Famous Scottish Physicists

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 James Maxwell

James Maxwell
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Famous As: Mathematician & Physicist
Birthdate: June 13, 1831
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: November 5, 1879

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.

 2 James David Forbes

James David Forbes
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Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: April 20, 1809
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: December 31, 1868

Scottish physicist James David Forbes is best remembered for his research on glaciers and heat conduction and for his invention of the seismometer. A University of Edinburgh professor, he later won both the Rumford Medal and the Gold Medal of The Royal Society for his achievements.

 3 Peter Tait

Peter Tait
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Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: April 28, 1831
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Dalkeith, Scotland
Died: July 4, 1901

Peter Tait was a Scottish mathematical physicist best remembered for co-authoring Treatise on Natural Philosophy, a mathematical physics textbook. Tait is also known for his work on knot theory, which helped establish topology as a mathematical discipline. He is also credited with developing the Tait–Kneser theorem. An early pioneer in thermodynamics, Tait also produced original work in experimental physics.

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 4 Sir John Leslie, 4th Baronet

Sir John Leslie, 4th Baronet
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Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: April 10, 1766
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Lower Largo, Scotland
Died: November 3, 1832

Sir John Leslie, 4th Baronet, was a Scottish physicist and mathematician remembered for conducting research into heat. In 1802, he became the first person to give the first modern account of capillary action. In 1810, Leslie froze water using an air-pump, becoming the first person to produce ice artificially. He is also known for developing a device called Leslie cube.

 5 Walter Scott

Walter Scott
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Famous As: Businessperson, Nuclear physicist
Birthdate: April 30, 1947
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Scotland

Walter Scott is a Scottish businessman and investment manager best known for establishing the popular investment management company, Walter Scott and Partners. Scott was working as a nuclear physicist before switching his career to become an investment manager.

 6 Sir Andrew Noble, 1st Baronet

Sir Andrew Noble, 1st Baronet
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Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: September 13, 1831
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Greenock, Scotland
Died: October 22, 1915

Scottish physicist Sir Andrew Noble, 1st Baronet is best remembered for his research on gunnery and gunpowder and is credited with establishing ballistics as a domain of science. His studies also introduced new types of gunpowder and methods of loading. He was eventually knighted and made a baronet, too.

 7 Malcolm Longair

Malcolm Longair
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Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: May 18, 1941
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Dundee, Scotland

Scottish astronomer and physicist Malcolm Longair has been a renowned academic, having taught at the University of Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh. His research also took him to Moscow. Known for his work in cosmology and astrophysics, he spends his leisure time indulging in music, art, and mountain walking.

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 8 Balfour Stewart

Balfour Stewart
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Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: November 1, 1828
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: December 19, 1887

Scottish meteorologist and geophysicist Balfour Stewart is best remembered for his research on radiant energy and terrestrial magnetism. Initially a trader, he later joined the Kew Observatory as an assistant and eventually became its director. The Unseen Universe remains one of his best-known written works.

 9 John Aitken

John Aitken
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Famous As: Meteorologist
Birthdate: September 18, 1839
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Died: November 14, 1919

British meteorologist and physicist John Aitken is best remembered for his research on the microscopic particles now known as the Aitken nuclei and their role in the condensation of water vapor. However, health issues kept him confined to his home laboratory and prevented him from taking up significant positions.

 10 Alfred Ewing

Alfred Ewing
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Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: March 27, 1855
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Dundee, Scotland
Died: January 7, 1935

Best remembered for discovering the magnetic property of hysteresis, Alfred Ewing also taught at the University of Tokyo and King’s College, Cambridge. He had also penned papers on subjects such as metallic structure and seismology. He also headed naval education of the British Admiralty and was knighted.