Famous Swiss Scientists

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Imagine life without Swiss inventions – no Velcro, no white chocolate, no muesli, no computer mouse, no cellophane, no nucleic acid, no diclofenac and no Swiss army knife! Switzerland may be world famous for its heavenly locations and unspoiled pristine beauty, but it has more to offer to the world than just scenic beauty and picturesque landscapes. The land of milk and honey has been the address of some of the most renowned scientists, who have given the world important inventions. So, it wouldn’t be entirely wrong to phrase Switzerland as the land of beauty and brains as well! Physics, medicine, chemistry, biology, economics, mathematics - Swiss scientists have made their worth count in all fields. Who can forget Daniel Bernoulli’s contribution to mathematics, or Heinrich Rohrer’s work as physicist or Walter Rudolf Hess’s role in medicine, or even Richard R. Ernst’s involvement and input in Chemistry? But the list does not end here. There have been legendary Swiss scientists whose work has laid the foundation for development in respective fields. And for this, most of them have been felicitated with Nobel Prize as well. Check this section and discover some unknown facts about the life and works of Swiss scientists.
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 1 
Leonhard Euler
(Mathematician, Physicist)
Leonhard Euler
14
Birthdate: April 15, 1707
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Basel
Died: September 18, 1783

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.

 2 
Albert Hofmann
(The First Person to Synthesize LSD)
Albert Hofmann
4
Birthdate: January 11, 1906
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Baden
Died: April 29, 2008

Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann was the first known person to synthesize the psychedelic effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Interested in science from a young age, he studied chemistry at the University of Zürich. As a chemist, he conducted several significant studies and authored more than 100 scientific articles and books. He was a recipient of the prestigious Scheele Award.

 3 
Bernhard Caesar Einstein
(Swiss-American Engineer and One of the Three Known Biological Grandchildren of Albert Einstein)
Bernhard Caesar Einstein
5
Birthdate: July 10, 1930
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Dortmund, Germany
Died: September 30, 2008

Swiss-American physicist and engineer Bernhard Caesar Einstein was better known as the only grandchild of Albert Einstein to have survived beyond childhood. While two of his biological brothers died in infancy, his parents adopted a girl child, too. He grew up to work on night vision and laser technology.

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 4 
Jacob Bernoulli
(Mathematician)
Jacob Bernoulli
4
Birthdate: December 27, 1654
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Basel, Switzerland
Died: August 16, 1705

Born into a family of drug merchants, Jacob Bernoulli was forced to study theology by his father but later deviated to math. He taught math and laid down the Bernoulli’s equation and calculus of variations. Apart from him and his brother, Johann Bernoulli, his family later produced more great mathematicians.

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 5 
Daniel Bernoulli
(Mathematician)
Daniel Bernoulli
4
Birthdate: February 8, 1700
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Groningen
Died: March 17, 1782

Daniel Bernoulli was a Swiss physicist and mathematician. Born into the popular Bernoulli family of mathematicians, Daniel Bernoulli is renowned for his applications of mathematical equations to mechanics. He is also remembered for his pioneering work in statistics and probability. In 2002, he was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame.

 6 
Johann Bernoulli
(Mathematician)
Johann Bernoulli
3
Birthdate: August 6, 1667
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Basel
Died: January 1, 1748

Brother and colleague of Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli and part of the famous Bernoulli family of mathematicians, Johann Bernoulli was initially pushed to join his family business of drug and spices. He later took up medicine, eventually deviating to math and contributing to infinitesimal calculus, along with Jacob.

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 7 
Niklaus Wirth
(Swiss Computer Scientist)
Niklaus Wirth
3
Birthdate: February 15, 1934
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Winterthur, Switzerland

Turing Award-winning Swiss computer scientist Niklaus Wirth revolutionized information technology with his invention of computer languages such as ALGOL-W, PASCAL, and MODULA. He has also taught at Stanford and ETH Zürich and penned a number of books on algorithms and data structures. He has also popularized Wirth's law.

 8 
Auguste Piccard
5
Birthdate: January 28, 1884
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Basel, Switzerland
Died: January 28, 1963

Swiss-born Belgian physicist Auguste Piccard is best remembered for his research on the Earth’s upper stratosphere. He designed his own ships to explore the depth of the seas and also built balloons to study cosmic rays. His bathyscaphe remains one of his best-known inventions. He also co-discovered the magnetocaloric effect.

