Famous Canadian Scientists

Imagine your life sans your smartphone – impractical isn’t it? Such has been the influence of telecommunication technology in our modern world that we have become slaves to the device. For every thick and thin of matters, we switch to our smartphone, whether it is checking time or calling people. But a few centuries down the line, things weren’t the same. In fact, it would have still continued the same way had it not been for Alexander Graham Bell, who gave the world the first practical telephone, thus starting a legacy that survives gloriously even today. A British born scientists, he also owned a Canadian citizenship. Nobel laureate Michael Smith was British-born Canadian scientist who was known for his work in developing site-directed mutagenesis. Robert William Boyle was a Canadian scientist who was a pioneer in the field of sonar. However, that isn’t it all. Not just men, Canadian women too have left a lasting impression in the field of science with their glorious works. Remember Roberta Bondar, the first female astronaut and the first neurologist in space or Irene Ayako Uchida, a Canadian scientist who researched on Down syndrome? Canadian scientists have significantly contributed in the field of science through their research and work. Get a brief update about their life, career and works in this section.

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 Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell
6
Famous As: Inventor of Telephone
Birthdate: March 3, 1847
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: August 2, 1922

Alexander Graham Bell was a scientist, inventor, and engineer. He is credited with inventing the first functional telephone. He is also credited with co-founding America's major telephone company AT&T, which has been going strong since 1885. Bell's later life was marked by his groundbreaking work in aeronautics, hydrofoils, and optical telecommunications. He was also an ardent supporter of compulsory sterilization.

 2 Frederick Banting

Frederick Banting
12
Famous As: Discoverer of Insulin
Birthdate: November 14, 1891
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Alliston, Ontario, Canada
Died: February 21, 1941

Frederick Banting was a Canadian medical scientist and physician. In 1923, Banting and Scottish biochemist John James Rickard Macleod received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery of insulin and its therapeutic potential. Aged 32 at that time, Banting remains the youngest Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine. He was knighted by King George V in 1934.

 3 Louis Slotin

Louis Slotin
5
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: December 1, 1910
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Winnipeg, Canada
Died: May 30, 1946
While showing his colleagues how to work on a plutonium bomb, Canadian scientist Louis Slotin was exposed to a lethal radioactive dose that first caused him to vomit and then die 9 days later. He had, however, reportedly shielded his colleagues from maximum exposure, thus saving their lives.
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 4 Julie Payette

Julie Payette
7
Famous As: Governor General of Canada
Birthdate: October 20, 1963
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Canadian engineer and astronaut Julie Payette has been the Governor General of Canada from 2017 to 2021. She was initially a research scientist and then joined the Canadian Space Agency, eventually completing two spaceflights. Payette resigned as governor general after a workplace review accused her of workplace harassment.
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 5 Donna Strickland

Donna Strickland
4
Famous As: Optical physicist
Birthdate: May 27, 1959
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Guelph, Canada

Donna Strickland is a Canadian optical physicist who is considered a pioneer in the field of pulsed lasers. In recognition of her research on the practical implementation of chirped pulse amplification, she was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018, together with Gérard Mourou. She is currently a professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. 

 6 Frances Oldham Kelsey

Frances Oldham Kelsey
4
Famous As: Pharmacologist
Birthdate: July 24, 1914
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Cobble Hill, Canada
Died: August 7, 2015

As part of the FDA, Frances Oldham Kelsey prevented thalidomide from being allowed in the US drug market as a painkiller, as she was unsure of its impact. Her concerns were proved right when the drug caused birth defects in European children. She was subsequently awarded by the US president.

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 7 James Gosling

James Gosling
11
Famous As: Programmer, Inventor, Computer scientist
Birthdate: May 19, 1955
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Calgary

James Gosling earned the nickname Dr. Java after he revolutionized the world of computer programming with his Java programming language. The Carnegie Mellon alumnus has had a 26-year stint with Sun Microsystems. The computer nerd has a picture of the first 1000 digits of √2 framed in his office.

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 8 William Osler

William Osler
4
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: July 12, 1849
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bradford West Gwillimbury, Canada
Died: December 29, 1919

Johns Hopkins Hospital co-founder William Osler was also an avid historian. He redefined medical education with his emphasis on clinical experience and his book The Principles and Practice of Medicine. Born to a missionary father in Canada, he was to follow in his father’s footsteps but decided to study medicine instead.

