Portal:Science/Featured biography

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Selected biographies list

Biographies 1–20

Portal:Science/Featured biography/1

Newton at age 46 in Godfrey Kneller's 1689 portrait.

Isaac Newton, English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, inventor, philosopher and alchemist. A man of profound genius, he is widely regarded as the most influential scientist in history. He is associated with the scientific revolution and the advancement of heliocentrism. Among his scientific accomplishments, Newton wrote the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, wherein he described universal gravitation and, via his laws of motion, laid the groundwork for classical mechanics. With Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz he is credited for the development of differential calculus. Newton was the first to promulgate a set of natural laws that could govern both terrestrial motion and celestial motion, and is credited with providing mathematical substantiation for Kepler's laws of planetary motion, which he expanded by arguing that orbits (such as those of comets) could include all conic sections (such as the ellipse, hyperbola, and parabola).

Portal:Science/Featured biography/2

Richard Phillips Feynman

Richard Phillips Feynman (May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988) was one of the most influential American physicists of the 20th century, expanding greatly upon the theory of quantum electrodynamics. As well as being an inspiring lecturer and amateur musician, he helped in the development of the atomic bomb and was later a member of the panel which investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. For his work on quantum electrodynamics, Feynman was one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965, along with Julian Schwinger and Shin-Ichiro Tomonaga.

Feynman was a keen and influential popularizer of physics in both his books and lectures. He is famous for his many adventures, detailed in the books Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, What Do You Care What Other People Think? and Tuva or Bust!. Posthumously, Feynman is often credited with helping catalyze the field of nanotechnology through his December 1959 talk called There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom. Richard Feynman was, in many respects, an eccentric and a free spirit.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/3 Aristarchus (310 BC - c. 230 BC) was a Greek astronomer and mathematician, born on the island of Samos, in ancient Greece. He was the first Greek astronomer to propose a heliocentric model of the solar system, placing the Sun, not the Earth, at the center of the known universe (hence he is sometimes known as the "Greek Copernicus"). His astronomical ideas were not well-received and were displaced by those of Aristotle and Ptolemy, until they were successfully revived and developed by Copernicus nearly 2000 years later. The Aristarchus crater on the Moon was named in his honor.

Aristarchus believed the stars to be very far away, and saw this as the reason why there was no visible parallax, that is, an observed movement of the stars relative to each other as the Earth moved around the Sun.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/4 Rosalind Elsie Franklin (25 July 1920 - 16 April 1958) was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer who made critical contributions to the understanding of the fine molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal, and graphite. Franklin is best known for her contribution to the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, while working at King's College London under the direction of physicist John Randall. By the time the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine was awarded to Crick, Watson, and her colleague Wilkins, she had been dead for 4 years. She subsequently became an icon in feminist literature.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/5 Francis Crick, Francis Harry Compton Crick OM FRS (8 June 1916 – 28 July 2004), was a British molecular biologist, physicist, and neuroscientist, and most noted for being one of the co-discoverers of the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953. He, James D. Watson and Maurice Wilkins were jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material" .[2]

Portal:Science/Featured biography/6 Wolfgang Ernst Pauli (April 25, 1900 – December 15, 1958) was an Austrian physicist noted for his work on the theory of spin, and in particular the discovery of the Exclusion principle, which underpins the whole of chemistry and quantum mechanics.

He seldom published papers, preferring lengthy correspondences with colleagues (such as Bohr and Heisenberg, with whom he had close friendships.) Many of his ideas and results were never published and appeared only in his letters, which were often copied and circulated by their recipients. Pauli was apparently unconcerned that much of his work thus went uncredited.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/7

Claudius Galenus of Pergamum

Claudius Galenus of Pergamum (129-200 AD), better known in English as Galen, was an ancient Greek physician. His views dominated European medicine for over a thousand years. From the modern viewpoint, Galen's theories were partially correct and partially flawed: he demonstrated that arteries carry blood rather than air, and conducted the first studies of nerve, brain, and heart function. He also argued that the mind was in the brain, not in the heart as Aristotle had claimed.

However, much of Galen's understanding is flawed from the modern point of view. For example, he did not recognize blood circulation and thought that venous and arterial systems were separate. This view did not change until William Harvey's work in the 17th century.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/8

Leonhard Euler

Leonhard Euler (April 15, 1707 Basel, Switzerland – September 18, 1783 St Petersburg, Russia) was a Swiss mathematician and physicist. He is considered to be the dominant mathematician of the 18th century and one of the greatest mathematicians of all time; he is certainly among the most prolific, with collected works filling over 70 volumes. Euler developed many important concepts and proved numerous lasting theorems in diverse areas of mathematics, including calculus and number theory and topology. In the course of this work, he introduced much of modern mathematical terminology, defining the concept of a function, and its notation, such as sin, cos, and tan for the trigonometric functions.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/9

