From biotechnology to digital media, from energy to cloud computing, almost every job area today is strongly affected by the field of science.
Traditional subjects include biology, chemistry, and computer science, as well as life, earth, and space sciences. All of these areas are constantly being reshaped by scientific and technological advancements. From biotechnology and digital media to sustainable energy and cloud computing, almost everything today is somehow affected—and sometimes entirely reshaped—by scientific and technological advancements.
Science can seem very basic in nature, such as the ability to use your computer, having access to running water, or using electricity, as well as having access to various forms of transportation. But, some discoveries are much more advanced.
This article focuses on the most profound discoveries in science by the top 50 most-influential living scientists who have discovered or invented things such as the Internet, fiber optics, advances in AIDS and cancer research, and new tactics for drug discovery, as well as made crucial advances in modern medicine, genetics, astronomy, ecology, quantum theory, and computer programming.
These are only a few of the important discoveries of our time that you will learn about by reading this article. We think you will find that many of the scientists themselves are very unusual and interesting people, as well!
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1. Alain Aspect
Alain Aspect is a member of the French Academy of Sciences and French Academy of Technologies, and professor at the École Polytechnique in France. A graduate of the École Normale Supérieure de Cachan (ENS Cachan), he passed the agrégation in physics in 1969 and received his master’s degree from Université d’Orsay.
In 2013, and on the 100th anniversary of Niels Bohr’s pioneering atomic model, the Danish Society of Engineers, in collaboration with the Niels Bohr Institute and the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, awarded the Niels Bohr Medal to Aspect.
Aspect has made many breakthroughs in one of the most complex of scientific disciplines: quantum mechanics. In 2005, he was awarded the CSNR Gold Medal by settling a 70-year-old dispute between Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein over the basic understanding of atomic physics by demonstrating the fascinating phenomenon of entanglement, which is the basis for the study of quantum information, among several other achievements.
Some of his best-known experiments confirmed that “quantum entanglement” for twinned photon pairs is irreconcilable with Einstein’s worldview. These experiments measured two particles that were released at the same time and from the same source in opposite directions. The results were conclusive proof of entanglement.
Aspect continues his experiment, which are fundamental to our understanding of how everything in the world is interconnected. He is currently studying the localization of waves in solids using ultra-cold atoms, which could lead to advances in other branches of physics.
2. David Baltimore
David Baltimore is currently Professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology, where he served as president from 1997 to 2006. He also serves as the director of the Joint Center for Translational Medicine, which joins Caltech and UCLA in a program to translate basic science discoveries into clinical realities.
Baltimore is a graduate of Swarthmore College and Rockefeller University. In 2004, Rockefeller University gave Baltimore its highest honor, Doctor of Science.
In 1975, David Baltimore was the recipient of the Nobel Prize, along with Howard Temin and Renato Dulbecco. They were awarded the medal for their discoveries concerning the interaction between tumor viruses and the genetic material of the cell. One of Baltimore’s greatest contributions was in virology, for his discovery of the protein reverse transcriptase, which is essential for the reproduction of retroviruses such as HIV.
In 1999, President Bill Clinton awarded Baltimore the National Medal of Science for his numerous contributions to science. He has had a profound influence on national science policy on such issues as DNA research and the AIDS epidemic.
Baltimore is past president and chair of the American Association of the Advancement of Science (2007–2009). He was recently named a Fellow of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).
Baltimore has published an astounding 680 peer-reviewed articles. His recent research focuses on the control of inflammatory and immune responses, on the roles of microRNAs in the immune system, and the use of gene therapy methods to treat HIV and cancer.
He is also a member of numerous scientific advisory boards, including the Broad Institute, Ragon Institute, Regulus Therapeutics, and Immune Design.
3. Allen J. Bard
Allen J. Bard is a professor at the University of Texas, where he also serves as director of the Center for Electrochemistry and serves as the Norman Hackerman-Welch Regents Chair. He received his PhD from Harvard University in 1958.
In 2011, Bard was awarded the National Medal of Science for his contributions in electrochemistry, including electroluminescence, semiconductor photo-electrochemistry, electro-analytical chemistry, and the invention of the scanning electrochemical microscope. His discovery of electrogenerated chemiluminescence (ECL) has enabled the medical community to detect the HIV virus and analyze DNA.
Bard is considered the “father of modern electrochemistry.” In 2013, President Obama awarded Bard with the National Medal of Science. Other awards he has received include the Wolf Prize in Chemistry in 2008, the Priestley Medal in 2002, and the Fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1990.
He has published three books: Electrochemical Methods, with Larry Faulkner, Integrated Chemical Systems, and Chemical Equilibrium. He has also published over 600 papers and chapters, while editing the series Electroanalytical Chemistry (21 volumes) and the Encyclopedia of the Electrochemistry of the Elements (16 volumes). He is currently editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Bard’s current research focuses on harnessing the power of natural sunlight to produce sustainable energy. He utilizes his lab at the University of Texas to test different chemical compounds to discover a material that will carry out artificial photosynthesis. Bard feels strongly that a discovery will be made and progresses will follow because, if not, mankind will be in trouble as fossil fuels continue to diminish.
