In physics, a gravitational field is a model used to explain the influences that a massive body extends into the space around itself, producing a force on another massive body.
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Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath. He was born in the city of Pisa, then part of the Duchy of Florence. Galileo has been called the "father" of observational astronomy, modern physics, the scientific method, and modern science.
Galileo studied speed and velocity, gravity and free fall, the principle of relativity, inertia, projectile motion and also worked in applied science and technology, describing the properties of pendulums and "hydrostatic balances". He invented the thermoscope and various military compasses, and used the telescope for scientific observations of celestial objects. His contributions to observational astronomy include telescopic confirmation of the phases of Venus, observation of the four largest satellites of Jupiter, observation of Saturn's rings, and analysis of lunar craters and sunspots.
Galileo's championing of Copernican heliocentrism (Earth rotating daily and revolving around the sun) was met with opposition from within the Catholic Church and from some astronomers. The matter was investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615, which concluded that heliocentrism was foolish, absurd, and heretical since it contradicted Holy Scripture.
Galileo later defended his views in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632), which appeared to attack Pope Urban VIII and thus alienated both the Pope and the Jesuits, who had both supported Galileo up until this point. He was tried by the Inquisition, found "vehemently suspect of heresy", and forced to recant. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest. During this time, he wrote Two New Sciences (1638), primarily concerning kinematics and the strength of materials, summarizing work he had done around forty years earlier.
Stephen William Hawking (8 January 1942 – 14 March 2018) was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author who, at the time of his death, was director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge. Between 1979 and 2009, he was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge.
Hawking was born in Oxford, into a family of physicians. In October 1959, at the age of 17, he began his university education at University College, Oxford, where he received a first-class BA degree in physics. In October 1962, he began his graduate work at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where in March 1966, he obtained his PhD degree in applied mathematics and theoretical physics, specialising in general relativity and cosmology. In 1963, Hawking was diagnosed with an early-onset slow-progressing form of motor neurone disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – ALS, for short) that gradually, over the decades, paralysed him. After the loss of his speech, he communicated through a speech-generating device initially through use of a handheld switch, and eventually by using a single cheek muscle.
Hawking's scientific works included a collaboration with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity, and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, often called Hawking radiation. Initially, Hawking radiation was controversial. By the late 1970s and following the publication of further research, the discovery was widely accepted as a major breakthrough in theoretical physics. Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He was a vigorous supporter of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.
Hawking achieved commercial success with several works of popular science in which he discussed his theories and cosmology in general. His book A Brief History of Time appeared on the Sunday Times bestseller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks. Hawking was a Fellow of the Royal Society, a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. In 2002, Hawking was ranked number 25 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. He died on 14 March 2018 at the age of 76, after living with motor neurone disease for more than 50 years.
Michael Faraday (22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867) was an English scientist who contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His main discoveries include the principles underlying electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and electrolysis.
Although Faraday received little formal education, he was one of the most influential scientists in history. It was by his research on the magnetic field around a conductor carrying a direct current that Faraday established the basis for the concept of the electromagnetic field in physics. Faraday also established that magnetism could affect rays of light and that there was an underlying relationship between the two phenomena. He similarly discovered the principles of electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism, and the laws of electrolysis. His inventions of electromagnetic rotary devices formed the foundation of electric motor technology, and it was largely due to his efforts that electricity became practical for use in technology.
As a chemist, Faraday discovered benzene, investigated the clathrate hydrate of chlorine, invented an early form of the Bunsen burner and the system of oxidation numbers, and popularised terminology such as "anode", "cathode", "electrode" and "ion". Faraday ultimately became the first and foremost Fullerian Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution, a lifetime position.
Faraday was an excellent experimentalist who conveyed his ideas in clear and simple language; his mathematical abilities, however, did not extend as far as trigonometry and were limited to the simplest algebra. James Clerk Maxwell took the work of Faraday and others and summarized it in a set of equations which is accepted as the basis of all modern theories of electromagnetic phenomena. On Faraday's uses of lines of force, Maxwell wrote that they show Faraday "to have been in reality a mathematician of a very high order – one from whom the mathematicians of the future may derive valuable and fertile methods. The SI unit of capacitance is named in his honour: the farad.
Albert Einstein kept a picture of Faraday on his study wall, alongside pictures of Arthur Schopenhauer and James Clerk Maxwell. Physicist Ernest Rutherford stated, "When we consider the magnitude and extent of his discoveries and their influence on the progress of science and of industry, there is no honour too great to pay to the memory of Faraday, one of the greatest scientific discoverers of all time.
Niels Henrik David Bohr (7 October 1885 – 18 November 1962) was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr was also a philosopher and a promoter of scientific research.
Bohr developed the Bohr model of the atom, in which he proposed that energy levels of electrons are discrete and that the electrons revolve in stable orbits around the atomic nucleus but can jump from one energy level (or orbit) to another. Although the Bohr model has been supplanted by other models, its underlying principles remain valid. He conceived the principle of complementarity: that items could be separately analysed in terms of contradictory properties, like behaving as a wave or a stream of particles. The notion of complementarity dominated Bohr's thinking in both science and philosophy.
Bohr founded the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of Copenhagen, now known as the Niels Bohr Institute, which opened in 1920. Bohr mentored and collaborated with physicists including Hans Kramers, Oskar Klein, George de Hevesy, and Werner Heisenberg. He predicted the existence of a new zirconium-like element, which was named hafnium, after the Latin name for Copenhagen, where it was discovered. Later, the element bohrium was named after him.
During the 1930s, Bohr helped refugees from Nazism. After Denmark was occupied by the Germans, he had a famous meeting with Heisenberg, who had become the head of the German nuclear weapon project. In September 1943 word reached Bohr that he was about to be arrested by the Germans, and he fled to Sweden. From there, he was flown to Britain, where he joined the British Tube Alloys nuclear weapons project, and was part of the British mission to the Manhattan Project. After the war, Bohr called for international cooperation on nuclear energy. He was involved with the establishment of CERN and the Research Establishment Risø of the Danish Atomic Energy Commission and became the first chairman of the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics in 1957.
Marie Salomea Skłodowska–Curie (7 November 1867 – 4 July 1934) was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and the only woman to win the Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two scientific fields. Her husband, Pierre Curie, was a co-winner on her first Nobel Prize, making them the first ever married couple to win the Nobel Prize and launching the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes. She was, in 1906, the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris.
She was born in Warsaw, in what was then the Kingdom of Poland, part of the Russian Empire. She studied at Warsaw's clandestine Flying University and began her practical scientific training in Warsaw. In 1891, aged 24, she followed her elder sister Bronisława to study in Paris, where she earned her higher degrees and conducted her subsequent scientific work. In 1895 she married the French physicist Pierre Curie, and she shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with him and with the physicist Henri Becquerel for their pioneering work developing the theory of "radioactivity"—a term she coined. In 1906 Pierre Curie died in a Paris street accident. Marie won the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery of the elements polonium and radium, using techniques she invented for isolating radioactive isotopes.
Under her direction, the world's first studies were conducted into the treatment of neoplasms by the use of radioactive isotopes. In 1920 she founded the Curie Institute in Paris, and in 1932 the Curie Institute in Warsaw; both remain major centres of medical research. During World War I she developed mobile radiography units to provide X-ray services to field hospitals.
While a French citizen, Marie Skłodowska Curie, who used both surnames, never lost her sense of Polish identity. She taught her daughters the Polish language and took them on visits to Poland. She named the first chemical element she discovered polonium, after her native country.
Marie Curie died in 1934, aged 66, at the Sancellemoz sanatorium in Passy (Haute-Savoie), France, of aplastic anemia from exposure to radiation in the course of her scientific research and in the course of her radiological work at field hospitals during World War I. In addition to her Nobel Prizes, she has received numerous other honours and tributes; in 1995 she became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in Paris' Panthéon, and Poland declared 2011 the Year of Marie Curie during the International Year of Chemistry. She is the subject of numerous biographical works, where she is also known as Madame Curie.
Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson, (30 August 1871 – 19 October 1937) was a New Zealand physicist who came to be known as the father of nuclear physics. Encyclopædia Britannica considers him to be the greatest experimentalist since Michael Faraday (1791–1867). Apart from his work in his homeland, he spent a substantial amount of his career abroad, in both Canada and the United Kingdom.
In early work, Rutherford discovered the concept of radioactive half-life, the radioactive element radon, and differentiated and named alpha and beta radiation.This work was performed at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It is the basis for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry he was awarded in 1908 "for his investigations into the disintegration of the elements, and the chemistry of radioactive substances", for which he was the first Oceanian Nobel laureate, and the first to perform the awarded work in Canada. In 1904, he was elected as a member to the American Philosophical Society.
Rutherford moved in 1907 to the Victoria University of Manchester (today University of Manchester) in the UK, where he and Thomas Royds proved that alpha radiation is helium nuclei. Rutherford performed his most famous work after he became a Nobel laureate. In 1911, although he could not prove that it was positive or negative, he theorized that atoms have their charge concentrated in a very small nucleus, and thereby pioneered the Rutherford model of the atom, through his discovery and interpretation of Rutherford scattering by the gold foil experiment of Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden. He performed the first artificially induced nuclear reaction in 1917 in experiments where nitrogen nuclei were bombarded with alpha particles. As a result, he discovered the emission of a subatomic particle which, in 1919, he called the "hydrogen atom" but, in 1920, he more accurately named the proton.
Rutherford became Director of the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge in 1919. Under his leadership the neutron was discovered by James Chadwick in 1932 and in the same year the first experiment to split the nucleus in a fully controlled manner was performed by students working under his direction, John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton. After his death in 1937, he was buried in Westminster Abbey near Sir Isaac Newton. The chemical element rutherfordium (element 104) was named after him in 1997.
Guglielmo Giovanni Maria Marconi, 1st Marquis of Marconi (25 April 1874 – 20 July 1937) was an Italian inventor and electrical engineer, known for his creation of a practical radio wave-based wireless telegraph system. This led to Marconi being credited as the inventor of radio, and he shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand Braun "in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy".
Marconi was also an entrepreneur, businessman, and founder of The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company in the United Kingdom in 1897 (which became the Marconi Company). In 1929, Marconi was ennobled as a Marchese (marquis) by King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, and, in 1931, he set up Vatican Radio for Pope Pius XI.
Marconi's Law is the relationship between the height of antennas and the maximum signaling distance of radio transmissions. The maximum distance with good signaling varies directly with the square of the transmitting antenna height.
Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, alchemist, theologian, and author (described in his time as a "natural philosopher"), widely recognised as one of the greatest mathematicians and physicists of all time and among the most influential scientists. He was a key figure in the philosophical revolution known as the Enlightenment. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), first published in 1687, established classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics, and shares credit with German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for developing infinitesimal calculus.
