Famous British Chemists

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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.
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 1 
Michael Faraday
(English Scientist Who Contributed to the Study of Electromagnetism and Electrochemistry)
Michael Faraday
6
Birthdate: September 22, 1791
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Newington Butts, London, United Kingdom
Died: August 5, 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
9
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
(New Zealand Physicist Who is Known as the Father of Nuclear Physics)
Ernest Rutherford
7
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
(Chemist, Physicist and Meteorologist Best Known for Developing the 'Atomic Theory')
John Dalton
6
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 
Robert Boyle
(Founder of Modern Chemistry, Boyle's Law)
Robert Boyle
5
Birthdate: January 25, 1627
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ireland
Died: December 30, 1691

Robert Boyle was an Anglo-Irish chemist, natural philosopher, inventor, and physicist. Regarded as the first modern chemist, Boyle is often counted among the founders of modern chemistry. One of the pioneers of the scientific method, Robert Boyle is also remembered for his books, including The Sceptical Chymist, which is viewed as a keystone book in chemistry.

 6 
Joseph Priestley
(Discoverer of Oxygen)
Joseph Priestley
5
Birthdate: March 24, 1733
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Birstall, England
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
(Physicist)
Henry Moseley
6
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. 

 8 
Henry Cavendish
(English Scientist Who Discovered Hydrogen)
Henry Cavendish
4
Birthdate: October 10, 1731
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Nice, France
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
(Biochemist)
Frederick Sanger
4
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 
William Henry Perkin
(British Chemist Known for His Serendipitous Discovery of First Commercial Synthetic Organic Dye, 'Mauveine')
William Henry Perkin
4
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.

 11 
Dorothy Hodgkin
(Biochemist)
Dorothy Hodgkin
4
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.

 12 
William Crookes
(British Chemist and Physicist Known for His Discovery of the Element 'Thallium' and Invention of 'Crookes Tubes')
William Crookes
3
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. 

 13 
Chaim Weizmann
(Former President of Israel)
Chaim Weizmann
4
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 
John Herschel
(British Polymath Known for His Invention of 'Blueprint')
John Herschel
4
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.

 15 
Helen Sharman
(Chemist)
Helen Sharman
4
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.

 16 
Humphry Davy
(Inventor of Davy Lamp)
Humphry Davy
4
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.

 17 
Joseph Swan
(Chemist, Physicist, Inventor)
Joseph Swan
4
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 
James Lovelock
(Biologist, Chemist, University teacher, Mythographer)
James Lovelock
4
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.

 19 
John Newlands
(Chemist)
John Newlands
3
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
(Radiochemist)
Frederick Soddy
3
Birthdate: September 2, 1877
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Eastbourne
Died: September 22, 1956
 21 
John Cornforth
(Australian–British Chemist and Winner of 1975 Nobel Prize in Chemistry)
John Cornforth
3
Birthdate: September 7, 1918
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Sydney, Australia
Died: December 8, 2013

John Cornforth was an Australian-British chemist who became the first Nobel laureate from New South Wales when he was honored with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1975. Over the course of his career, Cornforth also won other prestigious awards like the Royal Medal, Copley Medal, and Centenary Medal. In 1975, he was adjudged the Australian of the Year.

 22 
Joseph Black
(Chemist, Physicist, Scientist, University teacher)
Joseph Black
3
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 
William Henry Bragg
(Physicist and Mathematician Who Invented the ‘X-Ray’ Spectrometer)
William Henry Bragg
3
Birthdate: July 2, 1862
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Wigton, England, United Kingdom
Died: March 12, 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. 

 24 
Tim Hunt
(Biochemist, Chemist)
Tim Hunt
3
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.

 25 
Martyn Poliakoff
(Chemist, University teacher)
Martyn Poliakoff
4
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.

 26 
William Worrall Mayo
(Chemist, Politician, Gynaecologist, Editor)
William Worrall Mayo
4
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.

 27 
Fraser Stoddart
3
Birthdate: May 24, 1942
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
 28 
Sir Harold W. Kroto
3
Birthdate: October 7, 1939
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Wisbech, United Kingdom
Died: April 30, 2016
 29 
Aaron Klug
(Chemist & Biophysicist)
Aaron Klug
3
Birthdate: August 11, 1926
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lithuania
 30 
Alexander Parkes
(Engineer who created the world's first plastic, which he called Parkesine)
Alexander Parkes
3
Birthdate: December 29, 1813
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Birmingham, England, United Kingdom
Died: June 29, 1890
 31 
Martin Fleischmann
3
Birthdate: March 29, 1927
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Karlovy Vary
Died: August 3, 2012
 32 
William Hyde Wollaston
(Chemist, Physicist, Engineer, Metallurgist)
William Hyde Wollaston
3
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.