4. Timothy Berners-Lee
Timothy Berners-Lee is a computer scientist, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web. He was honored as the “Inventor of the World Wide Web” during the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony. In 2009, he was elected as a foreign associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences. And in 2004, Berners-Lee was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his pioneering work.
Berners-Lee graduated from the Queens College, Oxford. He worked as an independent contractor at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) from June to December 1980. While there, he proposed a project based on the concept of hypertext, to facilitate sharing and updating information among researchers. Over a decade later, he built the first website at CERN, and it was first put online in August of 1991.
In November 2009, Berners-Lee launched the World Wide Web Foundation in order to advance the Web to empower humanity by launching transformative programs that build local capacity to leverage the Web as a medium for positive change. In 2013, the Alliance for Affordable Internet was launched, and Berners-Lee is leading the coalition of public and private organizations, including Google, Facebook, Intel, and Microsoft.
In 2013, Berners-Lee was one of five Internet and Web pioneers awarded the inaugural Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. He was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of St. Andrews. And in 2012, Berners-Lee was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame by the Internet Society.
5. John Tyler Bonner
John Tyler Bonner is one of the world’s leading biologists, primarily known for his work in the use of cellular slime molds to understand evolution. He has led the way in making Dictyostelium discoideum a model organism central to examining some of the major questions in experimental biology. He is the George M. Moffett Professor Emeritus of Biology in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University.
Bonner studied at Harvard University. His PhD studies were interrupted by a stint in the United States Army Air Corps, so he completed his studies in an unusually short period of time. He soon joined the faculty of Princeton University. He holds three honorary doctorates and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was made a National Academy of Sciences fellow in 1973.
Some of his works include: The Cellular Slime Molds, The Evolution of Culture in Animals, Life Cycles, and The Ideas of Biology. Bonner’s work makes an argument for the underappreciated role that randomness, or chance, plays in evolution. In one of his latest works, Randomness in Evolution, Bonner shows how the effects of randomness differ for organisms of different sizes, and how the smaller an organism is, the more likely it is that morphological differences will be random and selection may not be involved to any degree.
He also discusses how sexual cycles vary depending on size and complexity, and how the trend away from randomness in higher forms has even been reversed in some social organisms. Bonner’s present research interests include experiments designed to understand how this is achieved in a number of species that vary morphologically.
6. Dennis Bray
Dennis Bray is a professor emeritus in the Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. He was trained as a biochemist at MIT and a neurobiologist at Harvard Medical School before returning to the UK, where he had a long research career in the fields of nerve growth and cell motility.
Bray is an author of numerous textbooks on molecular and cell biology such as Molecular Biology of the Cell and Cell Movements. In his most recent book, Wetware, is for a general audience. In it, Bray taps the findings of the new discipline of systems biology to show that the internal chemistry of living cells is a form of computation. In the book he argues that the computational power of cells provides the basis of all the distinctive properties of living systems, allowing organisms to embody in their internal structure an image of the world, which accounts for their adaptability, responsiveness, and intelligence.
Bray was the recipient of the Microsoft European Science Award for his work on for his work on chemotaxis in E. coli. He used detailed computer simulations, tied to experimental data, to ask how the macromolecular pathway controlling cell motility in bacteria works as an integrated unit. His team found that the physical location of molecular components within the molecular jungle of the cell interior is crucial for an understanding of their function.
Bray’s most recent work includes the propagation of allosteric states in large multi-protein complexes. He has also recently published several more popular articles, including a contribution to a 2012 Alan Turing centenary symposium in Nature entitled “Is the Brain a Good Model for Machine Intelligence?,” as well as an essay entitled “Brain versus Machine” in the collection Singularity Hypotheses: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment.
7. Sydney Brenner
Sydney Brenner is a biologist and the winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, shared with H. Robert Horvitz and John Sulston. His major contributions are in the area of the genetic code. Brenner is the Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Crick-Jacobs Center at the Salk Institute of Biological Sciences.
Among his many notable discoveries, Brenner established the existence of messenger RNA and demonstrated how the order of amino acids in proteins is determined. Beginning in 1965, he also began to conduct the pioneering work with the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, which ultimately led to his Noel Prize. In this research, he laid the groundwork to make C. elegans—a small, transparent nematode—a major model organism for genetics, neurobiology, and developmental biology research.
Brenner, along with George Pieczenik, created the first computer matrix analysis of nucleic acids using the TRAC computer language, which Brenner continues to use. They returned to their early work on deciphering the genetic code with a pioneering paper on the origin of protein synthesis, where constraints on mRNA and tRNA co-evolved allowing for a five-base interaction with a flip of the anticodon loop, and thereby creating a triplet code translating system without requiring a ribosome. This is the only published paper in scientific history with three independent Nobel laureates collaborating as authors.
Brenner has been awarded the Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences, the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award in 1971, and ultimately the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2002.
