Famous British Chemists

Chemists are scientists trained and specialized in the study of chemistry. Through their study, they investigate the chemical nature of substances, organic and inorganic, and examine their chemical properties including composition, structure and reactivity. Interestingly, the work of a chemist does not end in a school or college laboratory only. Chemicals are used in numerous industries, including medicines, pharmaceuticals and plastics; hence, the role of chemists is quite expansive. Every country today has a long list of chemists who actively contribute for the nation’s growth and advancement through their chemical researches. Britain is also one such country. It has been home to almost thirty Nobel laureates in chemistry alone. Each of them and many more have through their discoveries and findings developed better products and processes. Frederick Sanger, a British chemist, is the only chemist till date to have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry twice, in 1958 and 1980. When Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances, she became the first female British chemist to be lauded with the honor. Till date she retains the title as the only British woman to win Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Check this section to find out more about the life and works of British 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 Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday
5
Famous As: Physicist & Chemist
Birthdate: September 22, 1791
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Newington Butts
Died: August 25, 1867

Michael Faraday was an English scientist known for his contribution to the study of electrochemistry and electromagnetism. Considered one of the most influential scientists ever, Faraday's inventions of electromagnetic rotary devices established the basis for electric motor technology. His research also helped understand the concept of the electromagnetic field. Ernest Rutherford called him one of the greatest scientific discoverers ever.

 2 Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin
5
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: July 25, 1920
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Notting Hill, London, England
Died: April 16, 1958
Chemist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin is remembered for her pathbreaking X-ray diffraction studies of DNA, which helped in the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of the double helix structure of DNA by Francis Crick, James Watson, and Maurice Wilkins later. She also worked on the molecular structures of viruses. 

 3 Ernest Rutherford

Ernest Rutherford
6
Famous As: Physicist, Chemist
Birthdate: August 30, 1871
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Brightwater, New Zealand
Died: October 19, 1937

New Zealand physicist Ernest Rutherford is remembered as the father of nuclear physics. His discovery of radioactive half-life and of radon, and his differentiation of alpha and beta radiation, won him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908. Element 104 was named rutherfordium in his honor.

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 4 John Dalton

John Dalton
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Famous As: Chemist, Physicist, Meteorologist
Birthdate: September 6, 1766
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Eaglesfield, Cumberland, England
Died: July 27, 1844

John Dalton was an English chemist, physicist, and meteorologist most famous for introducing the atomic theory into chemistry. He also contributed a lot to the study of color blindness, sometimes referred to as Daltonism in his honor. He was the first scientist to refer to the smallest particle of matter as an “atom.” He was a Quaker and lived modestly. 

 5 Humphry Davy

Humphry Davy
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Famous As: Inventor of Davy Lamp
Birthdate: December 17, 1778
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Penzance, England
Died: May 29, 1829

Best remembered for his invention of the Davy lamp, a safety lamp for miners, Humphry Davy initially aspired to be a doctor but later deviated to chemistry. The Copley Medal winner had co-founded the Zoological Society of London. He also excelled in writing poetry and loved fishing.

 6 Joseph Priestley

Joseph Priestley
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Famous As: Discoverer of Oxygen
Birthdate: March 24, 1733
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Birstall
Died: February 6, 1804

Best remembered for his contribution to the chemistry of gases, Joseph Priestley was an English scientist, clergyman, political theorist and educator, who has been credited with discovering oxygen independently, publishing his findings before Carl Wilhelm could. A prolific writer, he has authored 150 works on various subjects including electricity. He also contributed immensely to the advancement of political and religious thoughts.

 7 Henry Moseley

Henry Moseley
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Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: November 23, 1887
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Weymouth, Dorset, England
Died: August 10, 1915

Henry Moseley was an English physicist best known for his development of Moseley's law in X-ray spectra. He made major contributions to the fields of atomic physics, nuclear physics, and quantum physics. He was working at the University of Oxford when World War I broke out, following which he went to volunteer for the Royal Engineers of the British Army. 

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 8 Henry Cavendish

Henry Cavendish
4
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: October 10, 1731
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Nice
Died: February 24, 1810

English natural philosopher, scientist, and a prominent experimental and theoretical physicist and chemist Henry Cavendish is best-remembered for his discovery of hydrogen and his Cavendish experiment. He first recognized that hydrogen, which he termed inflammable air, is a discrete substance which produces water on combustion. He conducted the Cavendish experiment to measure and produce a value for Earth’s density.

