A scientist, meteorologist, mathematician, and biologist, Gregor Mendel is considered the founder of the modern science of genetics. He conducted a series of experiments on pea plants between 1856 and 1863, establishing many rules of heredity. Besides his work on pea plants, he also described novel plant species and conducted experiments with hawkweed and honeybees.
Norman Borlaug was an American agronomist who played a key role in the Green Revolution, a set of research technology transfer initiatives that increased agricultural production, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. Nicknamed the Father of the Green Revolution, Borlaug was also honored with the Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work.
James Watson is a geneticist, molecular biologist, and zoologist. He is credited with co-authoring the academic paper that propounded the double helix structure of nucleic acids such as DNA for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962. In 1977, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1997, he was awarded the National Medal of Science.
Ronald Fisher was a British polymath, statistician, geneticist, mathematician, and academic. He is credited to have single-handedly created the foundations for modern statistical science. He made important contributions to the field of genetics and is known as one of the three principal founders of population genetics. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1929.
Nettie Stevens was an American geneticist. She is credited with discovering sex chromosomes which later came to be known as the X and Y chromosomes. In 1994, Nettie Stevens was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
American physician-geneticist Francis Collins is known for his discovery of the genes related with several diseases and for leading the Human Genome Project while serving as director of NHGRI. Recipient of Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science, Collins wrote the New York Times bestseller The Language of God and presently serves as director of the NIH.
Thomas Hunt Morgan was an evolutionary biologist, geneticist, and embryologist. He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1933. He worked extensively on the role that the chromosome plays in heredity and demonstrated that genes are carried on chromosomes. In his later career, he established the division of biology at the California Institute of Technology.
Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning geneticist M. S. Swaminathan is best known for his contribution to the Indian Green Revolution. Featured on Time, he introduced high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice seedlings to Indian farmers. He is also known for his administrative work as part of the Indian civil services.
British geneticist J.B.S. Haldane is remembered for his pioneering use of statistics in biology. A proponent of neo-Darwinism, he was the son of physiologist John Scott Haldane and had begun assisting his father at age 8. He later joined the British Communist Party and also moved to India.
Barbara McClintock was a scientist and cytogeneticist who received the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. She earned her Ph.D. in botany from Cornell University and began her lifelong work in the development of maize cytogenetics. She eventually gained recognition as among the best in the field and was honored with several prestigious awards.
11 Anne McLaren
Geneticist Anne McLaren is remembered for her pioneering research in embryology that paved the way for further research in fertility treatments such as in-vitro fertilization. The Royal Society fellow had also appeared as a child actor in the film adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel Things to Come.
Luther Burbank was an American horticulturist and botanist. A pioneer in agricultural science, Luther Burbank developed over 800 varieties of plants and strains in an illustrious career that spanned 55 years. He is also credited with developing a spineless cactus that served as cattle feed. In 1986, Luther Burbank was made an inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Best known for his theory of Price Equation, American population geneticist, George R. Price, worked as a chemist for more than two decades before shifting to theoretical biology. On reading W.D. Hamilton's paper on kin selection, he eventually started working on it, in the process devising what is today known as Price Equation and also introducing the evolutionarily stable strategy.
14 Oswald Avery
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.
Joshua Lederberg was an American molecular biologist best remembered for his work in the field of artificial intelligence, microbial genetics, and the US space program. In 1958, Lederberg won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine when he was just 33; he won the prize for discovering bacterial conjugation. In 2006, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Theodosius Dobzhansky was a Ukrainian-American geneticist and evolutionary biologist. He played a key role in shaping modern synthesis in the field of evolutionary biology. His 1937 book, Genetics and the Origin of Species, is a seminal work on modern synthesis. He was the recipient of several awards, including the US National Medal of Science and the Franklin Medal.
Massimo Pigliucci is an academician currently serving as a professor of philosophy at the City College of New York. A staunch critic of pseudoscience and creationism, he advocates for secularism and science education. He was once the co-host of the Rationally Speaking Podcast. He often writes on topics, such as climate change denial, pseudoscience, intelligent design, and philosophy.
Nobel Prize-winning German geneticist Hermann Joseph Muller is best remembered for his work on mutation and the effects of radiation on genes. His contributions include his book The Mechanism of Mendelian Heredity, which is a classic text in the subject. He was named the 1963 Humanist of the Year.
Jeffrey C. Hall is an American chronobiologist and geneticist, currently serving as Brandeis University's Professor Emeritus of Biology. He is credited with conducting extensive research on the behavior and neurology of Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly), which revealed certain mechanisms of the circadian clocks. He received the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Michael Rosbash and Michael Young.
21 Teresa Lambe
One of the most influential evolutionary biologists of his generation, John Maynard Smith was originally aeronautical engineer. Later, he took a second degree in genetics and did extensive research on subjects like population genetics and evolution of sex. Known for formalizing the central concept in evolutionary game theory, he introduced the evolutionarily stable strategy, impacting a wide variety of studies.
Carol W. Greider is a molecular biologist who discovered the enzyme telomerase in 1984. Her discovery was honored several years later when she received the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, along with Blackburn and Jack W. Szostak for their work on telomeres. The trio also shared the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research for the same work.
Harold E. Varmus is an American scientist who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with J. Michael Bishop for their discovery of the retroviral oncogenes' cellular origin. From 1993 to 1999, he served as the director of the National Institutes of Health. From 2010 to 2015, he served as the director of the National Cancer Institute.
Mario Capecchi is a molecular geneticist who received the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Oliver Smithies and Martin Evans. They received the prize for discovering a method to create a knockout mouse, a genetically modified mouse in which a certain gene is turned off for experimental purposes. In 2001, Capecchi received the National Medal of Science.
