
0
Famous As: Marine biologist
Birthdate: May 27, 1907
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
Died: April 14, 1964
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 15 Michio Kaku

Michio Kaku
8
Famous As: Theoretical physicist, Science writer, Popularizer of science, Futurist, University teacher, Non-fiction writer, Radio personality
Birthdate: January 24, 1947
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American

 16 Ronald McNair

Ronald McNair
5
Famous As: Physicist, Astronaut
Birthdate: October 21, 1950
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: January 28, 1986
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 17 Kurt Gödel

Kurt Gödel
2
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
Birthdate: April 28, 1906
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
Died: January 14, 1978

 18 John G. Trump

John G. Trump
0
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: August 21, 1907
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American
Died: February 21, 1985

 19 Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan
18
Famous As: Astronomer, Astrophysicist, Writer
Birthdate: November 9, 1934
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
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.

 20 Robert Stroud

Robert Stroud
0
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 8, 1890
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: November 21, 1963
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 21 Lewis Howard Latimer

Lewis Howard Latimer
0
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: September 4, 1848
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American
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. 

 22 Donald Knuth

Donald Knuth
7
Famous As: Computer Scientist
Birthdate: January 10, 1938
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
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 23 Har Gobind Khorana

Har Gobind Khorana
0
Birthdate: January 9, 1922
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: November 9, 2011

 24 Ashton Carter

Ashton Carter
0
Birthdate: September 24, 1954
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
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 25 Edward Teller

Edward Teller
0
Birthdate: January 15, 1908
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: September 9, 2003

 26 Kip Thorne

Kip Thorne
0
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: June 1, 1940
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
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 27 Nettie Stevens

Nettie Stevens
0
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: July 7, 1861
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: May 4, 1912

 28 Jennifer Doudna

Jennifer Doudna
0
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: February 19, 1964
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American

 29 Alexander Shulgin

Alexander Shulgin
0
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: June 17, 1925
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
Died: June 2, 2014

 30 Vannevar Bush

Vannevar Bush
0
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: March 11, 1890
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
Died: June 28, 1974
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 31 Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil
2
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: February 12, 1948
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American

 32 William Shockley

William Shockley
0
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: February 13, 1910
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: August 12, 1989
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 33 Francis Collins

Francis Collins
0
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: April 14, 1950
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

 34 Brian Greene

Brian Greene
0
Famous As: Physicist, Writer, Professor, Author, Actor, Theoretical physicist
Birthdate: February 9, 1963
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American

 35 John James Audubon

John James Audubon
0
Famous As: Naturalist, Painter, Ornithologist
Birthdate: April 26, 1785
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
Died: January 27, 1851

 36 Thomas Kuhn

Thomas Kuhn
0
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: July 18, 1922
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: June 17, 1996

 37 Robert H. Goddard

Robert H. Goddard
0
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: October 5, 1882
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: August 10, 1945

 38 Arthur D. Levinson

Arthur D. Levinson
2
Famous As: Microbiologist
Birthdate: March 31, 1950
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

 39 John Bardeen

John Bardeen
0
Famous As: Nobel Laureate in Physics
Birthdate: May 23, 1908
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
Died: January 30, 1991

 40 Randall Munroe

Randall Munroe
0
Famous As: Programmer, Comics artist, Writer, Computer scientist, Physicist
Birthdate: October 17, 1984
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American

 41 Steven Chu

Steven Chu
0
Famous As: Former United States Secretary of Energy
Birthdate: February 28, 1948
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American

 42 Percy Lavon Julian

Percy Lavon Julian
0
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: April 11, 1899
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
Died: April 19, 1975

 43 Harrison Schmitt

Harrison Schmitt
0
Famous As: Geologist
Birthdate: July 3, 1935
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

 44 Sean M. Carroll

Sean M. Carroll
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: October 5, 1966
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American

 45 Vera Rubin

Vera Rubin
0
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: July 23, 1928
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: December 25, 2016

 46 Thomas Hunt Morgan

Thomas Hunt Morgan
0
Famous As: Geneticist
Birthdate: September 25, 1866
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: December 4, 1945

 47 Louis Agassiz

Louis Agassiz
5
Famous As: Geologist
Birthdate: May 28, 1807
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
Died: December 14, 1873

 48 Walter Reed

Walter Reed
0
Famous As: Military physician, Zoologist, Entomologist
Birthdate: September 13, 1851
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American
Died: November 22, 1902

 49 J. Allen Hynek

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

 50 Paul R. Ehrlich

Paul R. Ehrlich
0
Famous As: Entomologist, Zoologist, University teacher
Birthdate: May 29, 1932
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American