 9 Frederick Sanger

Frederick Sanger
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Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: August 13, 1918
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Rendcomb
Died: November 19, 2013

Frederick Sanger remains one of only two people to have won the Nobel Prize twice in the same category. The British biochemist is remembered for his ground-breaking work on nucleic acids and the insulin molecule. The son of a Quaker medical missionary, Sanger, too, grew up believing in Quakerism.

 10 Dorothy Hodgkin

Dorothy Hodgkin
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Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: May 12, 1910
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Cairo, Egypt
Died: July 29, 1994

Dorothy Hodgkin received the 1964 Nobel Prize for mapping the structure of penicillin and Vitamin B12. She is also known for her work on insulin. Beginning her work on structure of an organic compound by using X-ray crystallography as an undergraduate student, she later developed it further and used it to determine the three-dimensional structure of complex organic molecules.

 11 William Henry Perkin

William Henry Perkin
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Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: March 12, 1838
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: London, England
Died: July 14, 1907

William Henry Perkin is best remembered for his chance discovery of the dye mauveine, made of aniline purple. He had apparently discovered the dye while attempting to synthesize quinine. The Royal Medal-winning British chemist also studied salicyl alcohol and flavoring agents and synthesized the first artificial perfume.

 12 William Ramsay

William Ramsay
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Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: October 2, 1852
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: July 23, 1916

The son of a civil engineer, Nobel Prize-winning Scottish chemist William Ramsay revolutionized science with his pathbreaking discovery of the noble gases, thus forming an entirely new segment of the periodic table. He is also remembered for his long association with UCL. He was knighted for his achievements.

 13 Chaim Weizmann

Chaim Weizmann
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Famous As: Former President of Israel
Birthdate: November 27, 1874
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Motal
Died: November 9, 1952

Born in Russia, biochemist Chaim Weizmann was a World Zionist Organization leader and later also became the first president of Israel. He had a major role in the Balfour Declaration. Remembered for his research on industrial fermentation, gasoline, and rubber, he also helped establish the Weizmann Institute.

 14 James Lovelock

James Lovelock
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Famous As: Biologist, Chemist, University teacher, Mythographer
Birthdate: July 26, 1919
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Letchworth

Renowned James Lovelock is best known for propagating the Gaia hypothesis, which states that every living being on planet Earth is part of a single self-regulating superorganism. He is also known for his long association with NIMR, London, and Harvard University and has over 50 patents under his name.

 15 William Crookes

William Crookes
3
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: June 17, 1832
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: London, England
Died: April 4, 1919

William Crookes was a British chemist and physicist remembered as a pioneer of vacuum tubes. He was the inventor of what became known as the Crookes tube. He is also credited with the discovery of the element thallium. He was the first person to describe the spectrum of terrestrial helium. He was interested in spiritualism and occultism as well. 

 16 John Kendrew

John Kendrew
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Famous As: Biochemist and Crystallographer
Birthdate: March 24, 1917
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
Died: August 23, 1997

Nobel Prize-winning biochemist John Kendrew revolutionized science with his 3-D model of the muscle protein myoglobin. The Cambridge alumnus later co-founded the European Molecular Biology Organization and had been the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Molecular Biology. He had also worked on operational research for the Royal Air Force.

 17 Joseph Swan

Joseph Swan
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Famous As: Chemist, Physicist, Inventor
Birthdate: October 31, 1828
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Sunderland
Died: May 27, 1914

Joseph Swan was an English chemist, physicist, and inventor known for being an independent early developer of a successful incandescent light bulb. He developed and supplied the first batch of incandescent lights used for illuminating houses and public buildings. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1894 and knighted by King Edward VII in 1904. 

 18 Helen Sharman

Helen Sharman
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Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: May 30, 1963
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Sheffield,England

The first British person to fly into space, Helen Sharman also became the first female astronaut to visit the Mir space station. She was selected from over 13,000 applicants to be part of the Project Juno program. She was also as a chemist for the chocolate manufacturer Mars.