Emil Adolf von Behring

Emil Adolf von Behring (March 15, 1854 – March 31, 1917) was born at Hansdorf, Eylau, Germany (as Emil Adolf Behring). Between 1874 and 1878, he studied medicine at the Army Medical College in Berlin. He was mainly a military doctor and then became Professor of Hygienics within the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Marburg. Behring was the discoverer of diphtheria antitoxin and attained a great reputation by that means and by his contributions to the study of immunity. He won the first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1901 for developing a serum therapy against diphtheria (this was worked on with Emile Roux) and tetanus. The former had been a scourge of the population, especially children, whereas the other was a leading cause of death in wars, killing the wounded.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/10

Santiago Ramón y Cajal

Santiago Ramón y Cajal (May 1, 1852 – October 17, 1934) was a famous Spanish histologist, physician, and Nobel laureate, and is considered to be one of the founders of modern neuroscience. His most famous studies were on the fine structure of the central nervous system. Cajal used a histological staining technique developed by his contemporary, Camillo Golgi, allowing him to resolve, in detail, the structure of individual neurons. This led him to conclude that nervous tissue was a continuous reticulum (or web) of interconnected cells, much like those in the circulatory system. Using Golgi's method, Ramón y Cajal reached a very different conclusion; he postulated that the nervous system is made up of billions of separate neurons and that these cells are polarized. Rather than forming a continuous web, Cajal suggested that neurons communicate with each other via specialized junctions called "synapses". This hypothesis became the basis of the neuron doctrine, which states that the individual unit of the nervous system is a single neuron. Electron microscopy later showed that a plasma membrane completely enclosed each neuron, supporting Cajal's theory, and weakening Golgi's reticular theory.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/11

Maria Mitchell

Maria Mitchell (August 11, 1818 – June 28, 1889) was an American astronomer. Born on Nantucket Island, she was a first cousin four times removed of Benjamin Franklin.

Her parents were Quakers who, unconventionally for their time, insisted on giving her the same quality of education that boys received. She worked as a librarian and also pursued astronomy at her father's observatory.

Using a telescope, she discovered "Miss Mitchell's Comet" (Comet 1847 VI, modern designation is C/1847 T1) in the autumn of 1847. Some years previously, King Frederick VI of Denmark had established gold medal prizes to each discoverer of a "telescopic comet" (too faint to be seen with the naked eye). The prize was to be awarded to the "first discoverer" of each such comet (note that comets are often independently discovered by more than one person). She duly won one of these prizes, and this gave her worldwide fame, since the only previous woman to discover a comet had been Caroline Herschel.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/12 Michio Kaku (Kanji: 加来 道雄) (born January 24, 1947 in the United States) is a Japanese American theoretical physicist, tenured professor, and co-creator of string field theory, a branch of string theory.

Dr. Kaku is the author of several scholarly, Ph.D.-level textbooks and has had more than 70 articles published in physics journals covering topics such as superstring theory, supergravity, supersymmetry, and hadronic physics. He is also known as an author of popular science books, including the best-sellers Beyond Einstein, Visions, Hyperspace, and Parallel Worlds, and the host of several radio shows, as well as being a popular figure in science television shows due to his accessible approach to the layman on explaining complex physics.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/13

Brian Greene

Brian Greene (born February 9, 1963, New York), is a physicist at Columbia University. His book The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, and winner of The Aventis Prizes for Science Books in 2000. The Elegant Universe was later made into a PBS television special with Dr. Greene as the narrator. His second book, The Fabric of the Cosmos (2004), is about space, time, and the nature of the universe. Aspects covered in this book include non-local particle entanglement as he relates to special relativity and basic explanations of string theory. It is an examination of the very nature of matter and reality, covering such topics as spacetime and cosmology, origins and unification, and including an exploration into reality and the imagination.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/14 Gregor Mendel (1822–1884) was an Austrian monk who is often called the "father of genetics" for his study of the inheritance of traits in pea plants. Mendel showed that there was particular inheritance of traits according to his laws of inheritance.

It was not until the early 20th century that the importance of his ideas was realized. In 1900, his work was rediscovered by Hugo de Vries, Carl Correns, and Erich von Tschermak. His results were quickly replicated, and genetic linkage quickly worked out. Biologists flocked to the theory, as while it was not yet applicable to many phenomena, it sought to give a genotypic understanding of heredity which they felt was lacking in previous studies of heredity which focused on phenotypic approaches.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/15

Frank Macfarlane Burnet at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, 1945

Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet (3 September 1899 – 31 August 1985) was an Australian virologist best known for his contributions to immunology. He went on to conduct pioneering research on bacteriophages and viruses at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and served as director of the Institute from 1944 to 1956. His virology research resulted in significant discoveries concerning their nature and replication and their interaction with the immune system.