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 9 John Urschel

John Urschel
6
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: June 24, 1991
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Winnipeg, Canada

Part of the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list of young scientists, Canadian-American mathematician John Urschel has previously had an illustrious football career as part of the NFL team Baltimore Ravens. He played with the Ravens without revealing that he was a full-time graduate student at MIT.

 10 Wilder Penfield

Wilder Penfield
4
Famous As: Surgeon, Neuroscientist, Neurosurgeon, University teacher, Neurologist
Birthdate: January 26, 1891
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Spokane
Died: April 5, 1976

Neuroscientist Wilder Penfield redefined medical science with his innovative way of treating epilepsy patients through surgery. He would note down his patients’ responses when they would be conscious under local anesthesia. He also founded the Montreal Neurological Institute, but was unable to cure his sister’s brain cancer.

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 11 Gerald Bull

Gerald Bull
4
Famous As: Aerospace engineer, Engineer, Inventor
Birthdate: March 9, 1928
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ontario
Died: March 22, 1990

Gerald Vincent Bull was a Canadian artillery expert, known for designing Project Babylon supergun for the Government of Iraq. His idea was to do away with the conventional rockets by firing satellites into orbit from a 156m-long barrel embedded inside a hill. However, his assassination within two years of the start of the project put an end to it.  

 12 Oswald Avery

Oswald Avery
3
Famous As: Biologist, Physician, Geneticist
Birthdate: October 21, 1877
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Halifax
Died: February 20, 1955

A pioneer of molecular biology, Oswald Avery revolutionized science with his research on the chemical processes involved in immunology. The Canadian-American bacteriologist initially aspired to be a musician. He later proved that DNA was the basis of heredity. Though nominated for the Nobel Prize multiple times, he never won it.

 13 Brian Kernighan

Brian Kernighan
4
Famous As: Computer scientist
Birthdate: January 1, 1942
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Princeton alumnus Brian Kernighan had a 30-year stint at the Bell Laboratories before returning to his alma mater as a professor. The Canadian computer scientist has played a major role in the development of Unix and has also co-authored the first book on the C programming language.

 14 Roberta Bondar

Roberta Bondar
3
Famous As: Astronaut & Neurologist
Birthdate: December 4, 1945
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Sault Ste. Marie, Canada

Canadian neurologist, educator, scientist, astronaut and photographer Roberta Bondar CC OOnt FRCPC FRSC is noted as the first female astronaut and the first neurologist of Canada to travel into space. She flew as part of the Space Shuttle Discovery mission STS-42 and performed over forty experiments in Spacelab. She later served as head of an international team of researchers at NASA.

 15 Rob Pike

Rob Pike
3
Famous As: Software engineer
Birthdate: 1956 AD
Birthplace: Canada

Best known as the co-designer of the Go programming language, computer programmer Rob Pike has had an illustrious stint with the Bell Labs and now works with Google. He was also part of the Unix development team and has co-written books such as The Practice of Programming.

 16 Rasmus Lerdorf

Rasmus Lerdorf
3
Famous As: Programmer
Birthdate: November 22, 1968
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Qeqertarsuaq

Rasmus Lerdorf was the brain behind the PHP scripting language, which flourished from his personal home page and became an open-source language used worldwide. Born in Greenland, he later moved to Denmark, before settling in Canada, and has had a successful stint with companies such as Yahoo! and Etsy.

 17 Rudolf Vrba

Rudolf Vrba
3
Famous As: Pharmacologist, Physician, University teacher
Birthdate: September 11, 1924
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Topoľčany
Died: March 27, 2006

 18 Stephen Cook

Stephen Cook
3
Famous As: Computer scientist
Birthdate: December 14, 1939
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Buffalo, New York, United States

A.M. Turing Award-winning American-Canadian computer scientist Stephen Cook is known for his contribution to the development of the computational complexity theory and laid down the Cook–Levin theorem. The Harvard alumnus has also taught at institutes such as the University of Toronto. He is also an avid sailor and violinist.

 19 Erik Demaine

Erik Demaine
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Computer scientist, University teacher
Birthdate: February 28, 1981
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Halifax
A child prodigy, Erik Demaine entered university at 12 and completed his PhD at 20, in spite of being homeschooled. He then joined the MIT computer science faculty, becoming the institute’s youngest professor. A computational origami expert, he has appeared in documentaries such as The Origami Revolution and written several books.

