Famous chemists who have made important contribution to the subject of chemistry. Chemistry is the study of the structure and transformation of matter, and how elements and atoms behave when mixed with other elements.
Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) Greek scientist who made early investigations into different elements and how they could be transformed. Aristotle laid the framework for the investigation of matter, pure substances, and chemical combinations. His early works included On Generation and Corruption (De Generatione et Corruptione) and Meteorology.
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632 – 1723) Dutch scientist and trader. Leeuwenhoek is considered the father of microbiology for his work in discovering single-celled organisms and also observing muscle fibres, blood flow and bacteria. He developed the microscope which helped his own discoveries.
Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (1743 – 1794) French Chemist and Nobleman. Considered the ‘Father of Chemistry’ Lavoisier discovered hydrogen and Oxygen and showed the role of Oxygen in combustion. He also made the first comprehensive list of Table of Elements. Lavoisier showed how different elements such as Oxygen and Hydrogen could be combined to form water. Lavoisier showed how mass could be changed but never lost – strengthening the principle of the conservation of matter. He was guillotined shortly after the French Revolution for his association with the nobility.
John Dalton (1766 – 1844) English chemist and physicist. Dalton is credited with introducing atomic theory into chemistry. Dalton published a forerunner to the modern Periodic table of elements. He listed elements with their atomic weight and his understanding of how substances combined led him to the theory of the law of multiple proportions. He also worked on the constitution of mixed gases, leading to ‘Dalton’s Law’.
Humphry Davy (1778 – 1829) English chemist and inventor. Davy made pioneering experiments in the field of chemistry. In particular, he was the first chemist to isolate the elements potassium and sodium in 1807 and calcium, strontium, barium, magnesium and boron. He used electricity to separate these elements and made a significant contribution to the field of electro-chemistry. Faraday also discovered nitrous oxide (Laughing gas) and first proposed its potential use as an aesthetic. He also invented a safety lamp for miners – which became known as the “Davy Lamp.”
Michael Faraday (1791 – 1867) – English scientist who studied under Humphry Davy. Faraday contributed to the fields of electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism, electrolysis and electrochemistry. Faraday made pioneering investigations into Carbon, Chlorine and studied compounds of the two elements. Faraday pursued the first experiments on the diffusion of gases and successfully liquified several gases. He also invented an early form of the bunsen burner which increased the range of experiments which could be performed in the chemistry laboratory.
Emil Fischer (1838–1914) – German chemist. Fischer was the outstanding chemist of the modern age. He synthesised many products to show their constituent parts. Won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1902 for his research into the chemical composition of purines and sugars. Fisher developed a way to illustrate 3D compounds on paper; it became known as Fischer projection.
Alfred Nobel (1833 – 1896) Swedish chemist, engineer, innovator, and armaments manufacturer. Nobel invented dynamite (a compound of nitroglycerin and more inert compounds such as nitrocellulose compound) His new invention was more stable than previous explosives and was a key element for building projects, such as tunnels. He held 350 other patents, including for a gas meter. After being criticised for profiting from arms sales, he gave his legacy to instituting the Nobel awards.
Dmitri Mendeleev (1834 – 1907) Russian Chemist. Formulated the Periodic Law and standardised the Periodic Table of Elements which is still used today. Mendeleev was able to correct errors in the existing table of elements and predict the properties of seven elements not yet discovered. Mendeleev wrote Principles of Chemistry (1868–1870) a classic textbook for many decades.
Marie Curie (1867 – 1934) Polish physicist and chemist. She successfully isolated radioactive isotopes, and the discovered two elements, polonium and radium. She developed the new field of radiation and helped to apply it in the field of X-ray. She won the Nobel Prize in both Chemistry and Physics.
Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) Scottish biologist who discovered penicillin from a mouldy petri dish in 1928. He shared Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945 with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain, who helped produce penicillin on a large scale. Alexander Fleming also researched extensively bacteriology, immunology, and chemotherapy. He also discovered the enzyme lysozyme (abundant in milk, tears and saliva in 1923
Otto Hahn (1879-1968) – German chemist who discovered nuclear fission (1939). Pioneering scientist in the field of radiochemistry. Discovered radio-active elements and nuclear isomerism (1921). Awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1944 for the discovery and the radiochemical proof of nuclear fission.
Ernest Rutherford (1871 – 1937) New Zealand-born British physicist / Chemist. In 1908, Rutherford was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in radioactivity and the disintegration of elements. In 1917, credited with being the first person to split the atom, discovering the proton.
Gertrude B. Elion (1918 – 1999) American biochemist and pharmacologist. Elion helped to discover important new drugs, such as (AZT) used in the treatment of AIDS. She also developed immunosuppressive drugs to enable organ transplants and a new drug to treat virus Herpes. In 1988, with George H. Hitchings and Sir James Black, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for ‘important new principles of drug treatment’.
Rosalind Franklin (1920 – 1958) British Chemist who made significant contributions to understanding the structure of DNA and RNA, which led to the discovery of the DNA double helix. Franklin also worked on the chemistry of coal and viruses.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous Chemists”, Oxford, UK – www.biographyonline.net. Published 9 May 2019.
Famous Scientists – Famous scientists from Aristotle and Archimedes to Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. Including mathematicians, biologists, physicists and chemists.
Famous physicists – A list of the greatest physicists throughout history – including Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr and Stephen Hawking.
100 most influential people – A list of 100 most influential people as chosen by Michael H. Hart, from his book 100 most influential people in the world. Includes; Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Lord Buddha, Confucius, St Paul and Johann Gutenberg.