Widely regarded as one of the most influential personalities in the history of mankind, Charles Darwin was an English biologist, naturalist, and geologist. He is credited with publishing the Theory of Evolution, which explains the evolution of life from a unicellular organism to human beings. A prolific writer, Charles Darwin also wrote important books on plants and barnacles.
John Muir was a Scottish-American naturalist, environmental philosopher, glaciologist, botanist, zoologist, and author. Nicknamed Father of the National Parks and John of the Mountains, Muir was an influential proponent of the preservation of wilderness in the US. He is credited with co-founding the American conservation organization, The Sierra Club. Muir is considered a hero by many environmentalists around the world.
In the early 1900s, meteorologist Alfred Wegener did not find too many takers for his theory that all the continents of the world had initially been a single mass named Pangaea and that continental drift had caused them to split apart. Wegener died on his fourth expedition in Greenland.
A retired US Navy officer, Robert Ballard is now an oceanography professor, a marine explorer, and an underwater archaeologist, who has discovered countless shipwrecks, including the RMS Titanic and Bismark. He has also discovered hydrothermal vents. His exploration has earned him many honors, such as the Hubbard Medal.
Harrison Schmitt is an American geologist, university professor, and former NASA astronaut. He also served as the US Senator from New Mexico from 1977 to 1983. In 1972, Schmitt became a crew member of Apollo 17 and subsequenly the second-youngest person to walk on the Moon. In 1973, Harrison Schmitt was honored with the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.
David A. Johnston was an American volcanologist who was caught in the midst of the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. Johnston was killed during the eruption and his body was never found. David A. Johnston's life and career have inspired several documentaries, docudramas, and films.
Charles Lyell was a Scottish geologist best remembered for his work Principles of Geology, which explains the origin of the earth. He is also remembered for his pioneering explanation of climate change. A close friend of Charles Darwin, Charles Lyell is also credited with influencing many of Darwin's works pertaining to the theories of evolution.
Louis Agassiz was a biologist and geologist. He was famous as a scholar of Earth's natural history. Born in Switzerland, he completed his education in Europe and emigrated to USA. He was appointed a professor of zoology and geology at Harvard University. He later founded the Museum of Comparative Zoology at the Lawrence Scientific School.
Wen Jiabao is a retired Chinese politician who served as the country's head of government from 2003 to 2013. As Premier, Wen Jiabao played a major role in directing Beijing's economic policy. Nicknamed the people's premier, Wen worked towards bettering the lives of migrant workers and farmers rather than focusing on GDP growth in rich coastal areas and large cities.
The pioneer of modern geology, James Hutton laid down the principle of uniformitarianism in geology. While he was initially interested in chemistry, he had later also studied law and had then moved on to medicine. His iconic Theory of the Earth explained the science behind rock formations.
John Wesley Powell was a geologist and explorer of the American West. He undertook a series of adventures as a young man and later joined the military. He is best known for the three-month-long geographic expedition he undertook down the Green and Colorado rivers. He was made the director of the U.S. Geological Survey in 1881.
Best known for discovering the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet, with his wife, Carolyn, and David H. Levy, Eugene Merle Shoemaker was an American astrogeologist who had also worked with the U.S. Geological Survey. He had been part of NASA’s lunar exploration missions. Following his death, his ashes were transported to the Moon.
Douglas Mawson was an Australian Antarctic explorer, geologist, and academic. Counted among the most important leaders of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, Mawson was honored with a knighthood in 1914. Best remembered for his contribution to Australian geology, Mawson was featured on the Australian one-hundred-dollar note from 1984 to 1996.
US oceanographer, geologist, and former US Navy officer and NASA astronaut Kathryn D. Sullivan scripted history in 1984 when she became the first woman from the US to walk in space. Apart from being part of 3 Space Shuttle missions, she also worked in various administrative posts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
William Buckland was an English theologian, palaeontologist, and geologist. He is best remembered for his service as the Dean of Westminster. He is credited with writing the first full account of a dinosaur fossil, which he named Megalosaurus. William Buckland pioneered the usage of fossilized faeces to reconstruct ecosystems. Buckland was the recipient of the prestigious Copley Medal.