 19 John Newlands

John Newlands
3
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: November 26, 1837
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lambeth, London, England
Died: July 29, 1898

Best remembered for his work on the periodic table and his law of octaves, British chemist John Newlands, was home-schooled as a kid. A significant figure in analytical chemistry, he later won the Davy Medal for his achievements. His studied were later collated in On the Discovery of the Periodic Law.

 20 Frederick Soddy

Frederick Soddy
3
Famous As: Radiochemist
Birthdate: September 2, 1877
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Eastbourne
Died: September 22, 1956

 21 Tim Hunt

Tim Hunt
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Famous As: Biochemist, Chemist
Birthdate: February 19, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Neston

Nobel Prize-winning British biochemist Tim Hunt is best known for his research on cell cycle regulation. He was the first to isolate cyclin, while studying sea urchins. His work helped scientists working on cancer research. He has been knighted for his achievements and has also won the Royal Medal.

 22 Joseph Black

Joseph Black
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Famous As: Chemist, Physicist, Scientist, University teacher
Birthdate: April 16, 1728
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Bordeaux
Died: December 6, 1799

Joseph Black was an 18th-century Scottish physicist and chemist. He is remembered for his discoveries of magnesium, specific heat, latent heat, and carbon dioxide. He spent several years of his career as a professor of medicine and chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. In 1783, he became one of the founders of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. 

 23 James Dewar

James Dewar
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Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: September 20, 1842
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kincardine, Scotland
Died: March 27, 1923

James Dewar was a British chemist and physicist best known for his invention of the vacuum flask. He conducted considerable research into the liquefaction of gases and atomic and molecular spectroscopy. He also wrote papers on the qualities of hydrogen and organic chemistry. He was awarded the Albert Medal of the Royal Society of Arts and the Rumford Medal. 

 24 William Henry Bragg

William Henry Bragg
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Famous As: Nobel Prize Winner in Physics
Birthdate: July 2, 1862
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Wigton
Died: March 10, 1942

William Henry Bragg was an English physicist, chemist, and mathematician. He is best known for sharing the  1915 Nobel Prize in Physics with his son Lawrence Bragg for their work in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays. William Henry Bragg had an illustrious academic career and was elected president of the Royal Society in 1935. 

 25 John Herschel

John Herschel
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Famous As: Polymath
Birthdate: March 7, 1792
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Slough, Buckinghamshire, England
Died: May 11, 1871

The son of renowned astronomer William Herschel, John Herschel was educated at Eton and Cambridge and grew up to be a polymath. Apart from contributing to the field of photography, he was known for cataloguing and naming stars and satellites. He briefly also served as the Master of the Royal Mint.

 26 Martyn Poliakoff

Martyn Poliakoff
4
Famous As: Chemist, University teacher
Birthdate: December 16, 1947
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: England

Chemist and University of Nottingham professor Martyn Poliakoff is also a YouTube sensation, popular for his channel Periodic Videos and the short video series The Periodic Table of Videos. A Fellow of The Royal Society, he has also been honored by the scientific communities of Ethiopia, Russia, and China.

 27 Fraser Stoddart

Fraser Stoddart
3
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: May 24, 1942
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

 28 Tomas Lindahl

Tomas Lindahl
3
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: January 28, 1938
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kungsholmen, Stockholm, Sweden

 29 William Worrall Mayo

William Worrall Mayo
3
Famous As: Chemist, Politician, Gynaecologist, Editor
Birthdate: May 31, 1819
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Salford
Died: March 6, 1911

Part of the renowned Mayo family of doctors of the U.S., William Worrall Mayo played a key role in establishing the Mayo Clinic. He and his two sons built the St. Mary’s Hospital, along with the Sisters of St. Francis, after the deadly tornado of 1883 destroyed Rochester.