In the Principia, Newton formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation that formed the dominant scientific viewpoint until it was superseded by the theory of relativity. Newton used his mathematical description of gravity to derive Kepler's laws of planetary motion, account for tides, the trajectories of comets, the precession of the equinoxes and other phenomena, eradicating doubt about the Solar System's heliocentricity. He demonstrated that the motion of objects on Earth and celestial bodies could be accounted for by the same principles. Newton's inference that the Earth is an oblate spheroid was later confirmed by the geodetic measurements of Maupertuis, La Condamine, and others, convincing most European scientists of the superiority of Newtonian mechanics over earlier systems.
Newton built the first practical reflecting telescope and developed a sophisticated theory of colour based on the observation that a prism separates white light into the colours of the visible spectrum. His work on light was collected in his highly influential book Opticks, published in 1704. He also formulated an empirical law of cooling, made the first theoretical calculation of the speed of sound, and introduced the notion of a Newtonian fluid. In addition to his work on calculus, as a mathematician Newton contributed to the study of power series, generalised the binomial theorem to non-integer exponents, developed a method for approximating the roots of a function, and classified most of the cubic plane curves.
Newton was a fellow of Trinity College and the second Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. He was a devout but unorthodox Christian who privately rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. He refused to take holy orders in the Church of England, unlike most members of the Cambridge faculty of the day. Beyond his work on the mathematical sciences, Newton dedicated much of his time to the study of alchemy and biblical chronology, but most of his work in those areas remained unpublished until long after his death. Politically and personally tied to the Whig party, Newton served two brief terms as Member of Parliament for the University of Cambridge, in 1689–1690 and 1701–1702. He was knighted by Queen Anne in 1705 and spent the last three decades of his life in London, serving as Warden (1696–1699) and Master (1699–1727) of the Royal Mint, as well as president of the Royal Society (1703–1727).
Francis Harry Compton Crick (8 June 1916 – 28 July 2004) was an English molecular biologist, biophysicist, and neuroscientist. He, James Watson, and Rosalind Franklin played crucial roles in deciphering the helical structure of the DNA molecule. Crick and Watson's paper in Nature in 1953 laid the groundwork for understanding DNA structure and functions. Together with Maurice Wilkins, they were jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material".
Crick was an important theoretical molecular biologist and played a crucial role in research related to revealing the helical structure of DNA. He is widely known for the use of the term "central dogma" to summarise the idea that once information is transferred from nucleic acids (DNA or RNA) to proteins, it cannot flow back to nucleic acids. In other words, the final step in the flow of information from nucleic acids to proteins is irreversible.
During the remainder of his career, he held the post of J.W. Kieckhefer Distinguished Research Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. His later research centred on theoretical neurobiology and attempts to advance the scientific study of human consciousness. He remained in this post until his death; "he was editing a manuscript on his death bed, a scientist until the bitter end" according to Christof Koch.
Albert Einstein ( 14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist, widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest and most influential physicists of all time. Einstein is best known for developing the theory of relativity, but he also made important contributions to the development of the theory of quantum mechanics. Relativity and quantum mechanics are together the two pillars of modern physics. His mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2, which arises from relativity theory, has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation". His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect", a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory. His intellectual achievements and originality resulted in "Einstein" becoming synonymous with "genius".
In 1905, a year sometimes described as his annus mirabilis ('miracle year'), Einstein published four groundbreaking papers. These outlined the theory of the photoelectric effect, explained Brownian motion, introduced special relativity, and demonstrated mass-energy equivalence. Einstein thought that the laws of classical mechanics could no longer be reconciled with those of the electromagnetic field, which led him to develop his special theory of relativity. He then extended the theory to gravitational fields; he published a paper on general relativity in 1916, introducing his theory of gravitation. In 1917, he applied the general theory of relativity to model the structure of the universe. He continued to deal with problems of statistical mechanics and quantum theory, which led to his explanations of particle theory and the motion of molecules. He also investigated the thermal properties of light and the quantum theory of radiation, which laid the foundation of the photon theory of light.
However, for much of the later part of his career, he worked on two ultimately unsuccessful endeavors. First, despite his great contributions to quantum mechanics, he opposed what it evolved into, objecting that nature "does not play dice". Second, he attempted to devise a unified field theory by generalizing his geometric theory of gravitation to include electromagnetism. As a result, he became increasingly isolated from the mainstream of modern physics.
Einstein was born in the German Empire, but moved to Switzerland in 1895, forsaking his German citizenship (as a subject of the Kingdom of Württemberg) the following year. In 1897, at the age of 17, he enrolled in the mathematics and physics teaching diploma program at the Swiss Federal polytechnic school in Zürich, graduating in 1900. In 1901, he acquired Swiss citizenship, which he kept for the rest of his life, and in 1903 he secured a permanent position at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern. In 1905, he was awarded a PhD by the University of Zurich. In 1914, Einstein moved to Berlin in order to join the Prussian Academy of Sciences and the Humboldt University of Berlin. In 1917, Einstein became director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics; he also became a German citizen again, this time Prussian.
In 1933, while Einstein was visiting the United States, Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. Einstein, of Jewish origin, objected to the policies of the newly elected Nazi government; he settled in the United States and became an American citizen in 1940. On the eve of World War II, he endorsed a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt alerting him to the potential German nuclear weapons program and recommending that the US begin similar research. Einstein supported the Allies but generally denounced the idea of nuclear weapons.
Richard Phillips Feynman (May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988) was an American theoretical physicist, known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics, the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as his work in particle physics for which he proposed the parton model. For contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 jointly with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichirō Tomonaga.
Feynman developed a widely used pictorial representation scheme for the mathematical expressions describing the behavior of subatomic particles, which later became known as Feynman diagrams. During his lifetime, Feynman became one of the best-known scientists in the world. In a 1999 poll of 130 leading physicists worldwide by the British journal Physics World, he was ranked the seventh-greatest physicist of all time.
He assisted in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II and became known to a wide public in the 1980s as a member of the Rogers Commission, the panel that investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Along with his work in theoretical physics, Feynman has been credited with pioneering the field of quantum computing and introducing the concept of nanotechnology. He held the Richard C. Tolman professorship in theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology.
Feynman was a keen popularizer of physics through both books and lectures, including a 1959 talk on top-down nanotechnology called There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom and the three-volume publication of his undergraduate lectures, The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Feynman also became known through his autobiographical books Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think?, and books written about him such as Tuva or Bust! by Ralph Leighton and the biography Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick.
James Clerk Maxwell (13 June 1831 – 5 November 1879) was a Scottish mathematician and scientist responsible for the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, which was the first theory to describe electricity, magnetism and light as different manifestations of the same phenomenon. Maxwell's equations for electromagnetism have been called the "second great unification in physics" where the first one had been realised by Isaac Newton.
With the publication of "A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field" in 1865, Maxwell demonstrated that electric and magnetic fields travel through space as waves moving at the speed of light. He proposed that light is an undulation in the same medium that is the cause of electric and magnetic phenomena.The unification of light and electrical phenomena led his prediction of the existence of radio waves. Maxwell is also regarded as a founder of the modern field of electrical engineering.
He helped develop the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution, a statistical means of describing aspects of the kinetic theory of gases. He is also known for presenting the first durable colour photograph in 1861 and for his foundational work on analysing the rigidity of rod-and-joint frameworks (trusses) like those in many bridges.
His discoveries helped usher in the era of modern physics, laying the foundation for such fields as special relativity and quantum mechanics. Many physicists regard Maxwell as the 19th-century scientist having the greatest influence on 20th-century physics. His contributions to the science are considered by many to be of the same magnitude as those of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. In the millennium poll—a survey of the 100 most prominent physicists—Maxwell was voted the third greatest physicist of all time, behind only Newton and Einstein. On the centenary of Maxwell's birthday, Einstein described Maxwell's work as the "most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton". Einstein, when he visited the University of Cambridge in 1922, was told by his host that he had done great things because he stood on Newton's shoulders; Einstein replied: "No I don't. I stand on the shoulders of Maxwell.
Elise Meitner (7 November 1878 – 27 October 1968) was a leading Austrian-Swedish physicist who was one of those responsible for the discovery of the element protactinium and nuclear fission. While working at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute on radioactivity, she discovered the radioactive isotope protactinium-231 in 1917. In 1938, Meitner and her nephew, the physicist Otto Robert Frisch, discovered nuclear fission. She was praised by Albert Einstein as the "German Marie Curie".
Completing her doctoral research in 1905, Meitner became the second woman from the University of Vienna to earn a doctorate in physics. She spent most of her scientific career in Berlin, Germany, where she was a physics professor and a department head at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute; she was the first woman to become a full professor of physics in Germany. She lost these positions in the 1930s because of the anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany, and in 1938 she fled to Sweden, where she lived for many years, ultimately becoming a Swedish citizen.
In mid-1938, Meitner with chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute found that bombarding thorium with neutrons produced different isotopes. Hahn and Strassmann later in the year showed that isotopes of barium could be formed by bombardment of uranium. In late December, Meitner and Frisch worked out the phenomenon of such a splitting process. In their report in February issue of Nature in 1939, they gave it the name "fission". This principle led to the development of the first atomic bomb during World War II, and subsequently other nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors.
Meitner did not share the 1944 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for nuclear fission, which was awarded exclusively to her long-time collaborator Otto Hahn. Several scientists and journalists have called her exclusion "unjust". According to the Nobel Prize archive, she was nominated 19 times for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry between 1924 and 1948, and 29 times for the Nobel Prize in Physics between 1937 and 1965. Despite not having been awarded the Nobel Prize, Meitner was invited to attend the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in 1962. However, she received many other honours, including the naming of chemical element 109 meitnerium after her in 1997.
Nicolaus Copernicus (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) was a Renaissance polymath, active as a mathematician, astronomer, and Catholic canon, who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than Earth at its center. In all likelihood, Copernicus developed his model independently of Aristarchus of Samos, an ancient Greek astronomer who had formulated such a model some eighteen centuries earlier.
The publication of Copernicus's model in his book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), just before his death in 1543, was a major event in the history of science, triggering the Copernican Revolution and making a pioneering contribution to the Scientific Revolution.
Copernicus was born and died in Royal Prussia, a region that had been part of the Kingdom of Poland since 1466. A polyglot and polymath, he obtained a doctorate in canon law and was a mathematician, astronomer, physician, classics scholar, translator, governor, diplomat, and economist. From 1497 he was a Warmian Cathedral chapter canon. In 1517 he derived a quantity theory of money—a key concept in economics—and in 1519 he formulated an economic principle that later came to be called Gresham's law.
Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac (8 August 1902 – 20 October 1984) was an English theoretical physicist who is regarded as one of the most significant physicists of the 20th century.He was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a professor of physics at Florida State University and the University of Miami, and a 1933 Nobel Prize recipient.
Dirac made fundamental contributions to the early development of both quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics. Among other discoveries, he formulated the Dirac equation which describes the behaviour of fermions and predicted the existence of antimatter. Dirac shared the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics with Erwin Schrödinger "for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory". He also made significant contributions to the reconciliation of general relativity with quantum mechanics.
Dirac was regarded by his friends and colleagues as unusual in character. In a 1926 letter to Paul Ehrenfest, Albert Einstein wrote of Dirac, "I have trouble with Dirac. This balancing on the dizzying path between genius and madness is awful." In another letter concerning the Compton effect he wrote, "I don't understand Dirac at all."
