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.
An Italian astronomer, engineer, and physicist, Galileo Galilei is widely regarded as the father of observational astronomy, the father of the scientific method, the father of modern physics, and the father of modern science. He is credited with popularizing the telescope, which changed the course of history.
Hailed as a brilliant scientific mind, American physicist J Robert Oppenheimer, led the Manhattan Project which resulted in the development of atomic bomb during the World War II. The bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. However, Oppenheimer was in a constant conflict over the moral issue of the weapons of mass destruction and rallied against nuclear proliferation.
Theoretical physicist Richard Feynman won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965, along with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichirō Tomonaga, for his research on quantum electrodynamics. He also contributed to the development of the atomic bomb. Feyman made it to Physics World’s list of the 10 greatest physicists of all time.
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.
12 Niels Bohr
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.
15 Nikola Tesla
Inventor, engineer and futurist, Nikola Tesla, is best remembered for his contribution to the development of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system. A prolific inventor, he had around 300 patents for his inventions. Even though he earned a considerable amount of money, he had poor money management skills and died a poor man.
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.
17 Carl Sagan
18 Max Planck
German theoretical physicist Max Planck is remembered for originating the quantum theory of physics, which earned him the 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics. He laid down concepts such as the Planck constant and the Planck postulate. The Kaiser Wilhelm Society was later renamed Max Planck Society in his honor.
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.
20 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.
Remembered for his varied contribution to astrophysics, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar is perhaps best known for his work on the evolution of massive stars. Today known as Chandrasekhar limit, it contributed to final understanding of supernovas, neutron stars, and black holes. A prolific writer, he also did significant work on energy transfer by radiation in stellar atmospheres and convection on solar surface.
German mathematician and physicist Carl Friedrich Gauss is remembered for his work in math and science. Known as the Princeps mathematicorum, he laid down tenets such as the Gauss's Law. He had exhibited his talent since an early age and had completed writing Disquisitiones Arithmeticae by 21.
23 Enrico Fermi
Born to a professor, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was well-read since childhood. A doctorate in law, he grew up to be a polymath. Apart from being one of the greatest 17th-century rationalist philosophers, he was also an eminent mathematician, scientist, and diplomat. His interests also included medicine and philology.
Leonhard Euler was a Swiss physicist, mathematician, logician, geographer, astronomer, and engineer. He is credited with making influential and important mathematical discoveries, such as graph theory and infinitesimal calculus. Widely regarded as one of the greatest and most prolific mathematicians of all time, Leonhard Euler also made pioneering contributions to analytic number theory and topology.
26 Paul Dirac
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.
Blaise Pascal was a French physicist, mathematician, philosopher, and inventor. A child prodigy, Pascal's work on projective geometry, at the age of 16 is commendable. He is one of the earliest inventors of the mechanical calculator, which he did when he was still a teenager. His work on probability theory influenced the development of social science and modern economics.
28 Mileva Marić
Wilhelm Rontgen was a German physicist and mechanical engineer. He is best remembered for producing and detecting X-rays for which he was honored with the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901. His discovery of X-rays remains one of the greatest achievements in the field of medical science.
30 Sally Ride
This 17th-century German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer is remembered for his pathbreaking work on optics. He invented a developed version of the refracting telescope. He also laid down Kepler's laws of planetary motion and wrote Astronomia Nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae.
Scottish physicist James Maxwell’s contributions included the formulation of the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation and the production of the first light-fast color photograph. His Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution explored the kinetic theory of gases. He has also written poems and was an Elder of the Church of Scotland.
33 Robert Hooke
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.
34 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.
35 Michio Kaku
Apart from teaching at the City College of New York, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku also often pens his thoughts in blogs and has written several bestselling books, such as The God Equation. His research is focused on the string theory. He also believes in the existence of aliens.
36 Alicia Nash
Born in El Salvador, Alicia Nash later moved to the U.S., where she became one of the first women to join MIT as a student. The physicist met her husband, renowned mathematician John Nash at MIT. Both Alicia and John were killed in car crash while returning home from Norway.
Guglielmo Marconi was an Italian electrical engineer and inventor best remembered for his work on long-distance radio transmission. Marconi, who is credited with inventing the radio, was honored with the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in the field of wireless telegraphy. Also a businessman, Marconi founded the Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company in 1897.
Better known as former U.S. president Donald Trump’s uncle, John G. Trump was an MIT physicist and engineer. Though he had initially aspired to be an architect and join his brother Fred’s real-estate business, John later concentrated on his research that led to the invention of high-voltage generators.
39 Pierre Curie
A pioneer in crystallography, radioactivity, piezoelectricity, and magnetism, Pierre Curie was a French physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics along with Henri Becquerel and Marie Curie. Despite being an atheist, Pierre Curie was fascinated by spiritualism as he believed that spiritual questions deal with physics.
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.
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
42 Max Born
Georges Lemaître was a mathematician, astronomer, and professor of physics. Lemaître was the first person to theorize that the expansion of the universe can be used to explain the recession of nearby galaxies. In 1927, Lemaître published the first estimation of the Hubble constant. He also came up with the Big Bang theory to explain the origin of the universe.
45 Eva Ekeblad
Nobel Prize-winning Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli is remembered for his contribution to quantum physics and for laying down the Pauli principle. While he was initially married to a cabaret dancer, the marriage ended in a divorce after a year. His written works are considered classics in science.
Yale and Oxford alumnus Ashton Carter had interestingly bagged his first job at a car wash at 11. He grew up to teach at Harvard and Stanford and also served as the U.S. Secretary of Defense under Barack Obama. The physicist now heads the Belfer Center for Science at Harvard.
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.
Louis de Broglie was a French aristocrat and physicist who made important contributions to quantum theory. His de Broglie hypothesis, which suggests that all matter has wave properties, is one of the most important features in the theory of quantum mechanics. In 1929, de Broglie was honored with the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work.