Most recently, Brenner is studying vertebrate gene and genome evolution. His work in this area has resulted in new ways of analyzing gene sequences, which have developed into a new understanding of the evolution of vertebrates.
8. Pierre Chambon
Pierre Chambon is professor at the University of Strasbourg’s Institute for Advanced Study, honorary professor at the Collège de France, and emeritus professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Strasbourg.
He is the founder and former director of the Institute for Genetics and Cellular and Molecular Biology (IGBMC), and the founder and former director of the Institut Clinique de la Souris (Clinical Institute for the Mouse), in Strasbourg, France.
Chambon made significant contributions to the discovery of the superfamily of nuclear receptors, and to the elucidation of their universal mechanism of action that links transcription, physiology, and pathology. These discoveries revolutionized the fields of development, endocrinology, and metabolism, as well as their disorders, pointing to new tactics for drug discovery and important new applications in biotechnology and modern medicine.
The author of author of more than 900 publications, Chambon has been ranked fourth among the most prominent life scientists during the 1983–2002 period. Some of his awards include the Gairdner Foundation International Award in 2010 (for the elucidation of fundamental mechanisms of transcription in animal cells and the discovery of the nuclear receptor superfamily), the Lasker Basic Medical Research Award in 2004, and the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology in 2003.
Chambon is a member of the Académie des Sciences (France), the National Academy of Sciences (U.S.), and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He also serves on a number of editorial boards.
9. Simon Conway Morris
Simon Conway Morris is Chair of Evolutionary Palaeobiology in the Earth Sciences Department in Cambridge University. He is renowned for his work on the Burgess Shale fossils. Conway Morris’s views on the Burgess Shale are reported in numerous technical papers, and have been recounted for a more general audience in Stephen Jay Gould’s Wonderful Life and in Conway Morris’s own book, The Crucible of Creation.
The Burgess Shale Formation, located in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia, is one of the world’s most productive fossil fields, famous for the exceptional preservation of the soft parts of its fossils. At 505 million years old, it is one of the earliest fossil beds containing soft-part imprints.
As a paleobiologist, Conway Morris is known for being a devout Christian, one who tries to show that the evidence from paleobiology and evolution supports the existence of God. He is an increasingly active participant in discussions relating to science and religion. He is active in the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion and has lectured there on “Evolution and Fine-Tuning in Biology.” In 2007, Conway Morris was invited to give the prestigious Gifford Lectures at University of Edinburgh; they were titled “Darwin’s Compass: How Evolution Discovers the Song of Creation.” In these lectures Conway Morris makes several claims that evolution is compatible with belief in the existence of a God.
Some of his awards include the Trotter Prize in 2007, the GSL Charles Lyell Medal in 1998, and the Paleontological Society’s Charles Schuchert Award in 1989. In recent years, Conway Morris has been studying evolutionary convergence—the phenomenon whereby unrelated groups of animals and plants develop similar adaptations—the main thesis of which is put forward in Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe.
10. Mildred S. Dresselhaus
Mildred S. Dresselhaus is a professor of physics and electrical engineering, as well as the Emerita Institute Professor, at MIT. She began her higher education at Hunter College in New York City and received a Fulbright Fellowship to attend the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University. Dresselhaus received her master’s degree at Radcliffe College and her PhD at the University of Chicago.
Known as the “queen of carbon science,” Dresselhaus began her MIT career at the Lincoln Laboratory. During that time she switched from research on superconductivity to magneto-optics, and carried out a series of experiments which led to a fundamental understanding of the electronic structure of semi-metals, especially graphite.
A leader in promoting opportunities for women in science and engineering, Dresselhaus received a Carnegie Foundation grant in 1973 to encourage women’s study of traditionally male-dominated fields, such as physics. She was also appointed to the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Chair, an Institute-wide chair, endowed in support of the scholarship of women in science and engineering.
Some of her awards include the Karl T. Compton Medal for Leadership in Physics, the American Institute of Physics in 2001, the Medal of Achievement in Carbon Science and Technology by the American Carbon Society in 2001, and an Honorary Member of the Ioffe Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2000.
In 2012, Dresselhaus was awarded the prestigious Kavli Institute’s prize in nanoscience. In 1990, she received the National Medal of Science in recognition of her work on electronic properties of materials.
11. Gerald M. Edelman
Gerald M. Edelman is a biologist, immunologist, and neuroscientist. He is the founder and director of the Neurosciences Institute, a non-profit research center that studies the biological bases of higher brain function in humans, and is on the scientific board of the World Knowledge Dialogue project.
Edleman received an MD from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine. Edelman shared the 1972 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for work with Rodney Robert Porter on the immune system. Their research involved the discovery of the structure of antibody molecules and the fact that way the components of the immune system evolve over the life of the individual is analogous to the way the components of the brain evolve in a lifetime.