Charles Robert Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to evolutionary biology. His proposition that all species of life have descended from a common ancestor is now widely accepted and considered a fundamental concept in science. In a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, he introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding. Darwin has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history, and he was honoured by burial in Westminster Abbey.
Darwin published his theory of evolution with compelling evidence in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species. By the 1870s, the scientific community and a majority of the educated public had accepted evolution as a fact. However, many favoured competing explanations that gave only a minor role to natural selection, and it was not until the emergence of the modern evolutionary synthesis from the 1930s to the 1950s that a broad consensus developed in which natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution. Darwin's scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, explaining the diversity of life.
Darwin's early interest in nature led him to neglect his medical education at the University of Edinburgh; instead, he helped to investigate marine invertebrates. Studies at the University of Cambridge (Christ's College) encouraged his passion for natural science. His five-year voyage on HMS Beagle established him as an eminent geologist whose observations and theories supported Charles Lyell's conception of gradual geological change, and publication of his journal of the voyage made him famous as a popular author.
Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he collected on the voyage, Darwin began detailed investigations and in 1838 conceived his theory of natural selection. Although he discussed his ideas with several naturalists, he needed time for extensive research, and his geological work had priority. He was writing up his theory in 1858 when Alfred Russel Wallace sent him an essay that described the same idea, prompting immediate joint publication of both their theories. Darwin's work established evolutionary descent with modification as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature. In 1871 he examined human evolution and sexual selection in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, followed by The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). His research on plants was published in a series of books, and in his final book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Actions of Worms (1881), he examined earthworms and their effect on soil.
Louis Pasteur (27 December 1822 – 28 September 1895) was a French chemist and microbiologist renowned for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation, and pasteurization. His research in chemistry led to remarkable breakthroughs in the understanding of the causes and preventions of diseases, which laid down the foundations of hygiene, public health and much of modern medicine. His works are credited to saving millions of lives through the developments of vaccines for rabies and anthrax. He is regarded as one of the founders of modern bacteriology and has been honored as the "father of bacteriology" and as the "father of microbiology" (together with Robert Koch, and the latter epithet also attributed to Antonie van Leeuwenhoek).
Pasteur was responsible for disproving the doctrine of spontaneous generation. Under the auspices of the French Academy of Sciences, his experiment demonstrated that in sterilized and sealed flasks, nothing ever developed; and, conversely, in sterilized but open flasks, microorganisms could grow. For this experiment, the academy awarded him the Alhumbert Prize carrying 2,500 francs in 1862.
Pasteur is also regarded as one of the fathers of germ theory of diseases, which was a minor medical concept at the time. His many experiments showed that diseases could be prevented by killing or stopping germs, thereby directly supporting the germ theory and its application in clinical medicine. He is best known to the general public for his invention of the technique of treating milk and wine to stop bacterial contamination, a process now called pasteurization. Pasteur also made significant discoveries in chemistry, most notably on the molecular basis for the asymmetry of certain crystals and racemization. Early in his career, his investigation of tartaric acid resulted in the first resolution of what is now called optical isomers. His work led the way to the current understanding of a fundamental principle in the structure of organic compounds.
He was the director of the Pasteur Institute, established in 1887, until his death, and his body was interred in a vault beneath the institute. Although Pasteur made groundbreaking experiments, his reputation became associated with various controversies. Historical reassessment of his notebook revealed that he practiced deception to overcome his rivals.
Mae Carol Jemison (born October 17, 1956) is an American engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut. She became the first black woman to travel into space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Jemison joined NASA's astronaut corps in 1987 and was selected to serve for the STS-47 mission, during which she orbited the Earth for nearly eight days on September 12–20, 1992.
Born in Alabama and raised in Chicago, Jemison graduated from Stanford University with degrees in chemical engineering as well as African and African-American studies. She then earned her medical degree from Cornell University. Jemison was a doctor for the Peace Corps in Liberia and Sierra Leone from 1983 until 1985 and worked as a general practitioner. In pursuit of becoming an astronaut, she applied to NASA.
Jemison left NASA in 1993 and founded a technology research company. She later formed a non-profit educational foundation and through the foundation is the principal of the 100 Year Starship project funded by DARPA. Jemison also wrote several books for children and appeared on television several times, including in a 1993 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. She holds several honorary doctorates and has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and the International Space Hall of Fame.
Robert Hooke (18 July 1635 – 3 March 1703) was an English polymath active as a scientist and architect, who, using a microscope, was the first to visualize a micro-organism. An impoverished scientific inquirer in young adulthood, he found wealth and esteem by performing over half of the architectural surveys after London's great fire of 1666. Hooke was also a member of the Royal Society and since 1662 was its curator of experiments. Hooke was also Professor of Geometry at Gresham College.
As an assistant to physical scientist Robert Boyle, Hooke built the vacuum pumps used in Boyle's experiments on gas law, and himself conducted experiments. In 1673, Hooke built the earliest Gregorian telescope, and then he observed the rotations of the planets Mars and Jupiter. Hooke's 1665 book Micrographia, in which he coined the term "cell", spurred microscopic investigations. Investigating in optics, specifically light refraction, he inferred a wave theory of light. And his is the first recorded hypothesis of heat expanding matter, air's composition by small particles at larger distances, and heat as energy.
In physics, he approximated experimental confirmation that gravity heeds an inverse square law, and first hypothesised such a relation in planetary motion, too, a principle furthered and formalised by Isaac Newton in Newton's law of universal gravitation. Priority over this insight contributed to the rivalry between Hooke and Newton, who thus antagonized Hooke's legacy. In geology and paleontology, Hooke originated the theory of a terraqueous globe, disputed the literally Biblical view of the Earth's age, hypothesised the extinction of species, and argued that fossils atop hills and mountains had become elevated by geological processes. Thus observing microscopic fossils, Hooke presaged the theory of biological evolution.Hooke's pioneering work in land surveying and in mapmaking aided development of the first modern plan-form map, although his grid-system plan for London was rejected in favour of rebuilding along existing routes. Even so, Hooke was key in devising for London a set of planning controls that remain influential. In recent times, he has been called "England's Leonardo".
Nikola Tesla (10 July [O.S. 28 June] 1856 – 7 January 1943) was a Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and futurist best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.
Born and raised in the Austrian Empire, Tesla studied engineering and physics in the 1870s without receiving a degree, gaining practical experience in the early 1880s working in telephony and at Continental Edison in the new electric power industry. In 1884 he emigrated to the United States, where he became a naturalized citizen. He worked for a short time at the Edison Machine Works in New York City before he struck out on his own. With the help of partners to finance and market his ideas, Tesla set up laboratories and companies in New York to develop a range of electrical and mechanical devices. His alternating current (AC) induction motor and related polyphase AC patents, licensed by Westinghouse Electric in 1888, earned him a considerable amount of money and became the cornerstone of the polyphase system which that company eventually marketed.
Attempting to develop inventions he could patent and market, Tesla conducted a range of experiments with mechanical oscillators/generators, electrical discharge tubes, and early X-ray imaging. He also built a wireless-controlled boat, one of the first-ever exhibited. Tesla became well known as an inventor and demonstrated his achievements to celebrities and wealthy patrons at his lab, and was noted for his showmanship at public lectures. Throughout the 1890s, Tesla pursued his ideas for wireless lighting and worldwide wireless electric power distribution in his high-voltage, high-frequency power experiments in New York and Colorado Springs. In 1893, he made pronouncements on the possibility of wireless communication with his devices. Tesla tried to put these ideas to practical use in his unfinished Wardenclyffe Tower project, an intercontinental wireless communication and power transmitter, but ran out of funding before he could complete it.
After Wardenclyffe, Tesla experimented with a series of inventions in the 1910s and 1920s with varying degrees of success. Having spent most of his money, Tesla lived in a series of New York hotels, leaving behind unpaid bills. He died in New York City in January 1943. Tesla's work fell into relative obscurity following his death, until 1960, when the General Conference on Weights and Measures named the SI unit of magnetic flux density the tesla in his honor. There has been a resurgence in popular interest in Tesla since the 1990s.
Isaac Asimov (January 2, 1920 – April 6, 1992) was a Russian-born American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. During his lifetime, Asimov was considered one of the "Big Three" science fiction writers, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. A prolific writer, he wrote or edited more than 500 books. He also wrote an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. Best known for his hard science fiction, Asimov also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as much nonfiction.
Asimov's most famous work is the Foundation series, the first three books of which won the one-time Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series" in 1966. His other major series are the Galactic Empire series and the Robot series. The Galactic Empire novels are set in the much earlier history of the same fictional universe as the Foundation series. Later, with Foundation and Earth (1986), he linked this distant future to the Robot stories, creating a unified "future history" for his stories. He also wrote over 380 short stories, including the social science fiction novelette "Nightfall", which in 1964 was voted the best short science fiction story of all time by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of juvenile science-fiction novels using the pen name Paul French.
Most of his popular science books explain concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage. Examples include Guide to Science, the three-volume Understanding Physics, and Asimov's Chronology of Science and Discovery. He wrote on numerous other scientific and non-scientific topics, such as chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, history, biblical exegesis, and literary criticism.
He was president of the American Humanist Association. Several entities have been named in his honor, including the asteroid (5020) Asimov, a crater on Mars, a Brooklyn elementary school, Honda's humanoid robot ASIMO, and four literary awards.
Margarita Salas Falgueras, 1st Marchioness of Canero (30 November 1938 – 7 November 2019) was a Spanish scientist, medical researcher, and author in the fields of biochemistry and molecular genetics.
She started developing molecular biology in Spain and also worked as an honorary associate professor of CSIC, at the Severo Ochoa Biology Center (UAM). In 2016 she became the first women ever to receive the Echegaray medal, that was given to her by the Royal Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences (Real Academia de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales).
Salas' discovery of the bacterial virus Φ29 DNA polymerase was recognized by the Spanish National Research Council as the highest-grossing patent in Spain. Her cumulative work, as described by The Local in 2019, "invented a faster, simpler and more reliable way to replicate trace amounts of DNA into quantities large enough for full genomic testing."
She was the first scientific woman ever elected to the Royal Spanish Academy. Shortly before her death, she was awarded the 2019 European Inventor Award. Salas was raised into the Spanish nobility by King Juan Carlos I in Summer 2008 with the hereditary title of Marquesa de Canero. Throughout her career in academia, she advised more than 40 doctoral students and published over 200 scientific articles. She was an outspoken advocate of women and feminism in science.
Ellen Ochoa (born May 10, 1958) is an American engineer, former astronaut and former director of the Johnson Space Center. In 1993, Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. Ochoa became director of the center upon the retirement of the previous director, Michael Coats, on December 31, 2012. She was the first Hispanic director and the second female director of Johnson Space Center.
Ochoa received a bachelor of science degree in physics from San Diego State University and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1980, before earning a master of science degree and a doctorate from Stanford Department of Electrical Engineering in 1981 and 1985, respectively.
Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1993. The purpose of the Shuttle mission was to study the Earth's ozone layer. A veteran of four space flights, Ochoa has logged nearly 1000 hours in space. She was a mission specialist on STS-56 (1993), was payload commander on STS-66, and was mission specialist and flight engineer on STS-96 and STS-110 in 2002. Ochoa was in Mission Control during the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster and was one of the first personnel informed of television coverage showing Columbia's disintegration.
From 2007, after retiring from spacecraft operations, Ochoa served as Deputy Director of NASA's Johnson Space Center, helping to manage and direct the Astronaut Office and Aircraft Operations. On January 1, 2013, Ochoa became the first Hispanic and second female director of the Johnson Space Center.
Sir Alexander Fleming (6 August 1881 – 11 March 1955) was a Scottish physician and microbiologist, best known for discovering the world's first broadly effective antibiotic substance, which he named penicillin. His discovery in 1928 of what was later named benzylpenicillin (or penicillin G) from the mould Penicillium rubens is described as the "single greatest victory ever achieved over disease." For this discovery, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945 with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain.
He also discovered the enzyme lysozyme from his nasal discharge in 1922, and along with it a bacterium he named Micrococcus Lysodeikticus, later renamed Micrococcus luteus.
Fleming was knighted for his scientific achievements in 1944. In 1999, he was named in Time magazine's list of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century. In 2002, he was chosen in the BBC's television poll for determining the 100 Greatest Britons, and in 2009, he was also voted third "greatest Scot" in an opinion poll conducted by STV, behind only Robert Burns and William Wallace.
Mary Anning (21 May 1799 – 9 March 1847) was an English fossil collector, dealer, and palaeontologist who became known around the world for the discoveries she made in Jurassic marine fossil beds in the cliffs along the English Channel at Lyme Regis in the county of Dorset in Southwest England. Anning's findings contributed to changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth.
Anning searched for fossils in the area's Blue Lias and Charmouth Mudstone cliffs, particularly during the winter months when landslides exposed new fossils that had to be collected quickly before they were lost to the sea. Her discoveries included the first correctly identified ichthyosaur skeleton when she was twelve years old; the first two nearly complete plesiosaur skeletons; the first pterosaur skeleton located outside Germany; and fish fossils. Her observations played a key role in the discovery that coprolites, known as bezoar stones at the time, were fossilised faeces, and she also discovered that belemnite fossils contained fossilised ink sacs like those of modern cephalopods.
Anning struggled financially for much of her life. As a woman, she was not eligible to join the Geological Society of London and she did not always receive full credit for her scientific contributions. However, her friend, geologist Henry De la Beche, who painted Duria Antiquior, the first widely circulated pictorial representation of a scene from prehistoric life derived from fossil reconstructions, based it largely on fossils Anning had found and sold prints of it for her benefit. Anning became well known in geological circles in Britain, Europe, and America, and was consulted on issues of anatomy as well as fossil collecting. The only scientific writing of hers published in her lifetime appeared in the Magazine of Natural History in 1839, an extract from a letter that Anning had written to the magazine's editor questioning one of its claims.
After her death in 1847, Anning's unusual life story attracted increasing interest. An anonymous article about Anning's life was published in February 1865 in Charles Dickens' literary magazine All the Year Round. The profile, "Mary Anning, The Fossil Finder," was long attributed to Dickens himself but, in 2014, historians of palaeontology Michael A. Taylor and Hugh S. Torrens identified Henry Stuart Fagan as the author, noting that Fagan's work was "neither original nor reliable" and "introduced errors into the Anning literature which are still problematic." Specifically, they noted that Fagan had largely and inaccurately plagiarized his article from an earlier account of Anning's life and work by Dorset native Henry Rowland Brown, from the second edition of Brown's 1859 guidebook, The Beauties of Lyme Regis.
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (née Byron; 10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852) was an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage's proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. She was the first to recognise that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation, and to have published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine. As a result, she is often regarded as the first computer programmer.
Ada Byron was the only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron and mathematician Lady Byron. All of Byron's other children were born out of wedlock to other women. Byron separated from his wife a month after Ada was born and left England forever. Four months later, he commemorated the parting in a poem that begins, "Is thy face like thy mother's my fair child! ADA! sole daughter of my house and heart?". He died in Greece when Ada was eight. Her mother remained bitter and promoted Ada's interest in mathematics and logic in an effort to prevent her from developing her father's perceived insanity. Despite this, Ada remained interested in him, naming her two sons Byron and Gordon. Upon her death, she was buried next to him at her request. Although often ill in her childhood, Ada pursued her studies assiduously. She married William King in 1835. King was made Earl of Lovelace in 1838, Ada thereby becoming Countess of Lovelace.
Her educational and social exploits brought her into contact with scientists such as Andrew Crosse, Charles Babbage, Sir David Brewster, Charles Wheatstone, Michael Faraday, and the author Charles Dickens, contacts which she used to further her education. Ada described her approach as "poetical science" and herself as an "Analyst (& Metaphysician)".
When she was a teenager (18), her mathematical talents led her to a long working relationship and friendship with fellow British mathematician Charles Babbage, who is known as "the father of computers". She was in particular interested in Babbage's work on the Analytical Engine. Lovelace first met him in June 1833, through their mutual friend, and her private tutor, Mary Somerville.
Between 1842 and 1843, Ada translated an article by Italian military engineer Luigi Menabrea about the Analytical Engine, supplementing it with an elaborate set of notes, simply called "Notes". Lovelace's notes are important in the early history of computers, containing what many consider to be the first computer program—that is, an algorithm designed to be carried out by a machine. Other historians reject this perspective and point out that Babbage's personal notes from the years 1836/1837 contain the first programs for the engine. She also developed a vision of the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching, while many others, including Babbage himself, focused only on those capabilities. Her mindset of "poetical science" led her to ask questions about the Analytical Engine (as shown in her notes) examining how individuals and society relate to technology as a collaborative tool.
Alfred Bernhard Nobel (21 October 1833 – 10 December 1896) was a Swedish chemist, engineer, inventor, businessman, and philanthropist. He is best known for having bequeathed his fortune to establish the Nobel Prize, though he also made several important contributions to science, holding 355 patents in his lifetime. Nobel's most famous invention was dynamite, a safer and easier means of harnessing the explosive power of nitroglycerin; it was patented in 1867 and was soon used worldwide for mining and infrastructure development.
Nobel displayed an early aptitude for science and learning, particularly in chemistry and languages; he became fluent in six languages and filed his first patent at age 24. He embarked on many business ventures with his family, most notably owning Bofors, an iron and steel producer that he developed into a major manufacturer of cannons and other armaments.
After reading an erroneous obituary condemning him as a war profiteer, Nobel was inspired to bequeath his fortune to the Nobel Prize institution, which would annually recognize those who "conferred the greatest benefit to humankind". The synthetic element nobelium was named after him, and his name and legacy also survives in companies such as Dynamit Nobel and AkzoNobel, which descend from mergers with companies he founded.
Nobel was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which, pursuant to his will, would be responsible for choosing the Nobel laureates in physics and in chemistry.
Barbara McClintock (June 16, 1902 – September 2, 1992) was an American scientist and cytogeneticist who was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. McClintock received her PhD in botany from Cornell University in 1927. There she started her career as the leader of the development of maize cytogenetics, the focus of her research for the rest of her life. From the late 1920s, McClintock studied chromosomes and how they change during reproduction in maize. She developed the technique for visualizing maize chromosomes and used microscopic analysis to demonstrate many fundamental genetic ideas. One of those ideas was the notion of genetic recombination by crossing-over during meiosis—a mechanism by which chromosomes exchange information. She produced the first genetic map for maize, linking regions of the chromosome to physical traits. She demonstrated the role of the telomere and centromere, regions of the chromosome that are important in the conservation of genetic information. She was recognized as among the best in the field, awarded prestigious fellowships, and elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1944.
During the 1940s and 1950s, McClintock discovered transposition and used it to demonstrate that genes are responsible for turning physical characteristics on and off. She developed theories to explain the suppression and expression of genetic information from one generation of maize plants to the next. Due to skepticism of her research and its implications, she stopped publishing her data in 1953.
Later, she made an extensive study of the cytogenetics and ethnobotany of maize races from South America. McClintock's research became well understood in the 1960s and 1970s, as other scientists confirmed the mechanisms of genetic change and protein expression that she had demonstrated in her maize research in the 1940s and 1950s. Awards and recognition for her contributions to the field followed, including the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, awarded to her in 1983 for the discovery of genetic transposition; as of 2022, she remains the only woman who has received an unshared Nobel Prize in that category.
Arquímedes of Syracuse (c. 287 – c. 212 BC) was a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, astronomer, and inventor from the ancient city of Syracuse in Sicily. Although few details of his life are known, he is regarded as one of the leading scientists in classical antiquity. Considered to be the greatest mathematician of ancient history, and one of the greatest of all time, Archimedes anticipated modern calculus and analysis by applying the concept of the infinitely small and the method of exhaustion to derive and rigorously prove a range of geometrical theorems, including: the area of a circle; the surface area and volume of a sphere; area of an ellipse; the area under a parabola; the volume of a segment of a paraboloid of revolution; the volume of a segment of a hyperboloid of revolution; and the area of a spiral.
Archimedes' other mathematical achievements include deriving an approximation of pi; defining and investigating the spiral that now bears his name; and devising a system using exponentiation for expressing very large numbers. He was also one of the first to apply mathematics to physical phenomena, founding hydrostatics and statics. Archimedes' achievements in this area include a proof of the principle of the lever, the widespread use of the concept of center of gravity, and the enunciation of the law of buoyancy. He is also credited with designing innovative machines, such as his screw pump, compound pulleys, and defensive war machines to protect his native Syracuse from invasion.
Archimedes died during the siege of Syracuse, when he was killed by a Roman soldier despite orders that he should not be harmed. Cicero describes visiting Archimedes' tomb, which was surmounted by a sphere and a cylinder, which Archimedes had requested be placed on his tomb to represent his mathematical discoveries.
Unlike his inventions, Archimedes' mathematical writings were little known in antiquity. Mathematicians from Alexandria read and quoted him, but the first comprehensive compilation was not made until c. 530 AD by Isidore of Miletus in Byzantine Constantinople, while commentaries on the works of Archimedes by Eutocius in the 6th century opened them to wider readership for the first time. The relatively few copies of Archimedes' written work that survived through the Middle Ages were an influential source of ideas for scientists during the Renaissance and again in the 17th century, while the discovery in 1906 of previously lost works by Archimedes in the Archimedes Palimpsest has provided new insights into how he obtained mathematical results
Carl Linneo (23 May 1707 – 10 January 1778), also known after his ennoblement in 1761 as Carl von Linné was a Swedish botanist, zoologist, taxonomist, and physician who formalised binomial nomenclature, the modern system of naming organisms. He is known as the "father of modern taxonomy". Many of his writings were in Latin; his name is rendered in Latin as Carolus Linnæus and, after his 1761 ennoblement, as Carolus a Linné.