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 9 
Fritz Zwicky
(Swiss Astronomer Known For His Inference and Existence of Unseen 'Dark Matter' using Virial Theorem)
Fritz Zwicky
4
Birthdate: February 14, 1898
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Varna, Bulgaria
Died: February 8, 1974

Born to a businessman and diplomat father in Bulgaria, Fritz Zwicky was initially sent to Switzerland to study commerce but ended up deviating to math and physics. He then moved to the U.S. to work with Caltech and gained fame for his research on what he called the supernova.

 10 
Johann Heinrich Lambert
(Mathematician who Proved that π is Irrational)
Johann Heinrich Lambert
3
Birthdate: August 26, 1728
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mulhouse, France
Died: September 25, 1777

Johann Heinrich Lambert was a Swiss polymath whose contributions to the fields of physics, mathematics, map projections, astronomy, and philosophy are considered important by many scholars. He is credited with introducing hyperbolic functions into trigonometry. He is also credited with inventing a hygrometer, which is used to measure the quantity of water vapor in soil and air.

 11 
Alfred Werner
(Chemist)
Alfred Werner
2
Birthdate: December 12, 1866
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Mulhouse, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France
Died: November 15, 1919

Alfred Werner was a Swiss chemist who is credited with developing the fundamental for modern coordination chemistry. In 1913, he became the first inorganic chemist to receive the prestigious Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which he won for proposing the correct configuration of transition metal complexes.

 12 
Friedrich Miescher
(First Scientist to Isolate Nucleic Acid in 1869)
Friedrich Miescher
3
Birthdate: August 13, 1844
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Basel, Switzerland
Died: August 26, 1895

Apart from being the first to discover nucleic acid, Swiss biochemist Friedrich Miescher also isolated protamine, a protein associated with nucleic acid. Born to a scientifically rich family, he initially wished to become a doctor, but rendered partially deaf due to typhoid, he later chose physiological chemistry.

 13 
Felix Bloch
(Physicist)
Felix Bloch
3
Birthdate: October 23, 1905
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Zürich
Died: September 10, 1983

Felix Bloch was a Swiss-American physicist who served as the first Director-General of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) from 1954 to 1955. Before joining CERN, Bloch worked on the Manhattan Project during the Second World War after which he started focusing on investigations into nuclear magnetic induction, for which he received the 1952 Nobel Prize in Physics.

 14 
Ignacy Mościcki
(Polish chemist)
Ignacy Mościcki
3
Birthdate: December 1, 1867
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Mierzanowo
Died: October 2, 1946

Born in a small Polish village, Ignacy Mościcki grew up to become a chemist, an academic, and a researcher, before he stepped into politics. He later served Poland as its longest-serving president. Initially a supporter of Polish dictator Józef Piłsudski, he became more liberal after Piłsudski’s death.

 15 
Alexandre Yersin
(Discoverer of Yersinia Pestis)
Alexandre Yersin
3
Birthdate: September 22, 1863
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Aubonne, Canton of Vaud, Switzerland
Died: March 1, 1943

Alexandre Yersin was a physician and bacteriologist. He is credited with co-discovering Yersinia pestis, the bacillus that causes the bubonic plague. Also an agriculturist, Yersin pioneered the cultivation of rubber trees. He is revered by the Vietnamese people because of his association with Hanoi Medical University; a private university in Da Lat is named in his honor.

 16 
Johann Ludwig Burckhardt
(Explorer, Writer, Art historian, Archaeologist)
Johann Ludwig Burckhardt
3
Birthdate: November 24, 1784
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lausanne
Died: October 15, 1817
 17 
Jacques Dubochet
(Biophysicist)
Jacques Dubochet
4
Birthdate: June 8, 1942
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Aigle, Switzerland
 18 
Conrad Gessner
(Swiss Physician, Naturalist and Philologist Known for His Systematic Compilations of Information on Animals and Plants)
Conrad Gessner
4
Birthdate: March 26, 1516
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Zürich, Switzerland
Died: December 13, 1565

Born to a poor fur dealer, Conrad Gessner was sent to study under an uncle who dealt in medicinal herbs. He then studied theology but later grew up to become a Renaissance polymath, excelling in subjects such as natural history and medicine. His Bibliotheca universalis remains a major work in bibliography.