The Karolinska Institutet lauded Edelman and Porter’s work as a major breakthrough, stating: “The impact of Edelman’s and Porter’s discoveries is explained by the fact that they provided a clear picture of the structure and mode of action of a group of biologically particularly important substances. By this they laid a firm foundation for truly rational research, something that was previously lacking in immunology. Their discoveries represent clearly a break-through that immediately incited a fervent research activity the whole world over, in all fields of immunological science, yielding results of practical value for clinical diagnostics and therapy.”
Edelman is noted for his theory of consciousness, which he has documented in several technical books, as well as books written for a general audience, including Bright Air, Brilliant Fire, A Universe of Consciousness (with Giulio Tononi), Wider than the Sky, and Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge.
12. Ronald M. Evans
Ronald M. Evans is the March of Dimes Chair in Molecular and Developmental Biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, in San Diego. He is best known for his work in the physiology and the molecular genetics of muscle performance, metabolic disease, inflammation, and cancer, and for using this information to devise small-molecule therapy.
Evans received his PhD from UCLA and conducted his postdoctoral training at Rockefeller University. In addition to his work at the Salk Institute, Evans is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.
In 2004, he shared the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award with Pierre Chambon (#8 on our list) and Elwood Jensen for the discovery of the superfamily of nuclear hormone receptors, and for the elucidation of the unifying mechanism that regulates embryonic development and diverse metabolic pathways.
Other awards he has received include the Wolf Prize in Medicine in 2012, the Albany Medical Center Prize (shared with Solomon Snyder and Robert Lefkowitz) in 2012, the Harvey Prize in 2006, and the Gairdner Foundation International Award in 2006, among numerous other awards.
Other research studies Evans is involved in, focus on a new hormone that appears to be the molecular trigger controlling the formation of fat cells, which represents one of the newest and most important advances in understanding problems arising from obesity and the potential treatment of adult onset of Type II diabetes.
13. Anthony S. Fauci
Anthony S. Fauci received his MD from Cornell University’s Medical College. He is head of the Clinical Physiology Section and chief of the Laboratory of Immunoregulation at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
Fauci has an extensive research portfolio that includes applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious and immune-mediated illnesses (including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases), illnesses from potential agents of bioterrorism, tuberculosis, malaria, autoimmune disorders, asthma, and allergies. He is widely recognized for delineating the precise mechanisms whereby immunosuppressive agents modulate the human immune response.
A 1985 Stanford University Arthritis Center Survey of the American Rheumatism Association membership ranked the work of Dr. Fauci on the treatment of polyarteritis nodosa and Wegener’s granulomatosis as one of the most important advances in patient management in rheumatology over the previous 20 years.
Fauci has made seminal contributions to the understanding of how the AIDS virus destroys the body’s defenses, leading to its susceptibility to deadly infections, and he continues to devote much of his research time to identifying the nature of the immunopathogenic mechanisms of HIV infection and the scope of the body’s immune responses to the HIV retrovirus.
He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Fauci has authored, co-authored, or edited more than 1,000 scientific publications and textbooks.
14. Andrew Z. Fire
Andrew Z. Fire is a scientist and professor of pathology and genetics at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Prior to his current position, he was an adjunct professor in the department of biology at Johns Hopkins University.
Fire conducted his graduate work in biology at MIT, and then joined the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. He then joined the staff at the Carnegie Institution in Baltimore, where he and Craig C. Mello (#29 on our list) conducted their 2006 Nobel Prize–winning research which resulted in the discovery of RNA interference (RNAi), a mechanism for controlling the flow of genetic information.
Nick Hastie, director of the Medical Research Council’s Human Genetics Unit, commented on the scope and implications of Fire’s research by stating: “It is very unusual for a piece of work to completely revolutionize the whole way we think about biological processes and regulation, but this has opened up a whole new field in biology.”
Fire is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also serves on the Board of Scientific Counselors and the National Center for Biotechnology, National Institutes of Health. He has won numerous other awards including the Wiley Prize in 2003, the National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology in 2003, and the Meyenburg Prize in 2002 from the German Cancer Research Center.
His recent research focuses on the molecular understanding of the RNAi machinery and its roles in the cell, as well as on the identification of other triggers and mechanisms used in the recognition of, and response to, chemical information coming from outside the cell.
15. Jean M.J. Fréchet
Jean M.J. Fréchet is a chemist and the Henry Rapoport Chair of Organic Chemistry in the department of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the vice president of research at the King Abdullah University of Science & Technology in Saudi Arabia.
Fréchet holds over 70 U.S. patents and his research is conducted in the areas of organic synthesis, polymer chemistry, nanoscience, and nanotechnology, in which he has authored nearly 800 articles, with a major emphasis on the design, fundamental understanding, synthesis, and applications of functional macromolecules.
Fréchet, who was born in France, has received numerous awards, including the American Chemical Society Cope Scholar Award in 2001, the American Chemical Society Award in Polymer Chemistry in 2000, and the Society of Imaging Science and Technology’s Kosar Memorial Award in 1999, among others.
Fréchet is a member of the American Chemical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Academia Europaea. He also serves as the associate editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Fréchet’s current research focuses on the fundamental and applied aspects of organic, polymer, and materials chemistry. He has noted that most of his projects involve three stages: (1) design; (2) synthesis; and (3) characterization, where the function of the structure and properties are tested.