Linnaeus was born in Råshult, the countryside of Småland, in southern Sweden. He received most of his higher education at Uppsala University and began giving lectures in botany there in 1730. He lived abroad between 1735 and 1738, where he studied and also published the first edition of his Systema Naturae in the Netherlands. He then returned to Sweden where he became professor of medicine and botany at Uppsala. In the 1740s, he was sent on several journeys through Sweden to find and classify plants and animals. In the 1750s and 1760s, he continued to collect and classify animals, plants, and minerals, while publishing several volumes. He was one of the most acclaimed scientists in Europe at the time of his death.
Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau sent him the message: "Tell him I know no greater man on earth." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote: "With the exception of Shakespeare and Spinoza, I know no one among the no longer living who has influenced me more strongly." Swedish author August Strindberg wrote: "Linnaeus was in reality a poet who happened to become a naturalist." Linnaeus has been called Princeps botanicorum (Prince of Botanists) and "The Pliny of the North". He is also considered one of the founders of modern ecology.
In botany and zoology, the abbreviation L. is used to indicate Linnaeus as the authority for a species' name. In older publications, the abbreviation "Linn." is found. Linnaeus's remains constitute the type specimen for the species Homo sapiens following the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, since the sole specimen that he is known to have examined was himself.
Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (Cormeilles-en-Parisis, November 18, 1787 - Bry-sur-Marne, July 10, 1851), was the first popularizer of photography, after inventing the daguerreotype, and also worked as a painter and theatrical decorator.
Educated in the bosom of a wealthy family, from his youth he showed a great inclination for the study of letters and arts. Daguerre received a very elementary education, which he completed at the age of fourteen. At this age he had to start earning a living. Of natural intelligence and with an extraordinary facility for drawing, Daguerre was employed as an apprentice architect. There he learned to draw plans and to do perspective drawing. These teachings were of great value for his second occupation, as he began to work as an apprentice to the famous and famous - at that time - stage designer for theater and opera Degoti. He remained in this job for three years before leaving it to become an assistant to the most prominent set designer in Paris at the time, Prevost. In this occupation Daguerre began to be known for his work, becoming one of the most important men of the theater.
Ruins of Holyrood Chapel (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1824, 214 x 260 cm), is a sample of Daguerre's remarkable activity as a painter, overshadowed by his later fame as one of the pioneers of photography. In this case, the brilliant texture, the unshaded colors and hard outlines show how it was still possible to use such traditional techniques (as opposed to the impetuousness of brushstroke and vividness of color of the contemporary Delacroix), yet to express one of the most romantic of subjects.
Daguerre was a second-rate painter in the Paris of the first half of the 19th century. Nevertheless, he achieved one of his most spectacular creations with the diorama "Midnight Mass at Saint-Etienne-du Mont", for the realism of its perspective.
Louis Daguerre will go down in history for inventing the diorama, an installation that gives a sense of depth to images. This invention aroused the attention of the Parisian public in a show that consisted of creating the illusion that the viewer was in another place through huge images that could move and that were combined with a set of lights and sounds, etc., to make it seem that the viewer was in situations such as a battle, a storm, etc.. For all this to be credible, the paintings had to be very realistic and for this reason, Daguerre was interested in applying the principle of the camera obscura to the Diorama.
His installations reached the Paris Opera and his success was such that he was decorated with the Legion of Honor (France).
Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck ( 23 April 1858 – 4 October 1947) was a German theoretical physicist whose discovery of energy quanta won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.
Planck made many substantial contributions to theoretical physics, but his fame as a physicist rests primarily on his role as the originator of quantum theory, which revolutionized human understanding of atomic and subatomic processes. In 1948, the German scientific institution Kaiser Wilhelm Society (of which Planck was twice president) was renamed Max Planck Society (MPG). The MPG now includes 83 institutions representing a wide range of scientific directions.
In 1905, the three epochal papers by Albert Einstein were published in the journal Annalen der Physik. Planck was among the few who immediately recognized the significance of the special theory of relativity. Thanks to his influence, this theory was soon widely accepted in Germany. Planck also contributed considerably to extend the special theory of relativity. For example, he recast the theory in terms of classical action.
Mary Somerville (26 December 1780 – 29 November 1872) was a Scottish scientist, writer, and polymath. She studied mathematics and astronomy, and in 1835 she and Caroline Herschel were elected as the first female Honorary Members of the Royal Astronomical Society.
When John Stuart Mill organized a massive petition to Parliament to give women the right to vote, he made sure that the first signature on the petition would be Somerville's.
In 1834 she became the first person to be described in print as a 'scientist'. When she died in 1872, The Morning Post declared in her obituary that "Whatever difficulty we might experience in the middle of the nineteenth century in choosing a king of science, there could be no question whatever as to the queen of science".
Somerville College, a college of the University of Oxford, is named after her, reflecting the virtues of liberalism and academic success which the college wished to embody. She is featured on the front of the Royal Bank of Scotland polymer £10 note launched in 2017 along with a quotation from her work On the Connection of the Physical Sciences.
Lady Byron and her daughter Ada Lovelace were frequently present in her family circle, and Mary Somerville was a stimulus for the study of mathematics, acting for a time as tutor and mentor.
Mary published mathematical works, which influenced the works of James Clerk Maxwell, as well as in 1848, her "Physical Geography," a treatise that remained current well into the twentieth century.
She was one of the women of her time who most passionately devoted herself to the study of mathematics and knowledge of scientific advances at a time when women had little access to science and were educated to be wives and mothers first and foremost. She popularized astronomy and wrote many essays. Her rigorous and didactic style brought her great success. Somerville was elected to the Royal Astronomical Society in 1835 (at the same time as Caroline Herschel). An honorary member of the Société de Physique et d'Histoire Naturelle de Genève in 1834, he became a member of the Royal Academy of Ireland in the same year. She also became a member of the American Geographical and Statistical Society in 1857 and of the Italian Geographical Society in 1870. In 1869 she was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society (known as the "Victoria Medal"). She was also elected to the American Philosophical Society.
Ida Noddack (25 February 1896 – 24 September 1978), née Tacke, was a German chemist and physicist. In 1934 she was the first to mention the idea later named nuclear fission. With her husband - Walter Noddack - and Otto Berg she discovered element 75, rhenium. She was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Noddack correctly criticized Enrico Fermi's chemical proofs in his 1934 neutron bombardment experiments, from which he postulated that transuranic elements might have been produced. This theory was widely accepted for a few years. However, Noddack's paper "On Element 93" suggested a number of possibilities, but centered on Fermi's failure to chemically eliminate all lighter than uranium elements in his proofs, rather than only down to lead. The paper is considered historically significant today not simply because she correctly pointed out the flaw in Fermi's chemical proof but because she suggested the possibility that "it is conceivable that the nucleus breaks up into several large fragments, which would of course be isotopes of known elements but would not be neighbors of the irradiated element." In doing so she presaged what would become known a few years later as nuclear fission. However, Noddack's theory did not exhibit experimental proof or a theoretical basis for this possibility. Therefore, the paper was generally ignored and mocked by others, despite the fact that she was correct. Several German scientists, like Otto Hahn, saw Noddack's work as "ridiculous." A woman's position in the workplace had been dwindling for years due to the 1929 Wall Street crash. In 1932, a German law, replicating others in Europe, was put into place that obligated married women to leave their jobs and become housewives so that there would be more positions available for men. Noddack was able to escape this law due to her status as an "unpaid collaborator." This may have caused her to be looked down upon by men in the field as she was only able to work due to this loophole.
Andreas Vesalio (December 31, 1514 - October 15, 1564) was a 16th century anatomist and physician, author of one of the most influential books on human anatomy, De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem (On the Structure of the Human Body in Seven Books). Vesalius is often referred to as the founder of modern human anatomy. He was born in Brussels, which was then part of the Habsburg Netherlands. He was a professor at the University of Padua (1537-1542) and later became an imperial physician at the court of Emperor Charles V.
In December 1537, one day after his graduation, he performed in Padua his first public dissection of a cadaver, explaining both the composition of the organs and the technique used. The Venetian Senate, impressed, immediately awarded him the Chair of Anatomy and Surgery at the University of Padua.
He based his anatomical studies on direct observation, thus being able to reject dozens of anatomical errors present in the work of Galen (who basically dissected monkeys, although not always). In that sense he was the founder of modern anatomy. In particular, he is considered the great introducer of a positive anthropology in medicine.
In 1543, Vesalius published in Basel his seven-volume work De humani corporis fabrica (On the structure of the human body), a groundbreaking work on human anatomy, which he dedicated to Charles V.
Shortly after publication, he was offered the post of imperial physician at the court of Charles V.
At the end of his life, in 1564, he decided to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He embarked with the Venetian fleet of the condottiero Giacomo Malatesta (1530-1600), via Cyprus. When he arrived in Jerusalem he received a message from the senate of Venice urging him to accept his former position at the university of Padua, which had become vacant upon the death of his friend and pupil Falopio. After struggling for several days with adverse winds in the Ionian Sea, his ship had to dock on the island of Zante. He died there shortly after, when he was barely fifty years old.
Edwin Powell Hubble (November 20, 1889 – September 28, 1953) was an American astronomer. He played a crucial role in establishing the fields of extragalactic astronomy and observational cosmology.
Hubble proved that many objects previously thought to be clouds of dust and gas and classified as "nebulae" were actually galaxies beyond the Milky Way. He used the strong direct relationship between a classical Cepheid variable's luminosity and pulsation period (discovered in 1908 by Henrietta Swan Leavitt) for scaling galactic and extragalactic distances.
Hubble provided evidence that the recessional velocity of a galaxy increases with its distance from the Earth, a property now known as "Hubble's law", although it had been proposed two years earlier by Georges Lemaître. The Hubble law implies that the universe is expanding. A decade before, the American astronomer Vesto Slipher had provided the first evidence that the light from many of these nebulae was strongly red-shifted, indicative of high recession velocities.
Hubble's name is most widely recognized for the Hubble Space Telescope, which was named in his honor, with a model prominently displayed in his hometown of Marshfield, Missouri.
Philip K. Dick (December 16, 1928 – March 2, 1982) was an American science fiction writer. He wrote 44 novels and about 121 short stories, most of which appeared in science fiction magazines during his lifetime. His fiction explored varied philosophical and social questions such as the nature of reality, perception, human nature, and identity, and commonly featured characters struggling against elements such as alternate realities, illusory environments, monopolistic corporations, drug abuse, authoritarian governments, and altered states of consciousness.
Born in Chicago, Dick moved to the San Francisco Bay Area with his family at a young age. He began publishing science fiction stories in 1952, at age 23. He found little commercial success until his alternative history novel The Man in the High Castle (1962) earned him acclaim, including a Hugo Award for Best Novel, when he was 33. He followed with science fiction novels such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) and Ubik (1969). His 1974 novel Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.
