ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS: The science all-stars poster
Democritus (460-370BC): Father of science. Founded the atomic theory of the universe. Greatest of the ancient Ionian scientists, who were the first to use experiments and attempted to understand nature without invoking the divine. Scientific progress halted for over 1500 years after the Ionians works were destroyed and suppressed in favour of the teachings of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
Archimedes (287BC-212BC): Antiquity’s greatest mathematician, scientist and all-round genius. Popularised the word ‘Eureka’ when he jumped out of his bathtub and ran naked on the streets shouting it after he figured out a problem. Invented super cool weapons like the Archimedes Claw and solar death ray (although the latter was ‘busted’ on Mythbusters).
Eratosthenes (276-194BC): Founded geography. Chief librarian of Library of Alexandria. First person to measure circumference of the Earth (as told by Carl Sagan).
Zhang Heng (78-139): Astronomer, mathematician, inventor, philosopher, geographer and artist. The greatest of the ancient Chinese scientists.
Galen of Pergamon (129-216): Greatest doctor of antiquity. Pioneered medicine, anatomy, neurology, physiology and philosophy. Name most resembling a Game of Thrones character.
Hypatia (350-415): Dominated philosophy, mathematics and science at a time when women where not known as scholars. One of the last great thinkers of ancient Alexandria. An outspoken non-believer, she was brutally murdered by a mob of religious fanatics. Rachel Weisz played Hypatia in the 2009 Spanish film Agora.
Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) (965-1040AD): Father of optics and the scientific method. Invented pinhole camera. Discovered laws of refraction. Often referred to as the first ‘true scientist’.
Johannes Gutenberg (1395-1468): Invented the the most important invention in the history of the world, the movable-type printing press, which allowed ideas and knowledge to be spread to the masses for the first time.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519): Renaissance super hero. Scientist, sculptor, inventor, engineer … dabbled in painting too. So brilliant and ahead of his time that he might have been an alien disguised as a human.
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543): Started the scientific revolution when he proposed a radical view of the solar system where the Earth and other planets revolved around the sun. Known as the heliocentric “sun-centred” system, it pooped on Ptolemy’s Earth-centered model which had been accepted for nearly 2000 years. Knowing how much trouble his findings would cause, Copernicus delayed publishing his work for 36 years.
Giordano Bruno (1548-1600): Astronomer and philosopher. Passionately defended Copernicus’ heliocentric model and insisted the Bible’s astronomical teachings not be taken literally. He was sentenced to death for his efforts and burnt alive. When sentenced, he said to his judges “Perhaps your fear in passing judgment on me is greater than mine in receiving it.”
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642): Astronomer, physicist and philosopher. Further perfected the scientific method. Pioneering works with telescopes revolutionised astronomy and proved Copernicus’ argument that the planets orbited the sun. Galileo’s subsequent book championing the Copernicus’ heliocentric model resulted in him being charged with heresy by the Inquisition and sentenced to life in prison.
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630): Furthered the work of Copernicus by discovering the three laws of planetary motion, which explained how the universe works.
René Descartes (1596-1650): Father of modern philosophy. His book Meditations on First Philosophy is STILL used as a standard text for students. Also made huge contributions to mathematics and physics. “I think, therefore I am.”
Isaac Newton (1643-1727): The Michael Jordan of science. Laid foundation for modern physical optics. Invented calculus. His Principia, which outlined his laws of motion and universal gravitation, is one of the greatest individual achievements in history and laid the groundwork for modern science. Modest despite his titanic intellect and achievements, Newton wrote the sentence “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of giants” in a letter to Robert Hooke in 1676. He was paraphrasing the words of Bernard of Chartres, a 12th century French philosopher.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790): Inventor, scientist, writer, businessman, musician, celebrity. Oh yeah, Founding Father of America too.
Henry Cavendish (1731-1810): The greatest experimental scientist of his day. Discovered hydrogen. Helped usher in the Chemical Revolution and most famously measured the mass of the Earth, known as the Cavendish Experiment.
Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794): The ‘Father of Modern Chemistry’. Raised chemistry to the same standards as experimental physics were held to at the time.
Michael Faraday (1791-1867): One of the greatest scientists of the 19th century. Pioneering work with electromagnetism.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882): Developed the theory of evolution by natural selection. Shocked the world by claiming humans evolved from lesser creatures over millions of years instead of being created by a God. (Shout out to Alfred Russell Wallace, who independently came up with the same theory)
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895): Chemist and microbiologist. Discovered the principles of vaccination, fermentation and pasteurisation. Proved the germ theory of disease. Developed vaccines for rabies and anthrax. His name is on your milk carton.