Milutin Milanković was a Serbian astronomer, mathematician, geophysicist, climatologist, and civil engineer. He is best remembered for his explanation of Earth's climate changes, which partly explained the ice ages. Milutin Milankovitch's biography inspired a 2007 documentary film titled A Traveler Through Distant Worlds and Times.
US geologist and oceanographer Marie Tharp is remembered for her pioneering work on oceanographic cartography. She contributed to the development of the first scientific map of the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. She was associated with the Columbia University’s Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory and was one of the first women to work for it.
Vladimir Vernadsky was a geochemist and mineralogist who is widely regarded as one of the founders of radiogeology, biogeochemistry, and geochemistry. He is also credited with founding the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. Vernadsky is best remembered for his book, The Biosphere, which discusses Eduard Suess' work. He won the prestigious Stalin Prize in 1943.
US volcanologist Harry Glicken, a Stanford alumnus, worked for the United States Geological Survey to study Mount St. Helens. After losing his mentor, David A. Johnston, in a volcanic avalanche at St. Helens, he himself lost his life in pyroclastic flow at Japan’s Mount Unzen.
Nicolas Steno was a 17th-century Danish scientist considered a pioneer in both anatomy and geology. He received training in the classical texts on science and went on to become an expert on fossils and rock formation. Today, he is considered one of the founders of modern stratigraphy and modern geology. He became a Catholic bishop in his later years.
Along with his brother, Marcel Schlumberger, Conrad Schlumberger formed one of the most well-known geophysicist duos of Germany. A pioneer in petroleum production, he co-established Schlumberger Ltd., one of the world’s largest oil-field service companies, with Marcel. Their technique of oil exploration offered a cheap alternative than the existing coring methods.
Danish seismologist Inge Lehmann is remembered for her groundbreaking discovery of the Earth’s solid inner core and molten outer core, using seismic waves. While she initially studied math, she later deviated to seismology, with a focus on ascertaining earthquake epicenters. The William Bowie Medal-winning scientist died at age 104.
British geologist William Smith, who is regarded as the Father of English Geology, is remembered for developing the science of stratigraphy. His geologic map of England and Wales was the world’s first nationwide and detailed geologic map. He was also the recipient of the first Wollaston Medal.
Shen Kuo was an eleventh century Chinese statesman and polymath, best remembered for authoring Mengxi bitan. Initially employed with central government, he had a successful career before he was banished on false charges, a move that allowed him to produce several scholarly books on mathematics, music, astronomy, calendars, cartography, geology, optics and medicine, out of which many were later purged.
US Navy officer and geologist Harry Hammond Hess is remembered for his pioneering contribution to the unifying theory of plate tectonics. He also worked extensively on the concept of seafloor spreading and was part of the faculty of Princeton University. He served as the Geological Society of America as its president, too.
Born into an aristocratic family in the Russian Empire, George de Mohrenschildt later moved to the US, where he became a prominent petroleum geologist and professor. He is also known to have been a friend of John F. Kennedy’s killer, Lee Harvey Oswald. He also worked as a CIA informant.
US geophysicist Marcia McNutt scripted history as the first female director of the US Geological Survey. She has also been the president of the National Academy of Sciences. She has also taught marine geophysics at Stanford and the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her countless awards include the Maurice Ewing Medal.
Scottish geologist Iain Stewart once revealed in an interview that he initially struggled with the subject. A child actor, he later focused on academics and grew up to be a University of Plymouth professor and the UNESCO geoscience chair. He has also presented many BBC programs and been awarded an MBE.
The pioneer of soil mechanics, Karl Terzaghi was the son of an army lieutenant-colonel and studied in a military boarding school, where he developed his passion for geography. He eventually graduated as a mechanical engineer. He later also taught at MIT and penned iconic works such as Erdbaumechanik.
