Georges Lemaître was a mathematician, astronomer, and professor of physics. Lemaître was the first person to theorize that the expansion of the universe can be used to explain the recession of nearby galaxies. In 1927, Lemaître published the first estimation of the Hubble constant. He also came up with the Big Bang theory to explain the origin of the universe.
Belgian physicist and mathematician Joseph Plateau was a pioneer of the modern animation and movie industry, as he invented the phenakistiscope, the world’s first device to create an illusion of motion through images. He also laid down the structure of soap films through Plateau's laws.
Industrial chemist Leo Baekeland is remembered as The Father of the Plastics Industry for creating Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic of the world, thus marking the beginning of the Polymer Age. His many inventions include Velox, a special photographic paper, the rights of which he sold to George Eastman.
Moroccan-born scientist Moncef Slaoui completed his doctoral studies in Belgium and the moved to the US for further research at Harvard. In his career of almost 3 decades at GlaxoSmithKline, he oversaw the development of many vaccines. He later headed Operation Warp Speed, the US government’s initiative to develop COVID-19 vaccines.
Ilya Prigogine was a physical chemist remembered for his work on irreversibility, complex systems, and dissipative structures. A respected member of several scientific organizations, Prigogine was honored with the Francqui Prize in 1955. In 1976, he won the Rumford Medal for his work concerning irreversible thermodynamics. His work on irreversible thermodynamics earned him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977.
Belgian physician and chemist Jan Baptista van Helmont often considered the founder of pneumatic chemistry, is also said to have used the word “gas” for the first time in the scientific world. He is also said to have been the first to identify gas sylvestre, which later came to be known as carbon dioxide.
Belgian chemist Ernest Solvay began working in his family’s salt-making business soon after finishing school, as his condition of acute pleurisy prevented him from studying any further. He is remembered for developing the ammonia-soda process that produces soda ash, which is crucial to the glass and soap industries.
Belgian-British microbiologist Peter Piot headed the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS. He has also served as the United Nations under-secretary-general. In 1976, he helped discover the Ebola virus. He has also penned several books, taught at various institutes, and led the International AIDS Society.
Simon Stevin was a Flemish physicist, mathematician, and military engineer. He is best remembered for his contributions to various fields of science and engineering. Simon Stevin is also credited with several discoveries and inventions. He pioneered the practical application of surveying and hydraulic engineering.
Belgian mathematician and astronomer Adolphe Quetelet was the first to introduce the use of statistics and probability theory in social sciences. He also pioneered anthropometry and introduced the BMI scale. He also conducted research on the measurement of the traits found in the average man.
Belgian-born French mathematician Jacques Tits was the son of a mathematician and professor and grew up to develop the geometric coding of the algebraic structure of linear groups through Tits buildings. He has won scores of awards, including the prestigious Wolf Prize and the Abel Prize.
Belgian mathematician Pierre Deligne is known for his pioneering research on algebraic geometry, especially on Weil conjectures. He was awarded the prestigious Fields Medal and the Abel Prize, among other honors, for his achievements. He was made a Belgian viscount and became a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Dutch Jesuit missionary and astronomer Ferdinand Verbiest had a huge influence in China during the reign of the Qing dynasty. Also known as Nan Huairen, he advised the Chinese emperor in significant matters and also worked as a translator and a cartographer. He penned several books and knew many languages.
Belgian-born physicist Ingrid Daubechies was a prodigy of sorts and had started dealing with complicated mathematical concepts before turning 6. She grew up to work at the AT&T Bell Laboratories and also taught at Princeton. She is best known for her research on wavelets and image-compression technology.
Nobel Prize-winning Belgian theoretical physicist François Englert, who teaches at Université libre de Bruxelles, is chiefly known for introducing the idea of the Higgs field. He has previously taught at Cornell University. His contribution to the fields of quantum theory, statistical physics, and cosmology has been massive.
Fields Medal-winning Belgian mathematician Jean Bourgain is remembered for his pioneering research on many areas of mathematical analysis, such as the geometry of Banach spaces, the ergodic theory, and spectral problems. He taught at institutes such as the University of California, Berkeley. He died of pancreatic cancer at age 64.
Christian de Duve was an English-born Belgian cytologist and biochemist. For his discoveries of two cell organelles, peroxisome and lysosome, he shared the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Albert Claude and George E. Palade. He was the founder of the International Institute of Cellular and Molecular Pathology in Brussels, which was later renamed in his honor.
Belgian-born French painter and botanist Pierre-Joseph Redouté, also known as the Raphael of flowers, was a famous court painter and one of the greatest botanical illustrators of his time. Known for his iconic pieces such as Les Liliacées, he was a specialist of painting roses, too.
Belgian author and lawyer Paul Otlet went down in history as the man predicted the emergence of the internet as a world-wide information network over 50 years before its arrival. He also laid down the Universal Decimal Classification and penned the iconic book Traité de Documentation.
Nobel Prize-winning Belgian immunologist and microbiologist Jules Bordet is remembered for his discovery of blood serum components that are capable of destroying bacteria. He later established the Pasteur Institute of Brussels and taught at the Free University of Brussels. He also discovered the Bordetella pertussis bacteria that causes whooping cough.
French botanist Carolus Clusius is remembered for his pioneering contribution to modern botany. He taught at the University of Leiden and was instrumental in the development of Hortus Botanicus Leiden. He is also remembered for his extensive study of tulip plants, which later encouraged the Dutch tulip industry.
Known for his independent work on olefin metathesis, in which catalysts create and break double carbon bonds of organic molecules, Yves Chauvin played a significant role in the advancement of the green chemistry and helped to develop many new products like advanced plastics, fuel additives, and pharmaceuticals. For this role, he was co-awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
American theoretical physicist Robert Brout contributed immensely to the theory of Higgs Boson, for which François Englert and Peter Ware Higgs received the Nobel Prize. The Sakurai Prize and Wolf Prize-winning scientist also taught physics at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and eventually got a Belgian citizenship.
Belgian-born software engineer Pattie Maes made a revolutionary contribution to the e-commerce industry by redefining the human-computer interaction. She established the Fluid Interfaces Group of the MIT Media Lab and is part of the faculty of the MIT's Center for Neuro-Biological Engineering. She has also edited several books.