Scientists’ Favorite Scientists

The state of modern chemical and biological research is a direct result of countless contributions, large and small, by individual scientists who have preceded us.  We’ve identified twenty of the proverbial giants upon whose shoulders we now stand.  Now we want to know which ones are your favorite scientists.

The sheer number of Nobel prizes among this list makes it clear that trying to tease apart who was the “best” scientist, or who made the “most important” contribution would be like trying to climb to the top of an MC Escher staircase…

Instead, we want to know your favorites- like a good old-fashioned popularity contest.  Maybe one of them is from your hometown, and thus makes your favorite scientists list – or perhaps one is a huge jerk (and thus doesn’t).  In any case, which five of these scientists would you put at the top of your list?


Loading ... Loading ...



19 comments so far. Join The Discussion

  1. Peter B. Madrid

    wrote on November 8, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I have always thought Mendel was the most impressive scientist. With no training, careful experimentation and great observation, he was able to develop some very complex new ideas.

  2. enrik

    wrote on November 9, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Agreed, his ideas were remarkably sophisticated particularly given the general lack of understanding of genetics at the time. To have developed them with minimal formal training is truly impressive.

  3. rebecca

    wrote on November 8, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Voters are uncertain about Heisenberg.

  4. [email protected]

    wrote on November 8, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Yeah, and surprisingly it doesn't look like Mendeleev's fans are very well-organized…

  5. rebecca

    wrote on November 12, 2010 at 11:34 am


  6. guest

    wrote on November 9, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Where is Rosalind Franklin?

  7. rebecca

    wrote on November 12, 2010 at 11:36 am


  8. Paul N

    wrote on November 9, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Louis Pasteur is, and probably always will be, my favourite scientist – but why no William Thompson (aka Lord Kelvin)? Interesting to see everyone else's votes, though.

  9. Steve

    wrote on November 9, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    How about Rosalind Franklin, Rachel Carson and Barbara McClintock?

  10. [email protected]

    wrote on November 9, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    All excellent suggestions- Franklin, Carson and McClintock all made huge contributions and deserve to be on the list!

  11. Guest

    wrote on November 9, 2010 at 1:59 pm


  12. [email protected]

    wrote on November 9, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Another good one- there are tons of great scientists that we left off – Einstein, Newton, Galileo… We were trying to pick those who focused more on chem and bio than physics, although clearly the line between the disciplines is blurry at best – especially in discussions of quantum mechanics. Given that Einstein actually debated Bohr on issues of quantum mechanics, we certainly could have added him, but opted to pass.

  13. Rose

    wrote on November 9, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    So tons of great scientists were left off, but really, only one woman made it onto the list???

  14. [email protected]

    wrote on November 10, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Hi Rose, you're right- this is certainly an imperfect list. Who are your favorite women scientists in the chem and bio fields that haven't been mentioned yet?

  15. phospofan

    wrote on November 9, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Fleming tops my list for not blindly throwing out his bacterial plates upon returning from his vacation (which I would have done!) using them instead to make a revolutionary discovery.

  16. el tigre

    wrote on November 11, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Mr. Wizard???

  17. [email protected]

    wrote on November 11, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Would have been a landslide- we kept him off to give others a shot…

  18. Natalie

    wrote on November 11, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Rita Levi-Montalcini, David Bohm and Santiago Ramon y Cajal are my write-ins.

  19. NMF

    wrote on January 10, 2011 at 9:04 am

    I'll second Rosalind Franklin, but also add a couple of more.

    In his Nobel prize speech Watson states: "Professor Bragg, our director at the Cavendish and Professor Niels Bohr often expressed their belief that physics would be a help in biology." I'd add Bragg to the list for helping biologists solve problems with physics techniques. Along those lines I'd also suggest Raman. How often is XRD and/or Raman useful for bio/chem?

    As a physicist by training, I'd also suggest my favorite Richard Feynman- if only for his humor. On biology students he said: "They had wasted all their time memorizing stuff like that, when it could be looked up in fifteen minutes." And also "Right away I found out something about biology: it was very easy to find a question that was very interesting, and that nobody knew the answer to."

    I voted for Watson and Crick, and my write-ins would be Raman, Bragg, and Feynman.

Leave a comment

will not be published