 19 
Daniel Vasella
(Swiss medical doctor)
Daniel Vasella
10
Birthdate: August 15, 1953
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Fribourg, Switzerland
 20 
Nicolas Fatio de Duillier
(Astronomer, Mathematician)
Nicolas Fatio de Duillier
3
Birthdate: February 26, 1664
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Basel, Switzerland
Died: May 10, 1753

A close associate of Isaac Newton, Swiss mathematician Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, was, according to many, the reason for Newton’s nervous breakdown after they fell apart. He is best remembered for co-discovering the phenomenon of zodiacal light and for inventing the shadow theory of gravitation.

 21 
Alfred Kleiner
(Physicist)
Alfred Kleiner
3
Birthdate: April 24, 1849
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Maschwanden
Died: July 3, 1916

Swiss physicist Alfred Kleiner is best remembered for his studies on statistical physics. A physics professor at the University of Zurich, he was later also associated with ETH Zurich. He also became the doctoral thesis supervisor of Albert Einstein after Einstein had major differences with his previous advisor, Heinrich F. Weber.

 22 
Serge Voronoff
(Surgeon, Immunologist, Gynaecologist)
Serge Voronoff
3
Birthdate: July 10, 1866
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Voronezh
Died: September 3, 1951

Russian-French surgeon Serge Voronoff, or the Monkey Gland Man, stunned everyone by implanting monkey testicles in his patients to cure impotence. He had apparently also injected himself with dog and guinea pig testicle extracts. Unfortunately, the scientific community dismissed his claims as simply the result of placebo effect.

 23 
Jakob Steiner
(Mathematician)
Jakob Steiner
2
Birthdate: March 18, 1796
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Utzenstorf, Switzerland
Died: April 1, 1863

Swiss mathematician Jakob Steiner is remembered for pioneering the field of projective geometry. Born to a farmer, he didn’t have initial schooling and couldn’t write until age 14. His parents were against his decision to join school at 18. He later rose to be a significant figure of synthetic geometry.

 24 
Marcel Grossmann
(Mathematician)
Marcel Grossmann
3
Birthdate: April 9, 1878
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Budapest
Died: September 7, 1936

Swiss mathematician Marcel Grossmann was the son of a textile factory manager but became a geometry professor instead of following in his father’s path. He later co-established the Swiss Mathematical Society and collaborated with Albert Einstein on a paper that formed the basis of Einstein’s theory of gravity.

 25 
Erich Gamma
(Computer scientist, Engineer)
Erich Gamma
3
Birthdate: March 13, 1961
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Zürich
 26 
Richard R. Ernst
2
Birthdate: August 14, 1933
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Winterthur, Switzerland
Died: June 4, 2021

Richard R. Ernst is a Swiss physical chemist whose work on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy earned him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1991. Over the course of his career, Ernst has been honored with other awards, including the John Gamble Kirkwood Medal. In 2009, he became the subject of a documentary film titled Science Plus Dharma Equals Social Responsibility.

 27 
Gabriel Cramer
(Mathematician, Physicist, University teacher)
Gabriel Cramer
2
Birthdate: July 31, 1704
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Geneva
Died: January 4, 1752

Born to a doctor, Gabriel Cramer showed an interest in math since childhood. He received his doctoral degree at 18 and was named the co-chair of the University of Geneva at 20. Known for his research on algebraic curves, he is also remembered for devising Cramer’s rule and Cramer’s paradox.

 28 
Paul Hermann Müller
2
Birthdate: January 12, 1899
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Olten, Solothurn, Switzerland
Died: October 12, 1965

Paul Hermann Müller was a Swiss chemist known for his discovery of insecticidal qualities and the use of DDT in the control of vector diseases. He received the 1948 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for this work. He began his career as a research chemist and later became the Deputy Director of Scientific Research on Substances for Plant Protection. 

 29 
Edmond H. Fischer
(Biochemist)
Edmond H. Fischer
2
Birthdate: April 6, 1920
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Shanghai, China
Died: August 27, 2021

Born in China, to an Austrian-born lawyer, Edmond H. Fischer studied in a Swiss boarding school and also aspired to be a musician. The Nobel Prize-winning biochemist is now best known for his path-breaking research on reversible phosphorylation, which regulates cell protein activity. He also taught at the University of Washington.

