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Updated by Vikram Pandya on Aug 22, 2013
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Top 10 Physicists

The 10 best physicists
From subatomic to cosmic, the pick of the pioneers

Nicolaus Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus was born on 19 February 1473 in the city of Toruń (Thorn), in the province of Royal Prussia, in the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland. His father was a merchant from Kraków and his mother was the daughter of a wealthy Toruń merchant. Nicolaus was the youngest of four children.

Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei ( Italian pronunciation: [ɡaliˈlɛːo ɡaliˈlɛi]; 15 February 1564 - 8 January 1642), was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations and support for Copernicanism.

Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 - 20 March 1727) was an English physicist and mathematician who is widely regarded as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution.

James Clerk Maxwell

James Clerk Maxwell (13 June 1831 - 5 November 1879) was a Scottish theoretical physicist. His most prominent achievement was to formulate a set of equations that united previously unrelated observations, experiments, and equations of electricity, magnetism, and optics into a consistent theory.

Hendrik Lorentz

Hendrik Lorentz was born in Arnhem, Gelderland (The Netherlands), the son of Gerrit Frederik Lorentz (1822-1893), a well-off nurseryman, and Geertruida van Ginkel (1826-1861). In 1862, after his mother's death, his father married Luberta Hupkes. Despite being raised as a Protestant, he was a freethinker in religious matters.

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla was born on 10 July 1856 to Serbian parents in the village of Smiljan, Austrian Empire (modern-day Croatia). His father, Milutin Tesla, was a Serbian Orthodox priest. Tesla's mother, Đuka Tesla ( née Mandić), whose father was also a Serbian Orthodox priest, had a talent for making home craft tools, mechanical appliances, and the ability to memorize Serbian epic poems. Đuka had never received a formal education.

Max Planck

Planck was born in Kiel, Holstein, to Johann Julius Wilhelm Planck and his second wife, Emma Patzig. He was baptised with the name of Karl Ernst Ludwig Marx Planck; of his given names, Marx (a now obsolete variant of Markus or maybe simply an error for Max, which is actually short for Maximilian) was indicated as the primary name.

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, in the Kingdom of Württemberg in the German Empire on 14 March 1879. His father was Hermann Einstein, a salesman and engineer. His mother was Pauline Einstein (née Koch). In 1880, the family moved to Munich, where his father and his uncle founded Elektrotechnische Fabrik J.

Niels Bohr

Niels Bohr was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 7 October 1885, the second of three children of Christian Bohr, a professor of physiology at the University of Copenhagen, and Ellen Adler Bohr, who came from a wealthy Danish Jewish family prominent in banking and parliamentary circles.

Richard Feynman

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, and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as in particle physics (he proposed the parton model).

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking was born on 8 January 1942 to Frank and Isobel Hawking. Despite family financial constraints, both parents had attended Oxford University, where Frank had studied medicine and Isobel Philosophy, Politics and Economics. The two met shortly after the beginning of the Second World War at a medical research institute where Isobel was working as a secretary and Frank as a medical researcher.

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Alhazen

Alhazen

Alhazen was born in Basra, in the Iraq province of the Buyid Empire. He probably died in Cairo, Egypt. During the Islamic Golden Age, Basra was a "key beginning of learning", and he was educated there and in Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, and the focus of the "high point of Islamic civilization".

Johannes Kepler

Johannes Kepler ( German: ; December 27, 1571 - November 15, 1630) was a German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer. A key figure in the 17th century scientific revolution, he is best known for his eponymous laws of planetary motion, codified by later astronomers, based on his works Astronomia nova , Harmonices Mundi , and Epitome of Copernican Astronomy.

Evangelista Torricelli

Evangelista Torricelli ( Italian: [evandʒeˈlista torriˈtʃɛlli] listen ) (1608-1647) was an Italian physicist and mathematician, best known for his invention of the barometer. Torricelli was born on 15 October in 1608 in Faenza in the Province of Ravenna, then part of the Papal States, the firstborn child of Gaspare Torricelli and Caterina Angetti.

Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal ( French: [blɛz paskal]; 19 June 1623 - 19 August 1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen.

Christiaan Huygens

Christiaan Huygens was born in 14 April 1629 at The Hague, in a rich and influential Dutch family, the second son of Constantijn Huygens. Christiaan was named after his paternal grandfather. His mother was Suzanna van Baerle. She died in 1637, shortly after the birth of Huygens' sister.

Robert Hooke

Hooke studied at Wadham College during the Protectorate where he became one of a tightly knit group of ardent Royalists led by John Wilkins. Here he was employed as an assistant to Thomas Willis and to Robert Boyle, for whom he built the vacuum pumps used in Boyle's gas law experiments.

Henry Cavendish

Henry Cavendish FRS (10 October 1731 - 24 February 1810) was a British natural philosopher, scientist, and an important experimental and theoretical chemist and physicist. Cavendish is noted for his discovery of hydrogen or what he called "inflammable air". He described the density of inflammable air, which formed water on combustion, in a 1766 paper "On Factitious Airs".

Charles-Augustin de Coulomb

Charles-Augustin de Coulomb (14 June 1736 - 23 August 1806) was a French physicist. He was best known for developing Coulomb's law, the definition of the electrostatic force of attraction and repulsion. The SI unit of electric charge, the coulomb, was named after him.

Alessandro Volta

Volta was born in Como, a town in present-day northern Italy (near the Swiss border) on February 18, 1745. In 1774, he became a professor of physics at the Royal School in Como. A year later, he improved and popularized the electrophorus, a device that produced static electricity.

Thomas Young (scientist)

Thomas Young (13 June 1773 - 10 May 1829) was an English polymath. Young made notable scientific contributions to the fields of vision, light, solid mechanics, energy, physiology, language, musical harmony, and Egyptology. He "made a number of original and insightful innovations" in the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs (specifically the Rosetta Stone) before Jean-François Champollion eventually expanded on his work.

Hans Christian Ørsted

Hans Christian Ørsted ( Danish: [hans kʰʁæsd̥jan ˈɶɐ̯sd̥ɛð]; often rendered Oersted in English; 14 August 1777 - 9 March 1851) was a Danish physicist and chemist who discovered that electric currents create magnetic fields, an important aspect of electromagnetism. He shaped post-Kantian philosophy and advances in science throughout the late 19th century.

André-Marie Ampère

André-Marie Ampère (20 January 1775 - 10 June 1836) was a French physicist and mathematician who is generally regarded as one of the main founders of the science of classical electromagnetism, which he referred to as "electrodynamics". The SI unit of measurement of electric current, the ampere, is named after him.

Joseph von Fraunhofer

Joseph Fraunhofer, ennobled in 1824 as Ritter von Fraunhofer (6 March 1787 - 7 June 1826) was a German optician. He is known for the discovery of the dark absorption lines known as Fraunhofer lines in the Sun's spectrum, and for making excellent optical glass and achromatic telescope objectives.

Georg Ohm

Georg Simon Ohm (16 March 1789 - 6 July 1854) was a German physicist and mathematician. As a high school teacher, Ohm began his research with the new electrochemical cell, invented by Italian scientist Alessandro Volta.