James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879): Discovered electromagnetic theory. The 19th century scientist who had the biggest influence on the 20th century and ranked as one of the top three physicists ever, along with Newton and Einstein. Carl Sagan explained the importance of Maxwell in this chapter from his book, The Demon-Haunted World.
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943): Inventor, scientist, electrical engineer. The greatest geek who ever lived. Perfected the use of Alternating Current and his AC system forms the basis for all modern power generation and distribution.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939): Neurologist and inventor of psychoanalysis.
Max Planck (1858-1947): Physicist and originator of quantum theory.
George Washington Carver (1864-1943): Scientist, botanist, inventor. Known for his agricultural advances and promoting alternatives to cotton that would help sustain poorer farmers.
Marie Curie (1867-1934): Physicist who pioneered work in radioactivity. Discovered two new elements, radium and polonium. Winner of two Nobel prizes. First woman to win a Nobel prize.
Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868-1921): Astronomer. Pioneering work in measuring the brightness of stars. Her findings would greatly help the work of Edwin Hubble.
Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937): The father of nuclear physics and greatest experimental scientist since Faraday.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955): Theoretical physicist and most influential scientist of the 20th century. In his miracle year of 1905, he published four papers, including his special theory of relativity, which changed our fundamental understanding of the universe. He was 26.
Alexander Fleming (1881-1955): Bacteriologist and discoverer of penicillin.
Niels Bohr (1885-1962): Leading figure in quantum physics.
Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961): Theoretical physicist known for his work with wave theory and quantum mechanics. Also an expert in philosophy, literature and history. Cat hater.
Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman (1888-1970): Physicist who discovered light-scattering effect. First Asian to win a science Nobel Prize.
Edwin Hubble (1889-1953): Astronomer. First to discover that the universe is expanding, therefore providing evidence of the Big Bang theory.
Linus Pauling (1901-1994): Influential chemist and peace activist. Helped found quantum chemistry and molecular biology. Winner of two Nobel prizes, the second a peace prize for his efforts in banning nuclear weapons testing.
Barbara McClintock (1902-1992): Pioneering work in genetics. She was ahead of her time, with her research being largely ignored when it was published in the 1940s and 50s. Only after the discovery of DNA in the late 60s, was her work found again and celebrated.
Rachel Carson (1907-1964): Marine biologist, writer and conservationist. Her book Silent Spring, sparked the environmental movement.
Jaques-Yves Cousteau (1910-1997): Adventurer, ocean explorer, inventor, filmmaker, soldier, spy, real-life Aquaman. Pioneered marine exploration and conservation. His documentary on underwater exploration The Silent World, won the 1956 Cannes film festival Palme d’or.
Alan Turing (1912 -1954): Father of computers and artificial intelligence. Codebreaker extraordinaire. During WWII, Turing and a team of code breakers helped crack the German Enigma code. Turing was prosecuted for being homosexual in 1952 and was subsequently stripped of his government clearance. He was forced to endure chemical castration as ‘treatment’ to avoid being imprisoned. Two years later he committed suicide. Last year, the British Government issued a posthumous Royal Pardon to Turing (just a tad late, huh?). His story is being told in the upcoming movie The Imitation Game, with Benedict Cumberbatch playing Turing.
Francis Crick (1916-2004) & James Dewey Watson (1928-): Together, they determined the molecular structure of DNA, which is one of the most important discoveries in science. (Shout out to Maurice Wilkins who also contributed to the DNA discovery. The three of them all shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Medicine.)
Richard Feynman (1918-1988): Revolutionised quantum electrodynamics. Raconteur. Adventurer. Bongo enthusiast.
Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958): Biophysicist. Her data regarding the structure of DNA played a hugely important role in the work of Crick and Watson.
Jane Goodall (1934): Primatologist, anthropologist, activist, conservationist. Carried out exhaustive studies on the chimpanzees of Gombe park in Tanzania, with her findings changing the way we view our primate cousins and ourselves. Currently spreading the message of conversation across the world as a UN Messenger of Peace.
Stephen Hawking (1942-): Theoretical physicist, cosmologist, populariser of science. Pioneering work in black holes.
Tim-Berners Lee (1955-): Invented the world wide web. ‘Nuff said. Twitter handle: @timberners_lee