Following years of drug abuse and a series of mystical experiences in 1974, Dick's work engaged more explicitly with issues of theology, metaphysics, and the nature of reality, as in novels A Scanner Darkly (1977), VALIS (1981), and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982). A collection of his speculative nonfiction writing on these themes was published posthumously as The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick (2011). He died in 1982 in Santa Ana, California, at the age of 53, due to complications from a stroke. Following his death, he became "widely regarded as a master of imaginative, paranoid fiction in the vein of Franz Kafka and Thomas Pynchon".
Dick's posthumous influence has been widespread, extending beyond literary circles into Hollywood filmmaking. Popular films based on his works include Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (adapted twice: in 1990 and in 2012), Minority Report (2002), A Scanner Darkly (2006), The Adjustment Bureau (2011), and Radio Free Albemuth (2010). Beginning in 2015, Amazon Prime Video produced the multi-season television adaptation The Man in the High Castle, based on Dick's 1962 novel; and in 2017 Channel 4 began producing the ongoing anthology series Electric Dreams, based on various Dick stories.
In 2005, Time magazine named Ubik (1969) one of the hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923. In 2007, Dick became the first science fiction writer included in The Library of America series.
Johann Heinrich Lambert (26 or 28 August 1728 – 25 September 1777) was a Swiss-French polymath who made important contributions to the subjects of mathematics, physics (particularly optics), philosophy, astronomy and map projections.
Lambert was born in 1728 into a Huguenot family in the city of Mulhouse (now in Alsace, France), at that time an exclave of Switzerland. Some sources give 26 August as his birth date and others 28 August. Leaving school at 12, he continued to study in his free time while undertaking a series of jobs. These included assistant to his father (a tailor), a clerk at a nearby iron works, a private tutor, secretary to the editor of Basler Zeitung and, at the age of 20, private tutor to the sons of Count Salis in Chur. Travelling Europe with his charges (1756–1758) allowed him to meet established mathematicians in the German states, The Netherlands, France and the Italian states. On his return to Chur he published his first books (on optics and cosmology) and began to seek an academic post. After a few short posts he was rewarded (1763) by an invitation to a position at the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin, where he gained the sponsorship of Frederick II of Prussia, and became a friend of Euler. In this stimulating and financially stable environment, he worked prodigiously until his death in 1777.
Hedy Lamarr (January 19, 2000) was an Austrian-born American film actress and inventor. A film star during Hollywood's golden age, Lamarr has been described as one of the great movie actresses of all time.
After a brief early film career in Czechoslovakia, including the controversial Ecstasy (1933), she fled from her husband, a wealthy Austrian ammunition manufacturer, and secretly moved to Paris. Traveling to London, she met Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio head Louis B. Mayer, who offered her a movie contract in Hollywood. She became a film star with her performance in Algiers (1938). Her MGM films include Lady of the Tropics (1939), Boom Town (1940), H.M. Pulham, Esq. (1941), and White Cargo (1942). Her greatest success was as Delilah in Cecil B. DeMille's Bible-inspired Samson and Delilah (1949). She also acted on television before the release of her final film, The Female Animal (1958). She was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.
At the beginning of World War II, she and avant-garde composer George Antheil developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes that used spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers. Although the U.S. Navy did not adopt the technology until the 1960s, the principles of their work are incorporated into Bluetooth and GPS technology and are similar to methods used in legacy versions of CDMA and Wi-Fi. This work led to their induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
Srinivasa Ramanujan FRS (22 December 1887 – 26 April 1920) was an Indian mathematician who lived during British Rule in India. Though he had almost no formal training in pure mathematics, he made substantial contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions, including solutions to mathematical problems then considered unsolvable. Ramanujan initially developed his own mathematical research in isolation: according to Hans Eysenck: "He tried to interest the leading professional mathematicians in his work, but failed for the most part. What he had to show them was too novel, too unfamiliar, and additionally presented in unusual ways; they could not be bothered". Seeking mathematicians who could better understand his work, in 1913 he began a postal correspondence with the English mathematician G. H. Hardy at the University of Cambridge, England. Recognising Ramanujan's work as extraordinary, Hardy arranged for him to travel to Cambridge. In his notes, Hardy commented that Ramanujan had produced groundbreaking new theorems, including some that "defeated me completely; I had never seen anything in the least like them before", and some recently proven but highly advanced results.
During his short life, Ramanujan independently compiled nearly 3,900 results (mostly identities and equations). Many were completely novel; his original and highly unconventional results, such as the Ramanujan prime, the Ramanujan theta function, partition formulae and mock theta functions, have opened entire new areas of work and inspired a vast amount of further research. Of his thousands of results, all but a dozen or two have now been proven correct. The Ramanujan Journal, a scientific journal, was established to publish work in all areas of mathematics influenced by Ramanujan, and his notebooks—containing summaries of his published and unpublished results—have been analysed and studied for decades since his death as a source of new mathematical ideas. As late as 2012, researchers continued to discover that mere comments in his writings about "simple properties" and "similar outputs" for certain findings were themselves profound and subtle number theory results that remained unsuspected until nearly a century after his death. He became one of the youngest Fellows of the Royal Society and only the second Indian member, and the first Indian to be elected a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Of his original letters, Hardy stated that a single look was enough to show they could have been written only by a mathematician of the highest calibre, comparing Ramanujan to mathematical geniuses such as Euler and Jacobi.
In 1919, ill health—now believed to have been hepatic amoebiasis (a complication from episodes of dysentery many years previously)—compelled Ramanujan's return to India, where he died in 1920 at the age of 32. His last letters to Hardy, written in January 1920, show that he was still continuing to produce new mathematical ideas and theorems. His "lost notebook", containing discoveries from the last year of his life, caused great excitement among mathematicians when it was rediscovered in 1976.
A deeply religious Hindu, Ramanujan credited his substantial mathematical capacities to divinity, and said the mathematical knowledge he displayed was revealed to him by his family goddess Namagiri Thayar. He once said, "An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God."
Hypatia (born c. 350–370; died 415 AD) was a neoplatonist philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, then part of the Eastern Roman Empire. She was a prominent thinker in Alexandria where she taught philosophy and astronomy. Although preceded by Pandrosion, another Alexandrine female mathematician, she is the first female mathematician whose life is reasonably well recorded. Hypatia was renowned in her own lifetime as a great teacher and a wise counselor. She wrote a commentary on Diophantus's thirteen-volume Arithmetica, which may survive in part, having been interpolated into Diophantus's original text, and another commentary on Apollonius of Perga's treatise on conic sections, which has not survived. Many modern scholars also believe that Hypatia may have edited the surviving text of Ptolemy's Almagest, based on the title of her father Theon's commentary on Book III of the Almagest.
Hypatia constructed astrolabes and hydrometers, but did not invent either of these, which were both in use long before she was born. She was tolerant towards Christians and taught many Christian students, including Synesius, the future bishop of Ptolemais. Ancient sources record that Hypatia was widely beloved by pagans and Christians alike and that she established great influence with the political elite in Alexandria. Towards the end of her life, Hypatia advised Orestes, the Roman prefect of Alexandria, who was in the midst of a political feud with Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria. Rumors spread accusing her of preventing Orestes from reconciling with Cyril and, in March 415 AD, she was murdered by a mob of Christians led by a lector named Peter.
Hypatia's murder shocked the empire and transformed her into a "martyr for philosophy", leading future Neoplatonists such as Damascius to become increasingly fervent in their opposition to Christianity. During the Middle Ages, Hypatia was co-opted as a symbol of Christian virtue and scholars believe she was part of the basis for the legend of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. During the Age of Enlightenment, she became a symbol of opposition to Catholicism. In the nineteenth century, European literature, especially Charles Kingsley's 1853 novel Hypatia, romanticized her as "the last of the Hellenes". In the twentieth century, Hypatia became seen as an icon for women's rights and a precursor to the feminist movement. Since the late twentieth century, some portrayals have associated Hypatia's death with the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, despite the historical fact that the library no longer existed during Hypatia's lifetime.
Edward Jenner, (17 May 1749 – 26 January 1823) was a British physician and scientist who pioneered the concept of vaccines including creating the smallpox vaccine, the world's first vaccine. The terms vaccine and vaccination are derived from Variolae vaccinae ('smallpox of the cow'), the term devised by Jenner to denote cowpox. He used it in 1798 in the long title of his Inquiry into the Variolae vaccinae known as the Cow Pox, in which he described the protective effect of cowpox against smallpox.
In the West, Jenner is often called "the father of immunology", and his work is said to have "saved more lives than the work of any other human". In Jenner's time, smallpox killed around 10% of the population, with the number as high as 20% in towns and cities where infection spread more easily. In 1821, he was appointed physician to King George IV, and was also made mayor of Berkeley and justice of the peace. A member of the Royal Society, in the field of zoology he was among the first modern scholars to describe the brood parasitism of the cuckoo (Aristotle also noted this behaviour in his History of Animals). In 2002, Jenner was named in the BBC's list of the 100 Greatest Britons.
He earned his MD from the University of St Andrews in 1792. He is credited with advancing the understanding of angina pectoris.
The steps taken by Edward Jenner to create vaccination, the first vaccine for smallpox. Jenner did this by inoculating James Phipps with cowpox, a virus similar to smallpox, to create immunity, unlike variolation, which used smallpox to create an immunity to itself.
By 1768, English physician John Fewster had realised that prior infection with cowpox rendered a person immune to smallpox. In the years following 1770, at least five investigators in England and Germany (Sevel, Jensen, Jesty 1774, Rendell, Plett 1791) successfully tested in humans a cowpox vaccine against smallpox. For example, Dorset farmer Benjamin Jesty successfully vaccinated and presumably induced immunity with cowpox in his wife and two children during a smallpox epidemic in 1774, but it was not until Jenner's work that the procedure became widely understood. Jenner may have been aware of Jesty's procedures and success. A similar observation was later made in France by Jacques Antoine Rabaut-Pommier in 1780.
Noting the common observation that milkmaids were generally immune to smallpox, Jenner postulated that the pus in the blisters that milkmaids received from cowpox (a disease similar to smallpox, but much less virulent) protected them from smallpox.
Claudius Ptolomeo (c. 100 – c. 170 AD) was a mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, geographer, and music theorist, who wrote about a dozen scientific treatises, three of which were of importance to later Byzantine, Islamic, and Western European science. The first is the astronomical treatise now known as the Almagest, although it was originally entitled the Mathēmatikē Syntaxis or Mathematical Treatise, and later known as The Greatest Treatise. The second is the Geography, which is a thorough discussion on maps and the geographic knowledge of the Greco-Roman world. The third is the astrological treatise in which he attempted to adapt horoscopic astrology to the Aristotelian natural philosophy of his day. This is sometimes known as the Apotelesmatika (lit. "On the Effects") but more commonly known as the Tetrábiblos, from the Koine Greek meaning "Four Books", or by its Latin equivalent Quadripartite.
Unlike most ancient Greek mathematicians, Ptolemy's writings (foremost the Almagest) never ceased to be copied or commented upon, both in Late Antiquity and in the Middle Ages. However, it is likely that only a few truly mastered the mathematics necessary to understand his works, as evidenced particularly by the many abridged and watered-down introductions to Ptolemy's astronomy that were popular among the Arabs and Byzantines alike.