Augustin Pyrame de Candolle
3
Birthdate: February 4, 1778
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Geneva, Switzerland
Died: September 9, 1841

Swiss botanist Augustin Pyrame de Candolle excelled in literature and poetry in school but later focused on botany. He is remembered for establishing scientific standards and classification for plant genera. Known for his Théorie élémentaire de la botanique, he later lent his name to several plant species and genera.

 31 
Werner Arber
(Microbiologist & Geneticist)
Werner Arber
2
Birthdate: June 3, 1929
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Gränichen, Aarau, Aargau, Switzerland

Werner Arber is a Swiss geneticist and microbiologist whose discovery of restriction endonucleases earned him the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1978; he shared the award with Daniel Nathans and Hamilton Smith. Arber's work alongside Nathans and Smith led to the progression of recombinant DNA technology. Werner Arber is also credited with co-founding the World Cultural Council.

 32 
Alexander Agassiz
2
Birthdate: December 17, 1835
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Died: March 22, 1910
 33 
Heinrich Rohrer
(Physicist)
Heinrich Rohrer
3
Birthdate: June 6, 1933
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Buchs, Switzerland
Died: May 16, 2013

Nobel Prize-winning Swiss mathematician Heinrich Rohrer is best remembered for co-designing the scanning tunneling microscope along with fellow Nobel winner Ernst Ruska. He was also associated with the IBM Research laboratory and even conducted research on thermal conductivity at Rutgers University in New Jersey while on his honeymoon in the US.

 34 
Lavoslav Ružička
2
Birthdate: September 13, 1887
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Vukovar, Croatia
Died: September 26, 1976

Nobel Prize-winning Croatian-Swiss chemist Lavoslav Ružička is remembered for his research on cyclic compounds. He also taught in the Netherlands and Switzerland. Apart from studying the rings of muskone and civetone molecules, he also discovered the molecular structures of male hormones such as testosterone and androsterone.

 35 
Albert von Kölliker
2
Birthdate: July 6, 1817
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Zürich, Switzerland
Died: November 2, 1905
 36 
Vladimir Prelog
(Organic Chemist Who Won Nobel Prize for His Research into the Stereochemistry of Organic Molecules and Reactions)
Vladimir Prelog
0
Birthdate: July 23, 1906
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Died: January 7, 1998

Vladimir Prelog was a Croatian-Swiss organic chemist known for his research into the stereochemistry of organic molecules and reactions. He received his Sc.D under the guidance of prominent chemist and composer Emil Votoček. He had a successful academic career and received the 1975 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He was also a member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts.  

 37 
Kurt Wüthrich
2
Birthdate: October 4, 1938
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Aarberg

Nobel Prize-winning Swiss biophysicist and chemist Kurt Wüthrich is best known for developing the NMR technique for studying large biological molecules. Initially a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, he was also later associated with the Scripps Research Institute. He later became a permanent resident of China.

 38 
Rolf M. Zinkernagel
(Immunologist)
Rolf M. Zinkernagel
2
Birthdate: January 6, 1944
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Riehen, Basel-Stadt, Switzerland

Rolf M. Zinkernagel is a Swiss professor who teaches Experimental Immunology. In 1996, he was honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work pertaining to the immune system. In 1999, his scientific work also earned him Australia's highest civilian honor, the Companion of the Order of Australia.  

 39 
Albrecht von Haller
2
Birthdate: October 16, 1708
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bern
Died: December 12, 1777

Swiss biologist Albrecht von Haller, who is hailed as the father of experimental physiology, grew up as a sickly child and thus often avoided sports and mastered Greek, Hebrew, and the Bible instead. Associated with the University of Göttingen, he later penned Physiological Elements of the Human Body, which revolutionized medical science.

 40 
Gaspard Bauhin
(Swiss Botanist Who Introduced a Scientific Binomial System of Classification to Both Anatomy and Botany)
Gaspard Bauhin
2
Birthdate: January 17, 1560
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Basel, Switzerland
Died: December 5, 1624

Born to a French physician in Switzerland, Gaspard Bauhin was a qualified physician himself and later made some of the most significant contributions to the classification of plants. Known for his Pinax theatri botanica, he also provided one of the initial descriptions of the ileocecal (or Bauhin’s) valve.

