Stephen Hawking was an English theoretical physicist and cosmologist, who despite being afflicted motor neurone disease that severely limited his physical abilities, was able to build a phenomenally successful career. He was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Hawking was ranked 25 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, in 2002.
One of the most influential and popular scientists of all time, Sir Isaac Newton played a prominent role in our understanding of natural phenomena. He formulated the law of universal gravitation and laws of motion. He also developed the Newtonian telescope among other devices. Apart from science, Newton was also intrigued by religion, occult, and alchemy.
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.
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.
James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish scientist known for co-developing the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution with Ludwig Boltzmann. He made tremendous contributions to the field of mathematical physics and formulated the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation. He is also regarded as a founder of the modern field of electrical engineering. He received the Royal Society's Rumford Medal in 1860.
J. J. Thomson was a British physicist credited with the discovery of the electron, the first subatomic particle to be discovered. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1906 for his work on the conduction of electricity in gases. In 1884, he was appointed Cavendish Professor of Physics at the University of Cambridge.
English theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Paul Dirac OM FRS, counted among leading physicists of the 20th century, made fundamental contributions in the early development of quantum electrodynamics and quantum mechanics. He derived the Dirac equation while the modern theory of antimatter began with one of his papers. His book The Principles of Quantum Mechanics remains an influential monograph on the subject.
Scientist Robert Hooke, also called England's Leonardo, initially gained recognition as an architect, conducting surveys following the Great Fire of London. He also taught geometry and was part of the Royal Society. He assisted Robert Boyle and eventually developed his own microscope, thus becoming the first to visualize micro-organisms.
Best remembered as a Nobel laureate who discovered neutron, Sir James Chadwick began his career at Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, where he worked with Ernest Rutherford to investigate the nature of atomic nucleus, a work that led to the epoch-making discovery. Credited with writing the final draft of the MAUD Report, he also headed the British team at the Manhattan Project
10 John Dalton
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.
11 Lord Kelvin
Lord Kelvin was a British mathematical physicist and engineer. He studied at the Glasgow University and proceeded to teach there as well. Besides his academic career, he also had a career as an electric telegraph engineer and inventor. He received the Royal Society's Copley Medal in 1883. Absolute temperatures are stated in units of kelvin in his honor.
Freeman Dyson was a British-American theoretical and mathematical physicist, mathematician, and statistician. He made major contributions in the fields of quantum field theory, astrophysics, random matrices, quantum mechanics, and nuclear physics. He originated the concept that went on to be known as Dyson's transform. He received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 1986.
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.
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.
English physicist, and mathematician, James Prescott Joule primarily worked on the nature of heat, in course of which he established that all forms of energy are fundamentally same and therefore inter-convertible. His findings resulted in the development of the first law of thermodynamics and negation of calorie theory. The SI derived unit of energy, the joule, is named after him.
Stephen Wolfram is a British-American computer scientist, physicist, and businessman, best known for his work in computer science, mathematics, and theoretical physics. He is a fellow of the American Mathematical Society. As a businessman, he is the founder and CEO of Wolfram Research, a software company.
17 Thomas Young
Often referred as The Last Man Who Knew Everything, British polymath Thomas Young made significant contributions to a wide range of subjects like vision, light, energy, musical harmony etc. Especially famous for Wave Theory of Light, he also made significant contribution in deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphs. Young-Helmholtz theory, Young temperament and Young's Modulus carry his legacy to these days.
18 Peter Higgs
Peter Higgs is a British theoretical physicist. He studied at King's College London and was awarded a Ph.D. in 1954. He went on to have a brilliant academic career and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1983. In 2013, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Belgian physicist François Englert.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist from Northern Ireland. As a postgraduate student, she discovered the first radio pulsars. She graduated from the University of Glasgow and pursued an academic career. In 2018, she received the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her discovery of radio pulsars. She donated the three million dollars she received as prize money.
20 Fred Hoyle
Fred Hoyle was an English astronomer known for his theory of stellar nucleosynthesis. He spent most of his career at the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge, serving as its director for six years. He was also an author of science fiction novels, short stories, and plays and appeared in a series of radio talks on astronomy for the BBC.
Arthur Eddington was an English physicist, astronomer, and mathematician. He wrote numerous articles that explained Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity to the English-speaking world. He began his career in academics and eventually shifted to astronomy, becoming the chief assistant to the Astronomer Royal at the Royal Greenwich Observatory. He was a recipient of the Henry Draper Medal.
22 Brian Cox
Brian Cox is an English physicist and former musician. He has presented numerous science programs for BBC radio and TV, especially the Wonders of... series. He is also the author of several popular science books. He has been lauded for his efforts to publicize science and was awarded the British Association's Lord Kelvin Award in 2006.
Although John William Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh, received the Nobel Prize for his discovery and isolation of the inert gas argon, his contributions to Physics is not limited to that. Known to make extensive contributions to theoretical and practical physics, especially in the fields of acoustics and optics, his works are now considered to mark the beginning of modern acoustics.
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 Joseph Swan
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.
Robert Watson-Watt, often called the father of radar was a British physicist who did pioneering work in radio direction finding (RDF) and radar technology. He developed high-frequency direction finding (huff-duff) as a system for locating lightning. It was later introduced during the Second World War and played an instrumental role in intelligence, mainly in catching enemy radios while they transmitted.
Oliver Heaviside was an English mathematician and physicist. He invented a new technique for solving differential equations and independently developed vector calculus. He is also credited with rewriting Maxwell's equations in the form commonly used today. He formulated the telegrapher’s equations and invented the Heaviside step function as well. In 1922, he received the Faraday Medal.