16. Margaret Geller
Margaret Geller is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She received her PhD in physics from Princeton University and was an assistant professor of astronomy at Harvard University.
She made pioneering maps of the large-scale maps and structures of the universe, which led to the discovery of the filamentous galactic superstructure popularly known as the “Great Wall”—the largest known structure in the universe. Geller has also developed innovative techniques for investigating the internal structure and total mass of clusters of galaxies and the relationship of clusters to the large-scale structure.
In addition, she is a co-discoverer of hypervelocity stars, stars ejected a high velocity from the Galactic center. These stars can travel across the Milky Way and may be an important tracer of the matter distribution in the Galaxy
Geller’s current main research interests include a project she leads called the “Smithsonian Hectospec Lensing Survey” (SHELS), which uses the phenomenon of gravitational lensing to map the distribution of the mysterious, ubiquitous dark matter in the universe. She is also investigating the implications of the discovery of hypervelocity stars, as well as heading up a project called “HectoMAP,” which uses large databases of information to map clusters of galaxies, which in turn aids us in understanding how these systems develop over the history of the universe.
Geller has made films about science. Her eight-minute video, “Where the Galaxies Are,” produced in 1989, was the first graphic voyage through the universe based on observations. The video was displayed at several major science museums and graphics from it were widely broadcast. Later, a 40-minute film was produced that contains prize-winning graphics, which are on display at the National Air and Space Museum.
Geller is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society in 2013, the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship of the American Astronomical Society in 2010, the James Craig Watson Medal of the National Academy of Sciences in 2010, and the Magellanic Premium of the American Philosophical Society in 2008, among several others.
17. Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall is a primatologist, ethologist, and anthropologist. She has studied the social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees for over 40 years, and is thus considered the foremost expert on chimpanzees. She studied at Darwin College in Cambridge and holds several honorary doctorates from universities such as Syracuse University, Rutgers University, the University of Liverpool, and the University of Toronto, among others.
Goodall has conducted most of her research, starting in 1960 with no scientific training, at Gombe Stream National Park, which is located in the western Kigoma region of Tanzania. Goodall advocates for chimpanzee welfare, the conservation of biodiversity, and general stewardship of the Earth. The research conducted by Goodall at Gombe Stream is of great value both to the scientific community and to the park itself.
in 1977, Goodall founded the Jane Goodall Institute, as well as the youth-focused environmental group Roots & Shoots in 1991. the latter has now grown to include over 800 local chapters in nearly 90 countries around the world. She has also published numerous books about her work at the Gombe Stream station, notably My Life with the Chimpanzees, In the Shadow of Man (with Richard Wrangham), and, most recently, Jane Goodall: 50 Years at Gombe.
One of Goodall’s most notable awards was her appointment as Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE), in 2004. Other notable awards include the Discovery and Imagination Award in 2005, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science in 2003, the Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment Award in 2003, and the John & Alice Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 1997, among numerous other awards for her work and dedication.
Today, Goodall devotes virtually all of her time to advocacy on behalf of chimpanzees and the environment, traveling nearly 300 days a year. Goodall is also a board member for Save the Chimps located in Fort Pierce, Florida. It is the world’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary outside of Africa.
18. Alan Guth
Alan Guth is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist, who currently serves as the Victor Weisskopf Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Guth is the originator of the inflationary universe theory, which answers the conundrum within Big Bang cosmology of why the universe appears flat, homogeneous, and isotropic, when one would expect (on the basis of the physics of the Big Bang) a highly curved, heterogeneous, and anisotropic universe. His theory, if correct, would explain the origin of the large-scale structure of the cosmos.
Guth’s first step to developing his theory of inflation occurred at Cornell in 1978, when he attended a lecture by Robert Dicke about the flatness problem of the universe. Dicke explained how the flatness problem showed that something significant was missing from the Big Bang theory at the time. Guth first made public his ideas on inflation in a seminar at in 1980 after he submitted his paper, entitled “The Inflationary Universe: A Possible Solution to the Horizon and Flatness Problems,” to the journal Physical Review.
In 1997, Guth authored the book The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins. In 2012, he was awarded the Fundamental Physics Prize.
Much of Guth’s current work also concerns the study of density fluctuations arising from inflation, such as the implications of novel forms of inflation and whether the underlying theory can be made more rigorous. Guth is also interested in pursuing the possibility of inflation in “brane world” models, which propose that our universe is a four-dimensional membrane floating in a higher-dimensional space.
19. Lene Vestergaard Hau
Lene Vestergaard Hau is the Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University. One of her well-known achievements is using a superfluid to slow a beam of light to a standstill. This work led to further experiments on the transfer of light to matter, then from matter back into light, which led to important implications for quantum encryption and quantum computing.
