Famous Physicists

A list of the greatest physicists throughout history – from Galileo to Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. These physicists are the key people who have developed the subject of physics –  increasing our understanding of the material world and leading to many inventions in modern life, including electrical power, computing and atomic energy.

GalileoGalileo (1564 – 1642)  Italian scientist. Created one of the first modern telescopes, Galileo revolutionised our understanding of the world supporting the work of Copernicus. His work Two New Sciences laid the groundwork for the science of Kinetics and strength of materials.

newtonSir Isaac Newton (1642-1726) English scientist. Newton made studies in mathematics, optics, physics, and astronomy. In his Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, he laid the foundations for classical mechanics, explaining the law of gravity and the Laws of Motion.

Alessandro_Volta-100Alessandro Volta (1745 – 1827) Italian physicist and chemist who was a pioneer of electricity and electric power. Volta invented the electric battery who is credited as the inventor of the electric battery proving electricity could be generated from a chemical reaction. Volta used copper, zinc and an electoryte of sulphuric acid or brine solution.

john daltonJohn 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.

James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) Scottish physicist. Maxwell made a significant contribution to understanding electromagnetism. His research in electricity and kinetics laid the foundation for quantum physics.

william-Roentgen-100Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen (1845 – 1923) German physicist who produced and discovered electromagnetic waves or X-rays. Roentgen used this knowledge to produce the first X-rays of the human body. He was awarded the first Nobel Prize in physics in 1901.

Nikola Tesla (1856 –1943) Serbian/American – Worked on electromagnetism and AC current. She is credited with many patents from electricity to radio transmission.

Max_PlanckMax Planck (1858 – 1947) German theoretical physicist who contributed to the development of Quantum Mechanics. He discovered energy quanta. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.

Marie Curie (1867 – 1934) Polish physicist and chemist. Discovered radiation and helped to apply it in the field of X-ray. She won Nobel Prize in both Chemistry and Physics.

Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) German/US physicist. Einstein revolutionised modern physics with his general theory of relativity. Won Nobel Prize in Physics (1921) for his discovery of the Photoelectric effect, which formed the basis of Quantum Theory.

Ernest_RutherfordErnest 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.

Lise_MeitnerLise Meitner (1878 – 1968)  Austrian-Swedish physicist who worked on radioactivity and nuclear physics. In 1939, Meitner and Otto Hahn successfully showed the nuclear fission of uranium and correctly predicted this would create an enormous release of energy. This process is the basis of both nuclear power stations and nuclear weapons. Due to her Jewish identity, she fled Nazi-occupied Austria for Sweden where she stayed for the remainder of her life.

Niels_BohrNiels Bohr (1885 – 1962) Danish physicist. Bohr developed a structure of the atom, recognising electrons revolving around a stable nucleus. His work was important for atomic structure and quantum physics. Awarded Nobel Prize for Physics 1922.

Satyen-BoseSatyendra Nath Bose (1894 – 1974) Indian physicist who worked on quantum mechanics. Collaborated with Albert Einstein to found Bose-Einstein statistics and Bose-Einstein condensate.

Werner_Heisenberg-100Werner Heisenberg (1901–1976) German theoretical physicist – one of the pioneers of Quantum mechanics. Heisenberg investigated the physics of sub-atomic level. He introduced the uncertainty principle – marking a decisive break with Newtonian physics.

Enrico_Fermi_100Enrico Fermi (1901 -1954) Fermi was an Italian/American physicist who made important contributions to theoretical and experimental physics. Awarded the Nobel Prize in 1938 for induced radioactivity. He went on to become the creator of the world’s first nuclear reactor which is used in nuclear power plants. He also made contributions in the field of statistical mechanics, quantum theory, and particle physics.

pual-diracPaul Dirac (1902-1984) English physicist – One of the early exponents of quantum physics and quantum electrodynamics. Dirac developed theories of the electron and the special theory of relativity.

Oppenheimer-100J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967) American theoretical physicist who became the head of the Los Almos laboratory and the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. After the Second World War, he used his position to campaign for the control of nuclear power and spoke against McCarthyite witch hunts of the 1950s.

Chien-Shiung_WuChien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) was a Chinese-American experimental physicist. She worked on the Manhattan Projects and was involved in splitting uranium through gaseous diffusion. She made significant contributions in the field of nuclear physics and was awarded the inaugural Wolf Prize in Physics in 1978.

Richard_Feynman-100Richard Phillips Feynman (1918 – 1988) Feynman was an American physicist who made contributions to the field of path integral formulation of quantum mechanics and the theory of quantum electrodynamics. Feynman was also a pioneer in quantum computing and the concept of nanotechnology. Feynman was also active in popularising physics to a mass audience.

Stephen Hawking (1942 – 2018) English theoretical physicist, cosmologist. Hawking has authored The Theory of Everything, and A Brief History of Time.

Bell_Burnell_croppedJocelyn Bell Burnell (1943 – ) UK astrophysicist from Northern Ireland. In 1967, working as a postgraduate student, she discovered the first radio pulsars. A pulsar is a highly magnetised neutron star or white dwarf.  In 1974 her supervisors Antony Hewish and Martin Ryle were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous Physicists” Oxford, UK www.biographyonline.net Published: 18 June 2019.

Great Physicists: The Life and Times of Leading Physicists from Galileo to Hawking

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Great Physicists: The Life and Times of Leading Physicists from Galileo to Hawking
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