William Gilbert was a 16th-century English physician, physicist, astronomer, and natural philosopher. He earned his MD from Cambridge and practiced medicine in London. He was a much-respected figure and was made the president of the Royal College of Physicians. He served as Queen Elizabeth I's and King James VI and I’s personal physician.
29 Andre Geim
Andre Geim is a Russian-born Dutch-British physicist. He has been associated with the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester for several years. In 2010, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics jointly with Konstantin Novoselov in recognition of his work on graphene. He is also a recipient of the 2000 Ig Nobel Prize in Physics.
David Deutsch is a British physicist, currently serving as a visiting professor at the University of Oxford. He is a pioneer in the field of quantum computation and gave a description for a quantum Turing machine. He is a proponent of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. He received the Dirac Prize of the Institute of Physics in 1998.
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.
Born to a math and physics professor in Australia, Sir William Lawrence Bragg later moved to England, where his father was posted for work. He and his father jointly won the Nobel Prize for Physics for their research on X-ray diffraction through crystals. Bragg was an avid shell collector, too.
George Paget Thomson was a British physicist best remembered for his discovery of the wave properties of the electron by electron diffraction. The son of physicist and Nobel laureate J. J. Thomson, he himself went on to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1937. He spent several years of his career at Imperial College London.
Sir George Stokes, 1st Baronet was an Anglo-Irish physicist and mathematician. He studied at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and spent his entire career at the University of Cambridge as the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. As a physicist, he made key contributions to fluid mechanics and physical optics. He received the Royal Society's Copley Medal in 1893.
David Thouless was a British physicist specializing in condensed-matter physics. He had a brilliant academic career and was the first director of studies in physics at Churchill College, Cambridge. He also taught at the University of Birmingham and the University of Washington. He won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Physics jointly with F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz.
Frederick Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell was a British physicist known for serving as the prime scientific adviser to Winston Churchill in World War II. Much respected for his scientific brilliance, he was notorious for being arrogant and quarrelsome as a person. He formed a close bond with Churchill and was given a cabinet seat in Churchill’s second government.
Templeton Prize-winning English theoretical physicist and priest John Polkinghorne championed the relationship between science and religion. He served as Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Cambridge before becoming an ordained Anglican priest and later served as president of Queens' College, Cambridge. He penned books like Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion and Questions of Truth.
Derek J. de Solla Price was a British physicist, information scientist, and historian of science. He is credited as the father of scientometrics. He received a Doctor of Philosophy in experimental physics from the University of London and began his academic career. He was posthumously awarded the ASIS Research Award for outstanding contributions in the field of information science.
Duncan Haldane is a British-born physicist who is currently serving as the Sherman Fairchild University Professor of Physics at Princeton University. He has made numerous fundamental contributions to condensed matter physics. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. In 2016, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics along with David J. Thouless and J. Michael Kosterlitz.
William Whewell was an English polymath, scientist, philosopher, theologian, and historian of science. He worked in a wide range of fields, publishing works in the disciplines of physics, mechanics, geology, economics, and astronomy. He also wrote poetry, sermons, and theological tracts. He is credited with coining the terms linguistics, physicist, consilience, scientist, catastrophism, and uniformitarianism.
David Brewster was a British scientist, inventor, and author. He conducted many experiments in physical optics, especially concerned with the study of the polarization of light. Fellow scientist William Whewell dubbed him the "father of modern experimental optics." He was also a pioneer in photography and invented an improved stereoscope. He wrote numerous works of popular science as well.
Dennis W. Sciama was a British physicist credited to have played a major role in the development of British physics following World War II. He is considered a co-father of modern cosmology and supervised the doctoral works of many famous cosmologists, including Martin Rees and Stephen Hawking. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1983.
43 Joseph Black
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.
David J. C. MacKay was a British mathematician, physicist, and academic. He studied at the University of Cambridge and the California Institute of Technology. As an academic, he served as the Regius Professor of Engineering in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. In 2009, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).
Konstantin Novoselov is a Russian-British physicist, currently serving as a professor at the Centre for Advanced 2D Materials, National University of Singapore. He is the Langworthy Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester as well. Along with Andre Geim, he jointly received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.
46 James Dewar
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.
John Ambrose Fleming was an English electrical engineer and physicist. He is known for inventing the first thermionic valve or vacuum tube and designing the radio transmitter with which the first transatlantic radio transmission was made. Along with Douglas Dewar and Bernard Acworth, he helped establish the Evolution Protest Movement. Fleming was also a noted photographer and artist.
48 George Green
With one year of formal schooling, George Green was entirely self-taught until the age of forty, when he entered Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. By then, he had published his first book, propagating what are now known as Green’s theorem and Green’s functions. A fellow of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, he also established Green's identities, Green's law, and Green's matrix.
Sir John Douglas Cockcroft was a British physicist credited with designing the Cockcroft-Walton generator with Earnest Walton. Their relentless research on spitting various types of atoms helped to establish the importance of accelerators in disintegrating atoms, which in turn paved the way for the development of nuclear power. For his pioneering work,John Cockroft was one of the recipients of the 1951 Nobel Prize in Physics
Radio astronomer and physicist Antony Hewish is best known for his Nobel Prize-winning research on pulsars. Apart from teaching at Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, he has also served as an advisory council member for the Campaign for Science and Engineering. He also has six honorary degrees to his credit.