 20 Myron Scholes

Myron Scholes
3
Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: July 1, 1941
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Timmins, Ontario, Canada

Nobel Prize-winning Canadian-American economist Myron Scholes is best known for co-establishing the Black-Scholes options pricing model. He was associated with MIT Sloan and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business before moving to Stanford. He has served on the economic boards of companies such as Stamos Partners, too.

 21 Arthur B. McDonald

Arthur B. McDonald
3
Famous As: Physicist, University teacher
Birthdate: August 29, 1943
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Sydney

Nobel Prize-winning Canadian physicist Arthur B. McDonald is remembered for his research on neutrino oscillations and for proving that neutrinos have mass. He spent most of his life teaching at the Princeton and Queen’s universities. He also headed a project that mass-produced low-cost ventilators to be used as COVID-19 supplies.

 22 Herbert Henry Dow

Herbert Henry Dow
3
Famous As: Industrialist
Birthdate: February 26, 1866
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Belleville, Canada
Died: October 15, 1930

Herbert Henry Dow taught chemistry before venturing into a business career. Though his first company was a failure, his work impressed investors, and he was soon able to establish Dow Chemical, which supplied low-cost bromine to the US markets. He later made auto pistons out of spare magnesium.

 23 Keith L. Moore

Keith L. Moore
3
Famous As: Biologist
Birthdate: October 5, 1925
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Brantford, Canada
Died: December 6, 2019

A legend of anatomy, Keith L. Moore was also one of the founders of the American Association of Clinical Anatomists. The author of books such as Before We Are Born, Moore was also known for his study on the scientific accuracy of statements related to embryology mentioned in the Quran.

 24 Donald O. Hebb

Donald O. Hebb
3
Famous As: Psychologist, Neuroscientist, University teacher
Birthdate: July 22, 1904
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chester, Nova Scotia
Died: August 20, 1985

Though born to physicians, Donald O. Hebb had initially aspired to be a novelist. He later pioneered neuropsychology by merging elements of psychology and neuroscience, and thus establishing psychology as part of bio science. His iconic work The Organization of Behavior spoke about many innovate concepts such as Hebb’s Rule.

 25 Kenneth E. Iverson

Kenneth E. Iverson
2
Famous As: Computer Scientist
Birthdate: December 17, 1920
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Camrose, Canada
Died: October 19, 2004

 26 Hubert Reeves

Hubert Reeves
3
Famous As: Popularizer of science, Astrophysicist, Science writer
Birthdate: July 13, 1932
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Montreal

Known as “The Poet of the Stars,” Canadian astrophysicist Hubert Reeves has been a NASA advisor. His research covers neutrinos and thermonuclear reactions in stars. Having penned numerous science and astronomy books such as Soleil, he is known as a popularizer of science and has an asteroid named after him.

 27 Simon Newcomb

Simon Newcomb
3
Famous As: Astronomer, Mathematician, Economist, Novelist, Writer, Teacher, University teacher, Science fiction writer
Birthdate: March 12, 1835
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Nova Scotia
Died: July 11, 1909

Initially a herbalist’s apprentice, Simon Newcomb later deviated to mathematics and astronomy. Born to a schoolteacher, he had loved math since age 5 but wasn’t formally educated. He later joined Harvard University, taught math at the US Navy, detected locations of celestial bodies, and wrote a science-fiction novel, too.

 28 Ludwig von Bertalanffy

Ludwig von Bertalanffy
3
Famous As: Biologist, University teacher
Birthdate: September 19, 1901
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Atzgersdorf
Died: June 12, 1972

Austrian-Canadian biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy is best remembered as one of the pioneers of the general systems theory (GST). While he initially studied philosophy and history, he later switched to biology. It is believed his allegiance to the Nazi Party helped him become a professor at the University of Vienna.

 29 Albert W. Tucker

Albert W. Tucker
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Topologist, University teacher
Birthdate: November 28, 1905
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Ontario
Died: January 25, 1995

Canadian mathematician Albert W. Tucker is remembered for his contribution to the field of operations research, primarily non-linear programming and game theory. The Princeton alumnus was also associated with Harvard as a research fellow and later taught math at Princeton. John Nash was one of his PhD students.