Francesco Redi (18 February 1626 – 1 March 1697) was an Italian physician, naturalist, biologist and poet. He is referred to as the "founder of experimental biology", and as the "father of modern parasitology". He was the first person to challenge the theory of spontaneous generation by demonstrating that maggots come from eggs of flies.
Having a doctoral degree in both medicine and philosophy from the University of Pisa at the age of 21, he worked in various cities of Italy. A rationalist of his time, he was a critic of verifiable myths, such as spontaneous generation. His most famous experiments are described in his magnum opus Esperienze intorno alla generazione degl'insetti (Experiments on the Generation of Insects), published in 1668. He disproved that vipers drink wine and could break glasses, and that their venom was poisonous when ingested. He correctly observed that snake venoms were produced from the fangs, not the gallbladder, as was believed. He was also the first to recognize and correctly describe details of about 180 parasites, including Fasciola hepatica and Ascaris lumbricoides. He also distinguished earthworms from helminths (like tapeworms, flukes, and roundworms). He possibly originated the use of the control, the basis of experimental design in modern biology. A collection of his poems first published in 1685 Bacco in Toscana ("Bacchus in Tuscany") is considered among the finest works of 17th-century Italian poetry, and for which the Grand Duke Cosimo III gave him a medal of honor.
Hendrik Antoon Lorentz (18 July 1853 – 4 February 1928) was a Dutch physicist who shared the 1902 Nobel Prize in Physics with Pieter Zeeman for the discovery and theoretical explanation of the Zeeman effect. He also derived the Lorentz transformation underpinning Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity, as well as the Lorentz force, which describes the combined electric and magnetic forces acting on a charged particle in an electromagnetic field.
According to the biography published by the Nobel Foundation, "It may well be said that Lorentz was regarded by all theoretical physicists as the world's leading spirit, who completed what was left unfinished by his predecessors and prepared the ground for the fruitful reception of the new ideas based on the quantum theory." He received many other honours and distinctions, including a term as chairman of the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation, the forerunner of UNESCO, between 1925 and 1928.
Lorentz was one of few scientists who supported Einstein's search for general relativity from the beginning – he wrote several research papers and discussed with Einstein personally and by letter. For instance, he attempted to combine Einstein's formalism with Hamilton's principle (1915), and to reformulate it in a coordinate-free way (1916). Lorentz wrote in 1919:
The total eclipse of the sun of May 29, resulted in a striking confirmation of the new theory of the universal attractive power of gravitation developed by Albert Einstein, and thus reinforced the conviction that the defining of this theory is one of the most important steps ever taken in the domain of natural science.
Joseph Wilson Swan (Sunderland; October 31, 1828-Surrey; May 27, 1914) was an English physicist and chemist, famous for the invention of the incandescent lamp.
In 1850 he began work on a light bulb using tungsten filament from an evacuated glass bulb. By 1860 he was able to demonstrate a functional device, and obtained the British patent covering a partially vacuum, carbon-filament incandescent lamp. However, the lack of a good vacuum and a suitable electrical source resulted in an inefficient lamp with a short life span.
Fifteen years later, in 1875, Swan revisited the bulb problem with a better vacuum and a carbonized wire as the filament. The most significant feature of Swan's improved lamp was the small residual oxygen in the vacuum tube to ignite the filament, which allowed the filament to glow brightly to almost white without fire. However, his filament had low resistance, so he needed thick copper wires to power it.
Swan received the British patent for his device in 1878, about a year before Thomas Edison. Swan presented the success to the Newcastle Chemical Society, and at a conference in Newcastle in February 1879 he demonstrated a working lamp. At the beginning of that year he began installing light bulbs in homes and signs in England. In 1881 he formed his own company, The Swan Electric Light Company, and began commercial production.
In the United States Edison was working on copies of Swan's original patent, trying to make them more efficient. Although Swan beat him to that goal, Edison obtained patents in the United States for a fairly direct copy of Swan's lamp, and began a publicity campaign in which he claimed to be the true inventor. Swan, who was less interested in making money than in the invention, agreed that Edison could sell the lamps in the United States, while he retained the rights in the United Kingdom.
In 1883 the Edison & Swan United Electric Light Company was established. Commonly known as "Ediswan" the company sold lamps made with cellulose filaments that Swan had invented in 1881. Variations of the cellulose filament became an industry standard, except with the Edison Company. Edison continued to use bamboo filaments until the merger in 1892 that created General Electric, and the company switched to cellulose.
Working with wet photographic plates, Swan noticed that heat increased the sensitivity of the silver bromide emulsion. In 1864 he patented a carbon printing process. By 1871 he had devised a method of drying wet plates. Eight years later, in 1879, he patented bromide paper.
In 1882, while searching for a better carbon filament for his light bulb, Swan patented a process for squeezing nitrocellulose through holes to form fibers. The textile industry has used this process.
Swan was knighted in 1904. That same year he was awarded the Hughes Medal by the Royal Society for his invention of the incandescent lamp, and his other inventions and improvements in the practical applications of electricity.
Hippocrates of Kos (c. 460 – c. 370 BC), also known as Hippocrates II, was a Greek physician of the classical period who is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. He is traditionally referred to as the "Father of Medicine" in recognition of his lasting contributions to the field, such as the use of prognosis and clinical observation, the systematic categorization of diseases, or the formulation of humoural theory. The Hippocratic school of medicine revolutionized ancient Greek medicine, establishing it as a discipline distinct from other fields with which it had traditionally been associated (theurgy and philosophy), thus establishing medicine as a profession.
However, the achievements of the writers of the Hippocratic Corpus, the practitioners of Hippocratic medicine, and the actions of Hippocrates himself were often conflated; thus very little is known about what Hippocrates actually thought, wrote, and did. Hippocrates is commonly portrayed as the paragon of the ancient physician and credited with coining the Hippocratic Oath, which is still relevant and in use today. He is also credited with greatly advancing the systematic study of clinical medicine, summing up the medical knowledge of previous schools, and prescribing practices for physicians through the Hippocratic Corpus and other works.
John Dalton (Eaglesfield, Cumberland (United Kingdom), September 6, 1766-Manchester, July 27, 1844) was a British naturalist, chemist, mathematician and meteorologist. His works include the atomic model and his table of relative weights of the elements, which helped lay the foundations of modern chemistry.
He is also known for having described color blindness, a visual defect related to the perception of colors that he suffered from and that bears his name.
Dalton was elected a member of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, informally known as "Lit & Phil", before which a few weeks later he presented his first paper, Extraordinary Facts Relating to Color Vision, in which he postulated that deficiencies in color perception are due to anomalies of the vitreous humor. It was the first time that he not only described the fact of the lack of color perception in some people, but also gave a causal explanation for the phenomenon. Although his theory was discredited while he himself was alive, the thorough and methodical research he conducted on his own visual problem made such an impression that his name became the common term for color blindness, color blindness.
Dalton left instructions that his eyes be preserved, which has allowed DNA analysis published in 1995 to show that he actually suffered from a less common type of color blindness, deuteranopia, in which cones sensitive to medium wavelengths are missing, rather than functioning with a mutated form of their pigment, as in the more common type of color blindness.4 In addition to the blue and purple of the spectrum, Dalton was able to recognize only one color, yellow.
This blindness to certain colors sometimes hindered his scientific work, especially in the laboratory, where he confused reagent bottles. However, this did not prevent him from firmly defending ideas in his writings.
Another sign of this blindness that accompanied him throughout his life occurred in 1832, when he went to meet King William IV and wore a scarlet (red) academic dress, an unusual color for a man of his discretion. The reason: Dalton saw it as dark gray, so he did not mind the surprise he caused among his acquaintances that day. Color blindness was first described by John Dalton himself in 1808. Like his brother, he suffered from this genetic alteration that in simple terms prevented him from perceiving colors such as red and green.
Constance Elaine Trimmer Willis (born December 31, 1945), commonly known as Connie Willis, is an American science fiction and fantasy writer. She has won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards for particular works—more major SF awards than any other writer—most recently the "Best Novel" Hugo and Nebula Awards for Blackout/All Clear (2010). She was inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Science Fiction Writers of America named her its 28th SFWA Grand Master in 2011.
Several of her works feature time travel by history students at the future University of Oxford—sometimes called the Time Travel series. They are the short story "Fire Watch" (1982, also in several anthologies and the 1985 collection of the same name), the novels Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog (1992 and 1997), and the two-part novel Blackout/All Clear (2010). All four won the annual Hugo Award, and Doomsday Book and Blackout/All Clear won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, making her the first author to win Hugo awards for all books in a series.
Willis's first published story was "The Secret of Santa Titicaca" in Worlds of Fantasy, Winter 1970 (December). At least seven stories followed (1978–81) before her debut novel, Water Witch by Willis and Cynthia Felice, published by Ace Books in 1982. After receiving a National Endowment for the Arts grant that year, she left her teaching job and became a full-time writer.
Amalie Emmy Noether (23 March 1882 – 14 April 1935) was a German mathematician who made many important contributions to abstract algebra. She discovered Noether's First and Second Theorem, which are fundamental in mathematical physics. She was described by Pavel Alexandrov, Albert Einstein, Jean Dieudonné, Hermann Weyl and Norbert Wiener as the most important woman in the history of mathematics. As one of the leading mathematicians of her time, she developed some theories of rings, fields, and algebras. In physics, Noether's theorem explains the connection between symmetry and conservation laws.
Noether was born to a Jewish family in the Franconian town of Erlangen; her father was the mathematician Max Noether. She originally planned to teach French and English after passing the required examinations, but instead studied mathematics at the University of Erlangen, where her father lectured. After completing her doctorate in 1907 under the supervision of Paul Gordan, she worked at the Mathematical Institute of Erlangen without pay for seven years. At the time, women were largely excluded from academic positions. In 1915, she was invited by David Hilbert and Felix Klein to join the mathematics department at the University of Göttingen, a world-renowned center of mathematical research. The philosophical faculty objected, however, and she spent four years lecturing under Hilbert's name. Her habilitation was approved in 1919, allowing her to obtain the rank of Privatdozent.
Noether remained a leading member of the Göttingen mathematics department until 1933; her students were sometimes called the "Noether boys". In 1924, Dutch mathematician B. L. van der Waerden joined her circle and soon became the leading expositor of Noether's ideas; her work was the foundation for the second volume of his influential 1931 textbook, Moderne Algebra. By the time of her plenary address at the 1932 International Congress of Mathematicians in Zürich, her algebraic acumen was recognized around the world. The following year, Germany's Nazi government dismissed Jews from university positions, and Noether moved to the United States to take up a position at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania where she taught, among others, doctoral and post-graduate women including Marie Johanna Weiss, Ruth Stauffer, Grace Shover Quinn and Olga Taussky-Todd. At the same time, she lectured and performed research at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.
Dame Jane Morris Goodall (born Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall on 3 April 1934), formerly Baroness Jane van Lawick-Goodall, is an English primatologist and anthropologist. Seen as the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees, Goodall is best known for her 60-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees since she first went to Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania in 1960, where she witnessed human-like behaviours amongst chimpanzees, including armed conflict. In April 2002, she was named a UN Messenger of Peace. Goodall is an honorary member of the World Future Council.