Hau and her associates at Harvard University have demonstrated exquisite control over light and matter in several experiments, but her experiment with two condensates is one of the most compelling. In 2006, they successfully transferred a qubit from light to a matter wave and back into light, using Bose-Einstein condensates. While the matter is traveling between the two Bose-Einstein condensates, it can be trapped for minutes, then reshaped into something else. This novel form of quantum control has implications for the developing fields of quantum information processing and quantum cryptography.
During her doctoral studies in quantum theory at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, Hau worked on ideas similar to those involved in fiber optic cables carrying light, but her work involved strings of atoms in a silicon crystal carrying electrons.
Hau’s latest research has continued to be centered on cold atoms and Bose-Einstein condensates. Her group uses laser cooling to efficiently precool atoms to temperatures in the micro-kelvin regime. Recently, the Hau group succeeded in reducing the light speed—initially to 17 meters per second, and later to zero m.p.s.—by optically inducing quantum interference in a Bose-Einstein condensate.
Ultra-slow light creates a unique new tool for probing the fundamental properties of Bose-Einstein condensates.
20. Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist. He is the Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge and former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics.
Hawking is known for his work on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity, and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, often called “Hawking radiation.”
Hawking attended Oxford University, and then the University of Cambridge for his graduate studies. When Hawking began his graduate studies, there was much debate in the physics community about the prevailing theories of the creation of the universe. Inspired by Roger Penrose’s theorem of a spacetime singularity in the center of black holes, Hawking applied the same thinking to the entire universe, and during 1965 he wrote his thesis on this topic. The thesis made a seminal contribution to Big Bang cosmology.
He has authored several popular science publications on cosmology, including A Brief History of Time, which remained on the best-selles list of the British Sunday Times for 237 weeks, and The Universe in a Nutshell. He recently published My Brief History, which is about his journey from a post-war London boy to his years of international acclaim and celebrity.
Hawking, who has suffered for many years from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), has received numerous awards, including the Special Fundamental Physics Prize in 2012, the Copley Medal in 2006, and the Albert Einstein Award in 1978.
21. Peter Higgs
Peter Higgs is a theoretical physicist and emeritus professor at the University of Edinburgh. He is best known for his work in the 1960s on a theory now known as the “Higgs mechanism,” which predicted the existence of the Higgs boson (also known as the “God particle”), and which is generally accepted as a crucial ingredient in the Standard Model of particle physics. According to the Standard Model, the Higgs mechanism is the means by which all particles in the universe acquire the property of mass.
The existence of the Higgs boson was experimentally confirmed in 2012 by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva, Switzerland. As a result of this experimental verification of his 40-year -old prediction, the following year (2o13) Higgs was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics (shared with François Englert).
The discovery of a Higgs boson allowed physicists to validate the last untested area of the Standard Model’s approach to fundamental particles and forces, to guide other theories and discoveries in particle physics, and to potentially lead to other developments in physics.
Higgs studied for his doctorate in molecular physics at King’s College London, where he wrote his thesis on problems in the theory of molecular vibrations. He has served the chair of Theoretical Physics at Edinburgh, is a Fellow of the Royal Society, was awarded the Rutherford Medal and Prize in 1984, and became a Fellow of the Institute of Physics in 1991. He retired in 1996, when he became an emeritus professor at the University of Edinburgh. In 2012, Edinburgh University established the Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics to be housed in the university’s School of Physics and Astronomy.
In addition to the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2013, Higgs has earned many other awards, such as the Sakurai Prize in 2010, the Wolf Prize in Physics in 2004, and the Dirac Medal in 1997.
22. Leroy Hood
Leroy Hood is a pioneer of the relatively new field of systems biology. In 2011, he won the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize for automating DNA sequencing that revolutionized biomedicine and forensic science.
Hood received an MD from Johns Hopkins University and a PhD from the California Institute of Technology, where he also served as a faculty member for 22 years.
Hood and his colleagues at Cal Tech created the technological foundation for the sciences of genomics and proteomics by fostering the development of five groundbreaking instruments: the protein sequencer, the protein synthesizer, the DNA synthesizer, the automated DNA sequencer, and the ink-jet DNA synthesizer. These instruments not only help to decipher biological information, but they also introduced the concept of high-throughput data accumulation through automation and parallelization of protein and DNA chemistries.
Hood is president and co-founder in 2000 of the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), a nonprofit, biomedical research organization based in Seattle, Washington. The ISB was established to integrate biology, technology, and computation to create a new approach to the study of biological systems from an integrated or whole-system perspective.
One of the signature projects of Hood’s own group at the ISB is the “predictive, personalized, preventive, and participatory” (“P4″) approach to medicine.
Hood has been the recipient of several notable awards, including the National Medal of Science in 2011, the Heinz Award in 2006, and the Albert Lasker Award in 1987, among others.
23. Eric Kandel
Eric Kandel is a neuropsychiatrist who is a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, where he founded the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior. Kandel also serves as the Fred Kavli Professor and director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Kandel was a recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons. He shared the prize with Arvid Carlsson and Paul Greengard. They were awarded the prize for their discoveries concerning signal transduction in the nervous system.