 30 Theo de Raadt

Theo de Raadt
3
Famous As: Computer scientist, Engineer, Network engineer, Programmer
Birthdate: May 19, 1968
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pretoria

Born to a South African mother and a Dutch father in Pretoria, Theo de Raadt later moved to Canada with his family. The software engineer founded the OpenBSD and OpenSSH operating system networks and also contributed to NetBSD. He has also formed the Internet Exchange YYCIX in Calgary.

 31 Brenda Milner

Brenda Milner
4
Famous As: Neuroscientist, Psychologist, University teacher
Birthdate: July 15, 1918
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Manchester

Considered a pioneer in her field, centenarian neuropsychologist Brenda Milner is known for her immense contribution to clinical neuropsychology. Especially known for her work on memory and cognition, she has contributed immensely to the study of temporal lobe. Her papers on the frontal lobes in problem-solving and the lateralization of hemispheric function in language are also highly regarded by scholars.

 32 W. T. Tutte

W. T. Tutte
3
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: May 14, 1917
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Newmarket, Suffolk, England
Died: May 2, 2002

Born to working-class parents who were employed with the upkeep of the Fitzroy House stables, W. T. Tutte completed his high school studies on scholarships. Initially interested in physical chemistry, he later focused on math and became a genius codebreaker. He deciphered several intricate German military codes, such as FISH.

 33 Robert Langlands

Robert Langlands
3
Famous As: Mathematician, University teacher
Birthdate: October 6, 1936
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Westminster

Canadian mathematician Robert Langlands is best known for his Langlands program. The Yale alumnus later taught at Yale and Princeton. His contributions include research on number theory and representation theory, and he has received several honors, including an Abel Prize and the Order of Canada.

 34 Shirley M. Tilghman

Shirley M. Tilghman
3
Famous As: Molecular biologist, University teacher, Biochemist
Birthdate: September 17, 1946
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Toronto

Shirley Marie Tilghman, the nineteenth President of Princeton University, currently the Emeritus Professor of Molecular Biology and Public Affairs, is considered to be one of the most influential female scientists of our time. Although she is no longer involved in active research she is known for her contributions in the fields of molecular genetics, especially in genomic imprinting.

 35 Alfred Aho

Alfred Aho
3
Famous As: Computer scientist, Engineer, Programmer
Birthdate: August 9, 1941
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Timmins

Alfred Aho is a Canadian computer scientist. He is best known for his work on compilers, programming languages, and related algorithms. He is the author of several popular textbooks on the art and science of computer programming. Along with his long-time collaborator Jeffrey Ullman, he was awarded the 2020 Turing Award, one of the most prestigious awards in computer science. 

 36 Hans Moravec

Hans Moravec
3
Famous As: Computer Scientist
Birthdate: November 30, 1948
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kautzen, Austria

An adjunct faculty member at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University, Hans Peter Moravec is mostly known for his work on artificial intelligence. He firmly believed that the robots would overtake humans in near future. He has published multiple works including Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence and Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind on the subject. .

 37 Hugh Ross

Hugh Ross
3
Famous As: astronomer, physicist
Birthdate: July 24, 1945
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Montreal

Equipped with a PhD in astronomy, Hugh Ross had been a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech. However, he later focused on studying the link between scientific discoveries and their biblical explanations, and formed the ministry Reasons to Believe. He has written books, hosted podcasts, and attended events, speaking about progressive creationism.

 38 Louis Nirenberg

Louis Nirenberg
3
Famous As: Mathematician, University teacher
Birthdate: February 28, 1925
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Hamilton, Canada
Died: January 26, 2020

Louis Nirenberg was a Canadian-American mathematician. He is counted as one of the most outstanding mathematicians of the 20th century. He specialized in the field of partial differential equations. He extensively collaborated with Shmuel Agmon and Avron Douglis to extend the Schauder theory. He was the recipient of several awards and honors, including the Bôcher Memorial Prize. 

 39 Michael Smith (Chemist)

Michael Smith (Chemist)
2
Famous As: Biochemist
Birthdate: April 26, 1932
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Blackpool, England
Died: October 4, 2000

Nobel Prize-winning British-Canadian biochemist Michael Smith is best remembered for his research on site-directed mutagenesis, which has paved the path for further research on topics such as gene therapy and Alzheimer disease. A professor of biotechnology and biochemistry, he later co-founded the biotechnology company ZymoGenetics Inc.