 30 Aaron Klug

Aaron Klug
3
Famous As: Chemist & Biophysicist
Birthdate: August 11, 1926
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lithuania

 31 Sir Harold W. Kroto

Sir Harold W. Kroto
3
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: October 7, 1939
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Wisbech, United Kingdom
Died: April 30, 2016

 32 Martin Fleischmann

Martin Fleischmann
3
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: March 29, 1927
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Karlovy Vary
Died: August 3, 2012

 33 Alexander Parkes

Alexander Parkes
3
Famous As: Inventor, Chemist, Engineer
Birthdate: December 29, 1813
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Birmingham
Died: June 29, 1890

 34 Peter Mitchell

Peter Mitchell
3
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: September 22, 1920
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mitcham, Surrey, England
Died: April 10, 1992

 35 William Cullen

William Cullen
3
Famous As: Physician, Chemist, Farmer, Academic, University teacher, Writer, Psychiatrist
Birthdate: April 15, 1710
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hamilton
Died: February 5, 1790

Apart from being a prominent Scottish physician, William Cullen was also a main pillar of the Scottish Enlightenment. Not only did he treat luminaries such as philosopher David Hume, but he also treated the poor free of cost. A University of Edinburgh professor of medicine, he was also a Royal Society Fellow.

 36 William Hyde Wollaston

William Hyde Wollaston
3
Famous As: Chemist, Physicist, Engineer, Metallurgist
Birthdate: August 6, 1766
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Norfolk
Died: December 22, 1828

William Hyde Wollaston was a pioneer of powder metallurgy and the first to develop malleable platinum from its ore. He is also credited with the discoveries of palladium and rhodium. A Fellow of the Royal Society, he dictated his last Bakerian lecture, as he was too ill to deliver it.

 37 Francis William Aston

Francis William Aston
3
Famous As: Chemist & Physicist
Birthdate: September 1, 1877
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Harborne, Birmingham
Died: November 20, 1945

Nobel Prize-winning English scientist Francis William Aston was solely a chemist before the advent of X-rays and radioactivity made him focus on physics too. He is best remembered for inventing the mass spectrograph, or the mass spectrometer, which helped him discover 212 of the 287 natural isotopes.

 38 Stephen Hales

Stephen Hales
3
Famous As: Botanist, Physicist, Chemist
Birthdate: September 17, 1677
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kent
Died: January 4, 1761

Apart from being a scientist, Stephen Hales was also a clergyman. He went down in history as the first person to quantitatively measure human blood pressure and also discovered transpiration in plants. He also invented surgical and other medical devices. He devoted himself to charitable causes following his wife’s death.

 39 John A Pople

John A Pople
2
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: October 31, 1925
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Burnham-on-Sea, England
Died: March 15, 2004

 40 Robert Robinson

Robert Robinson
2
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: September 13, 1886
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England
Died: February 8, 1975

 41 Colin Pillinger

Colin Pillinger
2
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: May 9, 1943
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kingswood, Bristol, England
Died: May 7, 2014

 42 Geoffrey Wilkinson

Geoffrey Wilkinson
2
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: July 14, 1921
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Todmorden, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Died: September 26, 1996

 43 William Withering

William Withering
2
Famous As: Botanist
Birthdate: March 17, 1741
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Wellington, Telford, England
Died: October 6, 1799

Born to a surgeon, William Withering followed in his father’s footsteps to become a physician, though he also had immense knowledge of botany, geology, and chemistry. He not only treated edema, or dropsy, with the help of the foxglove plant but also studied scarlet fever and suggested rum as a medical substitute.

 44 George Porter

George Porter
2
Famous As: British chemist
Birthdate: December 6, 1920
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Stainforth
Died: August 31, 2002

 45 John E. Walker

John E. Walker
2
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: January 7, 1941
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: United Kingdom

 46 Sir Edward Frankland

Sir Edward Frankland
2
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: January 18, 1825
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Catterall, Lancashire, England
Died: August 9, 1899

 47 John Maddox

John Maddox
2
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: November 27, 1925
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Penllergaer, Wales
Died: April 12, 2009

Theoretical chemist and physicist John Maddox is best remembered for his science writing and his 22-year stint as an editor of Nature. He was also associated with The Manchester Guardian, as its science editor. He was also a founding trustee of the charity Sense about Science, which promotes science among common people.

 48 Derek Barton

Derek Barton
2
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: September 8, 1918
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Gravesend, Kent, England
Died: March 16, 1998

 49 Chris Dobson

Chris Dobson
0
Famous As: Chemist, University teacher
Birthdate: October 8, 1949
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Rinteln, Germany
Died: September 8, 2019

 50 William Henry

William Henry
2
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: December 12, 1774
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Manchester, England
Died: September 2, 1836