The son of Nobel Prize-winning US physicist Luis Walter Alvarez, Walter Alvarez is remembered for his theory that dinosaurs died due to an asteroid impact, a theory he developed with his father. The theory stemmed from their discovery of an iridium-rich layer of clay, since iridium is commonly found in asteroids.
Australian geologist Ian Plimer taught mining geology and earth sciences at institutes such as the University of Adelaide. Apart from publishing over 120 research papers, he has also been a co-editor of the five-volume Encyclopedia of Geology and has penned the award-winning A Short History of Planet Earth.
US geologist, mining engineer, and mountaineer Clarence King was the 1st director of the US Geological Survey. While preparing his report, Systematic Geology, he found the first US glaciers. Mostly known for his exploration of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, he penned the iconic work Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada.
Arthur Holmes was an English geologist who pioneered the usage of radiometric dating of minerals. He was the first earth scientist to fully understand the thermal and mechanical implications of mantle convection. Arthur Holmes is also remembered for his advocacy of the theory of continental drift. Holmes was the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Penrose Medal.
Henry Fairfield Osborn was an American geologist, paleontologist, and eugenics advocate. He is best remembered for his association with the American Museum of Natural History where he served as the president for 25 years. Osborn is also remembered for developing his own evolutionary theory which he called the Dawn Man Theory.
Gideon Mantell was a British geologist, obstetrician, and palaeontologist. Mantell's attempt to reconstruct the structure of Iguanodon started the scientific study of dinosaurs. He is also credited with discovering the first fossil teeth of Iguanodon. Subsequently, Gideon Mantell went on to discover and identify much of the skeleton of Iguanodon.
Henry Schoolcraft was an American geologist, geographer, and ethnologist. He is best remembered for his studies of Native American cultures. Henry Schoolcraft is also credited with founding The Journal of Education, America's first journal on public education.
US geophysicist and geologist M. King Hubbert is remembered for developing what is now known as the Hubbert peak theory. Associated with Houston’s Shell research lab, he mostly conducted studies on the migration of petroleum. He was also associated with the faculty of Stanford and Johns Hopkins.
William Morris Davis was an American geologist, geographer, meteorologist, and geomorphologist. Often referred to as the father of American geography, Davis is credited with founding the Association of American Geographers. He is also remembered for his association with the Geological Society of America, where he served as the president. In 1919, he was awarded the Royal Geographical Society's Gold Medal.
Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld was a Finland-Swedish geologist, aristocrat, Arctic explorer, and mineralogist. He is best remembered for leading the Vega Expedition of 1878–1880, the first Arctic expedition to steer through the Northeast Passage. The expedition is regarded as one of the greatest achievements in Swedish science history.
US geophysicist and physical oceanographer Walter Munk is remembered for his path-breaking research on ocean currents and wave propagation. He had been part of the faculty of geophysics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He was also a member of the elite panel of scientists, JASON.
Birbal Sahni was a pioneer of palaeobotanical research in India. The founder of the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, he also taught botany at BHU and Lucknow University. He was also interested in music and tennis, and loved collecting coins. He was a Fellow of The Royal Society, too.
German mineralogist Friedrich Mohs is remembered for inventing a decimal scale used to measure the hardness of minerals, known as the Mohs scale. A professor at the University of Vienna, he later also became the curator of the Imperial Mineralogical Collection. He also laid down a system of classifying crystals.
Adam Sedgwick was a British Anglican priest and geologist. He is credited with guiding and mentoring Charles Darwin during his early years. However, Sedgwick went on to oppose Darwin's theory of evolution. The world's oldest student-run geological society, The Sedgwick Club, was established in his honor in 1880.
Leading US climate expert and Stanford biology professor Stephen Henry Schneider is remembered for his research on climate change and atmosphere. He also founded the journal Climatic Change. He was part of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.