Michael Rosbash is an American chronobiologist and geneticist, currently serving as a researcher and professor at Brandeis University. In 2017, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Jeffrey C. Hall and Michael W. Young for their discoveries of the controlling mechanisms of the circadian cycle. Rosbash has also received many other awards like the Massry Prize.
Michael W. Young is a biologist and geneticist. He has spent several years studying genetically controlled patterns of sleep and wakefulness within the fly species Drosophila melanogaster. Along with Jeffrey C. Hall and Michael Rosbash, he was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. His wife, Laurel Eckhardt, is also a biologist and the couple often collaborates professionally.
Nobel Prize-winning Canadian-American biochemist and geneticist Jack W. Szostak revolutionized medical science with his research on the manipulation of genes. The Cornell alumnus is credited with creating the first yeast artificial chromosome. He has also taught at the Harvard Medical School. In spite of being Polish, he doesn’t speak the language.
31 Ian Wilmut
British biologist Ian Wilmut revolutionized embryology by leading the team of researchers who successfully created the first cloned mammal, the sheep named Dolly. A leading proponent of cryopreservation, he also implanted the first calf embryo, Frostie, in a surrogate cow. He was later knighted for his achievements.
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard is a German developmental biologist. She studied at the University of Tübingen where she earned a Ph.D. for her research on protein–DNA interactions. Together with biologist Eric Wieschaus and geneticist Edward B. Lewis, she received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1995. She is also a recipient of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize.
33 Cyril Burt
Cyril Burt was an English geneticist and educational psychologist who also made immense contributions to statistics. A prolific writer, Cyril Burt published several books and articles on topics ranging from psychometrics to parapsychology over the course of his career.
American biochemist and Nobel laureate Marshall W. Nirenberg is best known for his research on solving the genetic code. The son of a Jewish shirtmaker father, Nirenberg showed an early interest in biology. He led the National Heart Institute’s genetics department and was associated with the National Institutes of Health.
German biologist and eugenicist Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer was an advocate of racial hygiene and the mandatory sterilization of the physically and mentally disabled. He also led the Nazi experiments on twins based on body parts made available to him from the inmates of various concentration camps.
Philip Allen Sharp is an American molecular biologist and geneticist best known for co-discovering RNA splicing. In 1993, he received the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Sir Richard John Roberts. Philip Allen Sharp has also won several other awards, such as the National Medal of Science, the Benjamin Franklin Medal, and the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize.
Francisco J. Ayala is a Spanish-born American evolutionary geneticist and molecular biologist, best known for his investigation on the process of genetic variation and natural selection at molecular level. He also undertook research on public health, providing new ideas on the prevention and treatment of diseases and expounded how Darwin’s theory of evolution is well-matched to religious theory of creation.
Renowned population geneticist Spencer Wells is best known for his study of human diversity. His analysis has led him to believe that all humans have descended from a single man from Africa, the Y-chromosomal Adam, who lived around 60,000-90,000 years back. He has also headed National Geographic’s Genographic Project.
Nazi leader Eugen Fischer co-wrote Human Hereditary Teaching and Racial Hygiene, which became one of the definitive texts of the Nazi policies. Hitler also made him the rector of the University of Berlin. His memoir diluted his role in the mass extermination of the Jews in the Holocaust.
Reginald Punnett was a British geneticist who is credited with creating the Punnett square, which is used by biologists even today to evaluate the probability of genotypes of offspring. He is also credited with co-founding the Journal of Genetics alongside William Bateson in 1910. Reginald Punnett’s book Mendelism is considered by some to be the first textbook on genetics.
Nobel Prize-winning biologist Alfred Day Hershey is best remembered for his research on bacteriophages, or viruses that infect bacteria. He was associated with the Washington University throughout most of his life. He is also known for his blender experiment, which he conducted with his work partner Martha Chase.
Virologist Howard Martin Temin won his Nobel Prize for co-discovering the enzyme reverse transcriptase. His initial research was in the area of animal cancers, as he was also a PhD in animal virology from Caltech. He spent almost his entire academic career teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
44 Andrew Fire
Geneticist Andrew Fire is best known for his Nobel Prize-winning work on the double-stranded RNA. The MIT alumnus did most of his research under the guidance of Nobel laureate Philip A. Sharp. His discovery of the RNAi later aided scientists work on the cure for ailments such as AIDS and cancer.
British embryologist C.H. Waddington had studied paleontology before turning to biology. A professor of zoology and embryology, he later also taught animal genetics. His interests also included poetry, painting, and Marxism. He introduced concepts such as epigenetic landscape and genetic assimilation, and penned books such as Principles of Embryology.
Nobel Prize-winning physician Baruch Samuel Blumberg is best remembered for his research on the antigen-antibody reaction. His study of an antibody response against hepatitis B helped later scientists develop a vaccine for the disease. He died soon after delivering a speech at the NASA Ames Research Center.
Born to Polish Jew parents in the Bronx, Seymour Benzer would often cut open frogs in childhood. The molecular biologist is best known for his research on viral genes and for coining the term cistron. A Caltech professor, he was also made a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Immunologist Bruce Beutler is best known for his Nobel Prize-winning research on the innate immune system of the human body. The son of a scientist and physician, he was a child prodigy and graduated at age 18. He grew up to be associated with institutes such as the Scripps Research Institute.
American molecular geneticist Joseph L. Goldstein was born to clothing store owner parents in South Carolina. He ended up winning a Nobel Prize for his research on cholesterol metabolism, which later helped researchers develop statin drugs. He currently chairs the molecular genetics department of the University of Texas.
Molecular biologist and geneticist Matthew Meselson is best known for his research on the Watson-Crick theory and the replication of DNA. The Harvard professor has received accolades such as the Guggenheim Fellowship and honorary degrees from eight universities, including Princeton and Yale. He has also been a CIA consultant.