Kandel attended New York University’s Medical School, where he later took a position in the Departments of Physiology and Psychiatry; eventually, he formed the Division of Neurobiology and Behavior there.
Kandel has authored many books, including Principles of Neural Science, which is often used as a textbook and reference text in medical schools. In 2006, he wrote an autobiographical book, In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind, which is a popular account of his life and career.It was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Science and Technology.
Kandel has been awarded the Wolf Prize in Medicine in 1999, the Harvey Prize in 1993, along with the Nobel Prize in 2000.
24. Andrew H. Knoll
Andrew H. Knoll is the Fisher Professor of Natural History and a Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University. He is a Precambrian paleontologist and biogeochemist.
Knoll is primarily known for discovering microscopic traces of early life (“microfossils”) in numerous locations, including Spitsbergen, Greenland, Siberia, China, Namibia, western North America, and Australia. He was among the first to apply principles of taphonomy and paleoecology to the interpretation of microfossils.
Knoll’s work has been pivotal to our understanding of the history of life on earth during the Precambrian period, especially the Ediacaran fauna. However, he has also worked on problems of the Phanerozoic period. For example, he and his colleagues were the first to hypothesize that rapid build-up of carbon dioxide played a key role in end-Permian mass extinction 252 million years ago.
Knoll has authored and co-authored four books including, Biology: How Life Works, Fundamentals of Geobiology, The Evolution of Primary Producers in the Sea, and Life on a Young Planet: The First Billion Years of Evolution on Earth. He received the Phi Beta Kappa Book Award for Life on a Young Planet.
Knoll is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Microbiology.
Knoll is continuing to study Archean and Proterozoic paleontology and biogeochemistry, as well as selected problems in Phanerozoic earth history. He has also served as a member of the science team for NASA’s MER rover mission to Mars.
25. Charles K. Kao
Charles K. Kao is an electrical engineer and physicist. He is known as the “godfather of broadband.” In 2009, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics for the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication, pioneering the development and use of fiber optics in telecommunications. He shared the award with Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit.
Kao earned his PhD in electrical engineering from University College London. He then joined the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he founded the Department of Electronics, which later became the Department of Electronic Engineering. He also served as Vice Chancellor of the university for a decade.
Fiber optics makes up the system that nourishes our communication system in modern society, such as the Internet. Light flows in thin threads of glass, and it carries almost all of the telephony and data traffic in each and every direction, which results in text, music, images, and video being transferred around the globe in a split second.
Kao began his experiments with fiber optics in the 1960s with strands of glass fibers thinner than a human hair and cheaper to produce than fishing line, which transmitted nearly limitless amounts of digitized data on pulses of laser light.
Kao, a native of Shanghai, founded the Independent Schools Foundation Academy (ISF) in Hong Kong in 2000. The Academy is a non-profit, bilingual, private independent school for grades one through 12, and is an inquiry-based learning environment.
Kao has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Asian of the Century Award in 1999, the Prince Philip Medal in 1996, and the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal in 1985, in addition to the Nobel Prize.
26. Martin Karplus
Martin Karplus is a theoretical chemist. He is an emeritus professor and the Theodore William Richards Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University. He is also Director of the Biophysical Chemistry Laboratory, a joint laboratory between the French National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Strasbourg, France.
In 2013, he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel, for developing multi-scale models for complex chemical systems. Their contribution was ground-breaking, because they managed to make Newton’s classical physics work side-by-side with the fundamentally different quantum physics. This makes approach makes possible computer simulations that are so realistic they mirror the outcome of traditional laboratory experiments.
Karplus earned his PhD from the California Institute of Technology and was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Oxford University. He has made many contributions to physical chemistry, quantum chemistry, and molecular dynamics. He even has an equation named after him: The Karplus equation describes the correlation between coupling constants and dihedral angles in protein nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
Karplus, who was born in Austria, has made numerous contributions to the field of theoretical chemistry through journal publications and textbooks, such as Proteins: A Theoretical Perspective of Dynamics, Structure and Thermodynamics, and Atoms and Molecules: An Introduction for Students of Physical Chemistry. His current research interests are concerned with the properties of molecules of biological interest.
27. Donald Knuth
Donald Knuth is a mathematician and computer scientist. He is Professor Emeritus of the Art of Computer Programming (a chair created especially for him), at Stanford University. He is the author of the multi-volume work, The Art of Computer Programming, which is the “bible” of the field of computer programming. As of 2013, the first three volumes and part one of volume four of this magnum opus had been published.
Knuth earned his PhD in mathematics from the California Institute of Technology, where he then became a professor and began his work on The Art of Computer Programming. Knuth is known as the “father of the analysis of algorithms.” He created the WEB and CWEB computer programming systems designed to encourage and facilitate literate programming.
Knuth has been honored with several awards, including the Stanford University School of Engineering Hero Award in 2011, Fellow of the Computer History Museum in 1998, and the National Medal of Science in 1979, among several others.
Knuth was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1975, and in 2003, he was elected as a foreign member of the Royal Society of London. In 2009, he was elected as a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and in 2012, he became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.