Goodall had always been drawn to animals and Africa, which brought her to the farm of a friend in the Kenya highlands in 1957. From there, she obtained work as a secretary, and acting on her friend's advice, she telephoned Louis Leakey, the Kenyan archaeologist and palaeontologist, with no other thought than to make an appointment to discuss animals. Leakey, believing that the study of existing great apes could provide indications of the behaviour of early hominids, was looking for a chimpanzee researcher, though he kept the idea to himself. Instead, he proposed that Goodall work for him as a secretary. After obtaining approval from his co-researcher and wife, British paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey, Louis sent Goodall to Olduvai Gorge in Tanganyika (present-day Tanzania)
Lucia of Syracuse (283–304 Her traditional feast day, known in Europe as Saint Lucy's Day, is observed by Western Christians on 13 December. Lucia of Syracuse was honored in the Middle Ages and remained a well-known saint in early modern England. She is one of the best known virgin martyrs, along with Agatha of Sicily, Agnes of Rome, Cecilia of Rome and Catherine of Alexandria.
Lucy's Latin name Lucia shares a root (luc-) with the Latin word for light, lux. A number of traditions incorporate symbolic meaning of St. Lucy as the bearer of light in the darkness of winter, her feast day being 13 December. Because some versions of her story relate that her eyes were removed, either by herself or by her persecutors, she is the patron saint of the blind.
She is also the patron saint of authors, cutlers, glaziers, laborers, martyrs, peasants, saddlers, salesmen, stained glass workers, and of Perugia, Italy. She is invoked against hemorraghes, dysentery, diseases of the eye, and throat infections.
St. Lucy is the patroness of Syracuse in Sicily, Italy. At the Piazza Duomo in Syracuse, the church of Santa Lucia alla Badia houses the painting Burial of St. Lucy by Caravaggio. She is also the patron saint of the coastal town of Olón, Ecuador, Colombia, which celebrates with a week-long festival culminating on the feast day 13 December. She is also the patron saint of the town of Guanes, Santander, Colombia.
The Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, one of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles, is named after her.
Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was an American marine biologist, writer, and conservationist whose influential book Silent Spring (1962) and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.
Carson began her career as an aquatic biologist in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, and became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s. Her widely praised 1951 bestseller The Sea Around Us won her a U.S. National Book Award, recognition as a gifted writer and financial security. Her next book, The Edge of the Sea, and the reissued version of her first book, Under the Sea Wind, were also bestsellers. This sea trilogy explores the whole of ocean life from the shores to the depths. Late in the 1950s, Carson turned her attention to conservation, especially some problems she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was the book Silent Spring (1962), which brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented share of the American people. Although Silent Spring was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides. It also inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter. She wrote 24 books and her most popular book was "Silent Spring." Carson died at age 56 after a long battle against breast cancer.
Marie-Sophie Germain (1 April 1776 – 27 June 1831) was a French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher. Despite initial opposition from her parents and difficulties presented by society, she gained education from books in her father's library, including ones by Leonhard Euler, and from correspondence with famous mathematicians such as Lagrange, Legendre, and Gauss (under the pseudonym of «Monsieur LeBlanc»). One of the pioneers of elasticity theory, she won the grand prize from the Paris Academy of Sciences for her essay on the subject. Her work on Fermat's Last Theorem provided a foundation for mathematicians exploring the subject for hundreds of years after. Because of prejudice against her sex, she was unable to make a career out of mathematics, but she worked independently throughout her life. Before her death, Gauss had recommended that she be awarded an honorary degree, but that never occurred. On 27 June 1831, she died from breast cancer. At the centenary of her life, a street and a girls’ school were named after her. The Academy of Sciences established the Sophie Germain Prize in her honor.
Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices in fields such as electric power generation, mass communication, sound recording, and motion pictures. These inventions, which include the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and early versions of the electric light bulb, have had a widespread impact on the modern industrialized world. He was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of organized science and teamwork to the process of invention, working with many researchers and employees. He established the first industrial research laboratory.
Edison was raised in the American Midwest. Early in his career he worked as a telegraph operator, which inspired some of his earliest inventions. In 1876, he established his first laboratory facility in Menlo Park, New Jersey, where many of his early inventions were developed. He later established a botanical laboratory in Fort Myers, Florida, in collaboration with businessmen Henry Ford and Harvey S. Firestone, and a laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey, that featured the world's first film studio, the Black Maria. With 1,093 US patents in his name, as well as patents in other countries, Edison is regarded as the most prolific inventor in American history. Edison married twice and fathered six children. He died in 1931 of complications of diabetes.
Ursula Kroeber Le Guin ( October 21, 1929 – January 22, 2018) was an American author best known for her works of speculative fiction, including science fiction works set in her Hainish universe, and the Earthsea fantasy series. She was first published in 1959, and her literary career spanned nearly sixty years, producing more than twenty novels and over a hundred short stories, in addition to poetry, literary criticism, translations, and children's books. Frequently described as an author of science fiction, Le Guin has also been called a "major voice in American Letters". Le Guin herself said she would prefer to be known as an "American novelist".
Le Guin was born in Berkeley, California, to author Theodora Kroeber and anthropologist Alfred Louis Kroeber. Having earned a master's degree in French, Le Guin began doctoral studies but abandoned these after her marriage in 1953 to historian Charles Le Guin. She began writing full-time in the late 1950s and achieved major critical and commercial success with A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) and The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), which have been described by Harold Bloom as her masterpieces. For the latter volume, Le Guin won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel, becoming the first woman to do so. Several more works set in Earthsea or the Hainish universe followed; others included books set in the fictional country of Orsinia, several works for children, and many anthologies.
Cultural anthropology, Taoism, feminism, and the writings of Carl Jung all had a strong influence on Le Guin's work. Many of her stories used anthropologists or cultural observers as protagonists, and Taoist ideas about balance and equilibrium have been identified in several writings. Le Guin often subverted typical speculative fiction tropes, such as through her use of dark-skinned protagonists in Earthsea, and also used unusual stylistic or structural devices in books such as the experimental work Always Coming Home (1985). Social and political themes, including race, gender, sexuality, and coming of age were prominent in her writing, and she explored alternative political structures in many stories, such as in the parable "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" (1973) and the anarchist utopian novel The Dispossessed (1974).
Le Guin's writing was enormously influential in the field of speculative fiction, and has been the subject of intense critical attention. She received numerous accolades, including eight Hugos, six Nebulas, and twenty-two Locus Awards, and in 2003 became the second woman honored as a Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The U.S. Library of Congress named her a Living Legend in 2000, and in 2014, she won the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Le Guin influenced many other authors, including Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie, David Mitchell, Neil Gaiman, and Iain Banks. After her death in 2018, critic John Clute wrote that Le Guin had "presided over American science fiction for nearly half a century", while author Michael Chabon referred to her as the "greatest American writer of her generation"
Peter Ware Higgs (born 29 May 1929) is a British theoretical physicist, Emeritus Professor in the University of Edinburgh, and Nobel Prize laureate for his work on the mass of subatomic particles.
In the 1960s, Higgs proposed that broken symmetry in electroweak theory could explain the origin of mass of elementary particles in general and of the W and Z bosons in particular. This so-called Higgs mechanism, which was proposed by several physicists besides Higgs at about the same time, predicts the existence of a new particle, the Higgs boson, the detection of which became one of the great goals of physics. On 4 July 2012, CERN announced the discovery of the boson at the Large Hadron Collider. The Higgs mechanism is generally accepted as an important ingredient in the Standard Model of particle physics, without which certain particles would have no mass.
Higgs has been honoured with a number of awards in recognition of his work, including the 1981 Hughes Medal from the Royal Society; the 1984 Rutherford Medal from the Institute of Physics; the 1997 Dirac Medal and Prize for outstanding contributions to theoretical physics from the Institute of Physics; the 1997 High Energy and Particle Physics Prize by the European Physical Society; the 2004 Wolf Prize in Physics; the 2009 Oskar Klein Memorial Lecture medal from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences; the 2010 American Physical Society J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics; and a unique Higgs Medal from the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2012. The discovery of the Higgs boson prompted fellow physicist Stephen Hawking to note that he thought that Higgs should receive the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work, which he finally did, shared with François Englert in 2013. Higgs was appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour in the 2013 New Year Honours and in 2015 the Royal Society awarded him the Copley Medal, the world's oldest scientific prize.
Maria Sibylla Merian (2 April 1647 – 13 January 1717) was a German-born Swiss naturalist and scientific illustrator. She was one of the earliest European naturalists to observe insects directly. Merian was a descendant of the Frankfurt branch of the Swiss Merian family.
Merian received her artistic training from her stepfather, Jacob Marrel, a student of the still life painter Georg Flegel. Merian published her first book of natural illustrations in 1675. She had started to collect insects as an adolescent. At age 13, she raised silkworms. In 1679, Merian published the first volume of a two-volume series on caterpillars; the second volume followed in 1683. Each volume contained 50 plates that she engraved and etched. Merian documented evidence on the process of metamorphosis and the plant hosts of 186 European insect species. Along with the illustrations Merian included descriptions of their life cycles.
In 1699, Merian travelled to Dutch Guiana to study and record the tropical insects native to the region. In 1705, she published Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium. Merian's Metamorphosis has been credited with influencing a range of naturalist illustrators. Because of her careful observations and documentation of the metamorphosis of the butterfly, Merian is considered by David Attenborough to be among the more significant contributors to the field of entomology.She discovered many new facts about insect life through her studies. Until her careful, detailed work, it had been thought that insects were "born of mud" by spontaneous generation.
Wolfgang Ernst Pauli (Vienna, April 25, 1900-Zurich, December 15, 1958) was an Austrian theoretical physicist, naturalized Swiss and later American. He is among the founding fathers of quantum mechanics; his is the exclusion principle, according to which it is impossible for two electrons - in an atom - to have the same energy, the same place, and identical quantum numbers.
Born to Wolfgang Joseph Pauli and Berta Camilla Schütz, Pauli was already destined for the path of physics from his first name; indeed, his father gave him the middle name in honor of Ernst Mach.
He studied at the Döblinger Gymnasium in Vienna, where he graduated in physics in 1918. After only two months he published his first paper on Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity. In July 1921 he received his doctorate in physics.
Sommerfeld, his doctoral thesis sponsor, had suggested that he write an article on relativity for the Encyclopedia of Mathematical Sciences, a German work. Two months after his doctorate, Pauli completed the 237-page article, which was praised by Einstein: published as a monograph, it is still one of the basic references on the subject.
He spent a year at the University of Göttingen as assistant to Max Born, and the following year he moved to the Niels Bohr Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen.
In 1928 he is appointed professor of theoretical physics at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland.
He then gives some seminars at the University of Michigan in 1931 and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1935.
In 1945 he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the exclusion principle and became a U.S. citizen in 1946. After the end of the world conflict, he returned to Zurich. He died there on December 15, 1958, at the age of 58.