 33 
William Cullen
(Physician, Chemist, Farmer, Academic, University teacher, Writer, Psychiatrist)
William Cullen
3
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.

 34 
Peter Mitchell
(British Biochemist Best Known For His Discovery of Chemiosmosis)
Peter Mitchell
3
Birthdate: September 29, 1920
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mitcham, England
Died: April 10, 1992

Peter Mitchell was a British biochemist best known for his discovery of chemiosmosis, for which he was honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1978. Over the course of his career, Peter Mitchell also received other prestigious awards such as the Copley Medal and the Sir Hans Krebs Medal.

 35 
Francis William Aston
(Chemist & Physicist)
Francis William Aston
3
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.

 36 
Stephen Hales
(Botanist, Physicist, Chemist)
Stephen Hales
3
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.

 37 
John A Pople
(Chemist)
John A Pople
2
Birthdate: October 31, 1925
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Burnham-on-Sea, England
Died: March 15, 2004
 38 
William Robert Grove
(Judge, Chemist)
William Robert Grove
3
Birthdate: July 11, 1811
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Swansea, Wales
Died: August 1, 1896
 39 
Robert Robinson
(British Organic Chemist Who Received Nobel Prize for His Research on Anthocyanins and Alkaloids)
Robert Robinson
2
Birthdate: September 13, 1886
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England
Died: February 8, 1975

Robert Robinson was a British organic chemist best remembered for winning the 1947 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his research on anthocyanins and alkaloids. Robinson is credited with inventing the symbol for benzene; discovering the molecular structures of penicillin and morphine; founding the journal Tetrahedron. Robert Robinson was also the recipient of the Davy Medal, Royal Medal, and Copley Medal.

 40 
William Withering
(British Botanist, Geologist, Chemist and Physician Best Known for His Use of Extracts of Foxglove to Treat Dropsy)
William Withering
2
Birthdate: March 17, 1741
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Wellington, Shropshire, 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.

 41 
Geoffrey Wilkinson
2
Birthdate: July 14, 1921
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Todmorden, England
Died: September 26, 1996
 42 
Colin Pillinger
(Scientist)
Colin Pillinger
2
Birthdate: May 9, 1943
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kingswood, Bristol, England
Died: May 7, 2014
 43 
George Porter
(Chemist)
George Porter
2
Birthdate: December 6, 1920
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Stainforth, England, United Kingdom
Died: August 31, 2002
 44 
John E. Walker
2
Birthdate: January 7, 1941
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: United Kingdom
 45 
Sir Edward Frankland
2
Birthdate: January 18, 1825
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Catterall, Lancashire, England
Died: August 9, 1899
 46 
Derek Barton
(British Organic Chemist and One of the Recipients of 1969 Nobel Prize in Chemistry)
Derek Barton
2
Birthdate: September 8, 1918
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Gravesend, United Kingdom
Died: March 16, 1998

Derek Barton was a British organic chemist best remembered for winning the 1969 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He won the prize alongside Odd Hassel for their contributions to the development of a concept called conformation and its applications in chemistry. Derek Barton also won several other prestigious awards, including the Corday-Morgan Prize, Davy Medal, Ernest Guenther Award, and Copley Medal. 

 47 
Chris Dobson
(Chemist, University teacher)
Chris Dobson
0
Birthdate: October 8, 1949
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Rinteln, Germany
Died: September 8, 2019
 48 
Edward Bancroft
(Double Agent Who Worked for Both Great Britain and America During the American Revolution)
Edward Bancroft
2
Birthdate: January 20, 1745
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Westfield, Massachusetts, United States
Died: September 7, 1821

Edward Bancroft was a Massachusetts-born chemist and physician. He played an important role during the American Revolution, working as a double agent for both Great Britain and the United States. Edward Bancroft's activity as a double agent wasn't disclosed until 1891, when diplomatic papers were made public knowledge by Great Britain.

 49 
William Prout
(Chemist)
William Prout
2
Birthdate: January 15, 1785
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Horton, England
Died: April 9, 1850
 50 
John Maddox
(Chemist)
John Maddox
2
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.