28. Robert J. Marks, II
Robert J. Marks, II, is the Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He is a pioneer of the construction and investigation of neural networks, and was the first president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Neural Networks Council.
Marks received his PhD in electrical engineering from Texas Tech University. He has over 300 peer-reviewed journal publications and is a proponent of intelligent design, which is the theory that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.
Marks has made several technical contributions in multiple areas, such as treating prostate cancer, signal display, remote sensing, optical image sampling, and optical computers, among several other areas. He has served as a consultant to companies such as Microsoft and Boeing corporation.
Marks has authored several books including, the Handbook of Fourier Analysis and Its Applications, Neural Smithing: Supervised Learning in Feedforward Artificial Neural Networks, and Applications of Neural Networks to Power Systems, among others.
In 2007, Marks founded the Evolutionary Informatics Lab at Baylor to promote research on the topic of intelligent design. The university deleted the web site from its server due to the controversial nature of the topic. The Evolutionary Informatics Lab is now hosted by a third-party server.
Marks has received several awards, including the IEEE Distinguished Lecturer twice, once from the IEEE Neural Networks Council in 1991–92, and again from the IEEE Neural Networks Society in 2002–03, as well as the Golden Jubilee Medal in 1999 from the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society.
29. Craig C. Mello
Craig C. Mello is a biologist and professor of molecular medicine at the University of Massachusetts. In 2006, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, along with Andrew Z. Fire (#14 on our list), for the discovery of RNA interference (RNAi).
Mello earned his PhD from Harvard University and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Fire and Mello’s Nobel Prize winning research has shown that RNAi playa a key role in gene regulation.
Mello is involved in several RNAi-based biotechnological companies. He co-founded the scientific advisory board member of RXi Pharmaceuticals, which is now Galena Biopharma pharmaceutical company. He serves on the Technology Advisory Board of Monsanto, formerly Biologics, a company focused on development of RNAi products for honeybee health and various veterinary and agricultural applications.
Mello has earned numerous other notable awards and honors besides the Nobel Prize, including the Hope Funds Award of Excellence in Basic Research in 2008, the Massry Prize in 2005, and election to the National Academy of Sciences in 2005.
30. Luc Montagnier
Luc Montagnier is a virologist and a professor at Shanghai Jiaotong University in China. He is also the founder and president of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention.
In 2008, Montagnier was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus. In 1983, Montagnier led the team which first isolated the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), a new type of retrovirus previously unrecognized in humans, and brought the first evidence that this virus was the causative agent of AIDS.
Montagnier has also conducted research, along with colleagues, that has indicated that electromagnetic signals emitted by medicines can remain in water and have dramatic biological effects.
Montagnier, a native of France, has been honored worldwide with many awards, including the Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour in 2009, the induction to the National Inventor Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Lasker Prize in Medicine in 1986, among numerous other awards.
Montagnier is the author or co-author of 350 scientific publications and of more than 750 patents. His current studies aim at the diagnosis and treatment of microbial, viral, and epigenetic factors associated with cancers, neurodegenerative, and articular diseases, using innovative technologies.
31. Gordon Moore
Gordon Moore is the co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of Intel Corporation and the author of Moore’s Law, which is the observation that over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years.
Moore received his PhD from in chemistry, with a minor in physics, from the California Institute of Technology. He then completed his postdoctoral research at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University.
Moore co-founded NM Electronics, which later became Intel Corporation, with Robert Noyce in 1968. He served Intel as Executive Vice President, President, Chairman of the Board, and finally Chief Executive Officer. Moore was named Chairman Emeritus of Intel Corporation in 1997.
In 2001, Moore and his wife donated $600 million to Caltech, to be used for research and technology. In 2007, they donated $200 million, again to Caltech and also to the University of California, for the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, which is the world largest optical telescope.
Moore has received numerous awards including the IEEE Medal of Honor in 2008, and the Bower Award for Business Leadership in 2002. In 1998, he was inducted as a Fellow of the Computer History Museum.
32. Kary B. Mullis
Kary B. Mullis is a biochemist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993, along with Michael Smith, for automation of a chemical process known as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The new technique had far-reaching applications in medicine, genetics, biotechnology, and forensics. PCR, because of its ability to extract DNA from fossils, is the basis of a new scientific discipline, paleobiology.
Mullis joined the Cetus Corporation in Emeryville, California, as a DNA chemist in 1979. During his seven years there, he conducted research on oligonucleotide synthesis and invented his new PCR technique. Mullis’s process made it possible to make multiple copies of DNA in a relatively short time, which led to an explosion of research activity and ushered in the modern age of recombinant DNA technology.
In 1987, Mullis began consulting on nucleic acid chemistry for more than a dozen corporations, including Cytometrics, Eastman Kodak, and Specialty Laboratories.
Mullis has received numerous awards, including the Ronald H. Brown American Innovator Award in 1998, the Japan Prize in 1993, and the National Biotechnology Award in 1991, among others. He was also inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1996.
Mullis also holds several patents. His latest one involves a revolutionary technique for instantly mobilizing the immu