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10 Influential Scientists You Need To Know

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10 Influential Scientists You Need To Know


Science is defined as our knowledge of the natural world and the methodology we use to help ourselves understand the universe.  With that knowledge, we learn to manipulate energy, master agriculture, create technology, and live better through medicine.

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” –Carl Sagan

Scientific Literacy and Scientific Method gives us the framework to realize the potential in our imaginations.  Our dreams motivate to discovery; to use the knowledge from our predecessors, then create a new, better reality.  The theories tempered by scientific rigor can develop our stream of consciousness, helping to increase our efficiency at work, enhance our entertainment, and satiate our curiosity.

The pursuit of science will help us live longer, eat better, move faster, travel farther, and love longer.  We all learned of Galileo, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein in school; their marks on science are indelible and now they are household names.  These were the rock stars and athlete celebrities of their time.  Who are some of the household names in science now?  The following is a list of ten influential scientists today making their mark.

1. Stephen Hawking

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Stephen Hawking is a cosmologist, theoretical physicist, and author.  He is as famous for his confinement to a wheelchair (due to the degenerative disease ALS) as he is for his theories on black holes, general relativity, and the Big Bang.  Hawking’s best-selling book “A Brief History of Time” is unique in that it explained high-concept science while minimizing the mathematics; by doing so, Hawking was able to gain popularity across audiences.  Hawking engages in a persistent struggle to understand the universe, and despite his ailment, his paradigm changing theories have earned him the status as the most famous scientist on earth.

2. Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist, author, and television personality.   He has been a ambassador for science using radio, television, and even comic books as mediums to bring science to the masses.  Equal parts Carl Sagan and Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” he effectively uses entertainment to educate and advance interest in science.  He has made appearances on television shows such “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Daily Show,” and “Cosmos.”  As the director of the Hayden Planetarium, Tyson gained quite a bit of notoriety as being responsible for the declassifying Pluto as a planet, relegating it to the status of dwarf planet.

3. Jane Goodall

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Jane Goodall is a British anthropologist, ecologist, and primatologist.  She is famous for her 45 years researching primates and the conservation of primate habitats; Goodall has been defined as the “woman who has redefined man.”  Controversial for the bucking of conventional scientific protocol, Goodall inserted herself into the environment of her experiments.  Through immersive socialization with chimpanzees in the wild, Goodall was able to discover the highly complex nature of the chimpanzee social structure (caste system).  Additionally, her immersion technique allowed her to discover that chimpanzees use tools, have family bonds, eat an omnivorous diet, and are capable of rudimentary language.  Her research has allowed us to better understand development in primates, the result of which helps us redefine the evolution of our own mankind.

4. Steven Chu

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Steven Chu is an American physicist and the former US Secretary of Energy.   He is the first Noble Prize winner to be appointed to a cabinet position.  Chu has been a vocal advocate for the research into climate change, mitigating the risks attributed to hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and shifting American focus from fossil fuels to cleaner energy.  His plans are both practical and radical schools of thought ranging from eliminating America’s coal dependency to painting the roofs on houses white to reflect the sun’s heat back to space. Chu earned his Nobel Prize (1997) and fame by advancing the technologies to cool and trap atoms using lasers.  Chu’s work with laser cooling methods has allowed scientists the opportunity to more efficiently and accurately studies atoms.

5. Craig Venter

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Craig Venter is an American biologist, founder of Celera Genomics, and director of the Institute for Genomic Research.  He is known for his work in sequencing (mapping) the human genome and creating synthetic genomes. By creating a roadmap of the human body, we can use genome sequencing to understand and diagnosis illness.  The study of disease at the gene level can help us create vaccines, cures, and repair defects in our bodies.  Perhaps the greatest force in advancing our knowledge of humans at gene level, Venter has been a lightning rod for controversy; he has been accused of profiteering from his privatization of the research.

6. Sumio Iijima

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Sumio Iijima is a Japanese physicist known for his work with carbon nanotubes.  Beginning his research in the 1990s, Iijima pioneered the field of nanoscience and is the inventor of carbon nanotubes.  By taking carbon molecules and constructing them into cylindrical constructs,  Iijima discovered that the nanotubes had firm tensile strength and were incredible conductors for electric and thermal energy.  Iijima has opened a field of nanotechnology which takes us from the world of science fiction to science fact. Nanotechnology will allow for new possibilities ranging from bone reconstruction to thinner, longer-lasting batteries for cell phones.

7. Gero Hutter

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Gero Hutter is a German hemotologist who may have found a cure for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).  Hutter performed a blood stem-cell transplant from a donor who had a rare gene that is immune to HIV to a patient (known as the Berlin Patient) who was infected.  Performing the transplant in 2009, a regression of HIV in the patient means that Hutter’s method of gene therapy could be the cure to the HIV epidemic.  Though too early to determine the success of the therapy, as of 2013, there has not been a relapse by the Berlin Patient.  Continued good health in this patient bodes could be good news for millions with HIV.

8. Richard Dawkins

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Richard Dawkins is a British ethologist and evolutionary biologist.  Dawkins is author of the best-selling book “The God Delusion,” a controversial book renowned for his championing of Atheism and evolutionary biology.  Dawkins is known for his vociferous participation in public debates, challenging creationist theory and religion as a whole.  Dawkins is also attributed to popularization of the gene as the primary factor in selection of evolution as well as the coining of the word “Meme.”

9. Peter Higgs

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Peter Higgs is a British physicist known for his work in theorizing the most sought after obsession in science today: the “Higgs-Boson Particle.”  If proved to exist, the Higgs-Boson Particle would prove the validity of the “Standard Model of Particle Physics” and establish the Higgs-Boson particle as the fundamental building block of the Universe.   Though he had developed the theory in the 1960’s, recently CERN announced (in 2012) that there is evidence to the existence of the Higgs-Boson Particle.  Higgs was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2013 for his theory.

10. Sir Timothy Berners-Lee

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Sir Timothy Berners-Lee is a British computer scientist known as the inventor of the World Wide Web.   As an independent contractor at CERN in the 1980’s, Berners-lee noticed a growing need by scientists to share information from all over the world.  By 1991, he had developed and implemented the first successful communication between a Hyper-Text Terminal Protocol (HTTP) server and client. Though the Internet had already existed for years, what we think of and the way we view the Internet came to fruition as a result of his vision and labor.

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