 40 Paul Churchland

Paul Churchland
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 21, 1942
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Vancouver, Canada

Canadian philosopher and academic Paul Churchland is best known for his research on eliminative materialism. Born to a science teacher father, he was obsessed with science fiction and initially aspired to become an aerodynamical engineer. He later studied philosophy and became a significant figure in the field of neurophilosophy.  

 41 Richard E. Taylor

Richard E. Taylor
2
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: November 2, 1929
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada

Nobel Prize-winning Canadian physicist and Stanford professor Richard E. Taylor is best remembered for revolutionizing particle physics by discovering quarks, which make up matter. He was also associated with the designing of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

 42 Endel Tulving

Endel Tulving
3
Famous As: Neuroscientist, Psychologist
Birthdate: May 26, 1927
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pechory

Endel Tulving is an Estonian-born Canadian experimental psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist. He is best known for his pioneering research on human memory. He earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University and began his academic work at the University of Toronto, where he remained for the rest of his career. He is a recipient of the Canada Gairdner International Award. 

 43 Rudolph A. Marcus

Rudolph A. Marcus
2
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: July 21, 1923
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Montreal, Canada

Rudolph A. Marcus redefined science with his Marcus theory, which explained electron transfer reactions and thus threw light on reactions such as photosynthesis. The Canadian-American chemist won a Nobel Prize for his work and also contributed to the transition-state theory. He now teaches at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

 44 John Polanyi

John Polanyi
2
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: January 23, 1929
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany

John Charles Polanyi is a Hungarian-Canadian scientist, who won the Noble Prize in Chemistry for his contribution to the dynamics of chemical reaction. He developed a technique called infrared chemiluminescence, which helped him to study the exchange of chemical bonds and detail how the excess energy is removed during chemical reactions.

 45 Maud Menten

Maud Menten
4
Famous As: Researcher
Birthdate: March 20, 1879
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Port Lambton, Canada
Died: July 26, 1960

Maud Menten was a Canadian bio-medical and medical researcher. She made several important contributions to enzyme kinetics and histochemistry. She studied medicine at the University of Toronto, becoming among the first women in Canada to earn a medical doctorate. She collaborated with Leonor Michaelis to come up with the Michaelis-Menten equation model.

 46 Sidney Altman

Sidney Altman
2
Famous As: Molecular Biologist
Birthdate: May 7, 1939
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Known for his independent work on ribonucleic acid (RNA), molecular biologist Sidney Altman co-won the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering that RNA, which was thought to be a passive carrier of genetic codes, is also capable of taking up active enzymatic functions. The discovery is significant in that it forced scientists to reexamine traditional theories on cellular functions.  

 47 John Tuzo Wilson

John Tuzo Wilson
2
Famous As: Geophysicist
Birthdate: October 24, 1908
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ottawa, Canada
Died: April 15, 1993

Best known for his work on plate tectonics, John Tuzo Wilson was the son of a Scottish immigrant and had become the first Canadian to earn a degree in geophysics. Following his service in World War II, he began teaching geophysics. The Wilson Mountains in Antarctica was named after him.

 48 Willard Boyle

Willard Boyle
2
Famous As: Physicist, Inventor, Photographer
Birthdate: August 19, 1924
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Amherst
Died: May 7, 2011

Willard Boyle revolutionized physics with the invention of the charge-coupled device (CCD), which also earned him, and his co-inventor George E. Smith, a Nobel Prize. During his time at Bellcomm, he was associated with the Apollo space program. Both he and Smith worked for Bell Laboratories, too.

 49 Charles Best

Charles Best
2
Famous As: Co-discoverer of Insulin
Birthdate: February 27, 1899
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: West Pembroke, Pembroke, Maine, United States
Died: March 31, 1978

Charles Best made history with his discovery of insulin, along with Sir Frederick Banting, thus paving the path for its use as a treatment for diabetes. He, however, failed to get the 1923 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, like Banting, as he didn’t receive his medical degree till 1925.

 50 Harold Scott MacDonald Coxeter

Harold Scott MacDonald Coxeter
2
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: February 9, 1907
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: London, England
Died: March 31, 2003

British-Canadian mathematician Harold Scott MacDonald Coxeter is regarded as one of the most influential geometers ever born. He showed immense skill in both math and music as a child. During his 6 decades at the University of Toronto, he wrote several books. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society.