 41 
Richard Willstätter
2
Birthdate: August 13, 1872
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Karlsruhe
Died: August 3, 1942

German chemist Richard Willstätter is best remembered for his Nobel Prize-winning research on chlorophyll and the structures of other plant pigments. He taught at ETH Zürich and the universities of Berlin and Munich but later resigned from his post at Munich as a protest against anti-Jew attacks.

 42 
Charles Édouard Guillaume
(Discoverer of Invar and Elinvar)
Charles Édouard Guillaume
2
Birthdate: February 15, 1861
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Fleurier
Died: May 13, 1938

Born in Switzerland, Charles Édouard Guillaume grew up to win the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the nickel-steel alloys invar and elinva. He also served the International Bureau of Weights and Measures as its director, while his research covered horology and space radiation, too.

 43 
Paul Scherrer
(Physicist)
Paul Scherrer
2
Birthdate: February 3, 1890
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Sankt Gallen, Switzerland
Died: September 25, 1969

Marcel Benoist Prize-winning Swiss physicist Paul Scherrer is remembered for coming up with the Debye-Scherrer method of X-ray diffraction analysis along with Dutch-American physicist Peter Debye. He also served ETH Zurich as its HOD of physics and the Swiss Atomic Energy Commission as its president.

 44 
Christian Friedrich Schönbein
(German-Swiss Chemist Best Known for Inventing the 'Fuel Cell')
Christian Friedrich Schönbein
2
Birthdate: October 18, 1799
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Metzingen, Germany
Died: August 29, 1868

German chemist Christian Friedrich Schönbein is best remembered for his discovery of ozone and the fuel cell. He also discovered guncotton, or nitrocellulose, as a result of a kitchen accident. He was an apprentice at a chemical firm at 13 and grew up to teach at the at the University of Basel.

 45 
Tadeusz Reichstein
2
Birthdate: July 20, 1897
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Wloclawek, Poland
Died: August 1, 1996

Swiss chemist Tadeusz Reichstein is remembered for his Nobel Prize-winning research on the hormones of the adrenal cortex. He also taught pharmaceutical chemistry and organic chemistry at the University of Basel and independently discovered the synthesis of vitamin C. At 99, he was the oldest-living Nobel laureate until his death.

 46 
Claude Nicollier
(Astronaut)
Claude Nicollier
2
Birthdate: September 2, 1944
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Vevey

Astronaut Claude Nicollier scripted history by becoming the first Swiss person to travel into space. His 4 Space Shuttle missions include 2 missions for the servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope. He has also held electrical engineering and spatial technology classes at the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne.

 47 
Willy Burgdorfer
(Scientist)
Willy Burgdorfer
1
Birthdate: June 27, 1925
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Basel, Switzerland
Died: November 17, 2014
 48 
Germain Henri Hess
1
Birthdate: August 7, 1802
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Geneva, Switzerland
Died: December 30, 1850

Initially a physician, Germain Henri Hess later focused on chemistry and eventually came up with the Hess's law of thermochemistry. The Swiss-born scientist had grown up and conducted his research in Russia, where his artist father worked. His book Fundamentals of Pure Chemistry was a staple text in Russia for years.

 49 
Joost Bürgi
(Mathematician)
Joost Bürgi
1
Birthdate: February 28, 1552
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Lichtensteig, Switzerland
Died: January 31, 1632

Known as the man who invented logarithms in a study independent of John Napier, Swiss mathematician Joost Bürgi was initially a clockmaker of Duke Wilhelm IV’s court. His geometrical and astronomical instruments made him popular, and he joined the service of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II.

 50 
Paul Bernays
(Mathematician)
Paul Bernays
1
Birthdate: October 17, 1888
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London, England
Died: September 18, 1977

Paul Bernays was a Swiss mathematician best remembered for his association with the German mathematician David Hilbert. Bernays is also remembered for making significant contributions to the philosophy of mathematics, axiomatic set theory, and mathematical logic. Paul Bernays is credited with publishing a two-volume work titled Grundlagen der Mathematik, which houses the famous Hilbert–Bernays paradox.