From the mid-1950s, he worked extensively in immunology and was a major contributor to the theory of clonal selection, which explains how lymphocytes target antigens for destruction. Burnet and Peter Medawar were co-recipients of the 1960 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for demonstrating acquired immune tolerance. This research provided the experimental basis for inducing immune tolerance, the platform for developing methods of transplanting solid organs.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/16

Portrait of Georg Forster at age 26, by J. H. W. Tischbein, 1781

Johann Georg Adam Forster (November 27, 1754 – January 10, 1794) was a German naturalist, ethnologist, travel writer, journalist, and revolutionary. At an early age, he accompanied his father on several scientific expeditions, including James Cook's second voyage to the Pacific. His report from that journey, A Voyage Round the World, contributed significantly to the ethnology of the people of Polynesia. As a result of the report Forster was admitted to the Royal Society at the early age of twenty-two and came to be considered one of the founders of modern scientific travel literature.

After his return to continental Europe, Forster turned towards academics. From 1778 to 1784 he taught natural history. Most of his scientific work consisted of essays on botany and ethnology, but he also prefaced and translated many books about travels and explorations, including a German translation of Cook's diaries. Forster was a central figure of the Enlightenment in Germany.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/17 Barbara McClintock (June 16, 1902 – September 2, 1992) was a pioneering American scientist and one of the world's most distinguished cytogeneticists. McClintock received her PhD in botany from Cornell University in 1927, where she was a leader in the development of maize cytogenetics. The field remained the focus of her research for the rest of her career. From the late 1920s, McClintock studied chromosomes and how they change during reproduction in maize. She developed the technique to visualize maize chromosomes and demonstrate genetic recombination by crossing-over during meiosis—a mechanism by which chromosomes exchange information. She produced the first genetic map for maize, and she demonstrated the role of the telomere and centromere. She was awarded prestigious fellowships and elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1944.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/18

Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss

Carl Friedrich Gauss About this sound Pronunciation  (30 April 1777 – 23 February 1855) was a German mathematician and scientist of profound genius who contributed significantly to many fields, including number theory, analysis, differential geometry, geodesy, magnetism, astronomy and optics. Sometimes known as "the prince of mathematicians" and "greatest mathematician since antiquity", Gauss had a remarkable influence in many fields of mathematics and science and is ranked as one of history's most influential mathematicians.

Gauss completed Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, his magnum opus, at the age of twenty-one (1798), though it would not be published until 1801. This work was fundamental in consolidating number theory as a discipline and has shaped the field to the present day.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/19

Portrait of Galilei Galileo by Giusto Sustermans.

Galileo Galilei (February 15, 1564 – January 8, 1642) was an Italian physicist, astronomer, and philosopher who is closely associated with the scientific revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope, a variety of astronomical observations, the first and second laws of motion, and effective support for Copernicanism. According to Stephen Hawking, Galileo has contributed more to the creation of the modern natural sciences than anybody else. He is the "father of modern astronomy," the "father of modern physics," and the "father of science." The work of Galilei is considered to be a significant break from that of Aristotle.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/20 Carl Edward Sagan (November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996) was an American astronomer, astrobiologist, and highly successful science popularizer. He pioneered exobiology and promoted the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). He is world-famous for writing popular science books and for co-writing and presenting the award-winning 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which was the most-watched PBS program until Ken Burns' The Civil War in 1990. A book to accompany the program was also published. He also wrote the novel Contact, the basis for the 1997 film of the same name starring Jodie Foster. During his lifetime, Sagan published more than 600 scientific papers and popular articles and was author, co-author, or editor of more than 20 books. In his works, he frequently advocated scientific skepticism, humanism, and the scientific method.

Biographies 21–40

Portal:Science/Featured biography/21

Albert Einstein, photographed by Oren J. Turner (1947)

Albert Einstein (About this sound German pronunciation ) (March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist widely known as one of the greatest physicists of all time. He formulated the special and general theories of relativity. In addition, he made significant advancements to quantum theory and statistical mechanics. While best known for the Theory of Relativity (and specifically mass-energy equivalence, E=mc2), he was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics for his 1905 (his "wonderful year" or "miraculous year") explanation of the photoelectric effect and "for his services to Theoretical Physics". In popular culture, the name "Einstein" has become synonymous with great intelligence and genius.

Among his many investigations were: capillary action, his special theory of relativity which stemmed from an attempt to reconcile the laws of mechanics with the laws of the electromagnetic field, his general theory of relativity which extended the principle of relativity to include gravitation, relativistic cosmology, critical opalescence, classical problems of statistical mechanics and problems in which they were merged with quantum theory, including an explanation of Brownian motion; atomic transition probabilities, the probabilistic interpretation of quantum theory, the quantum theory of a monatomic gas, the thermal properties of light with a low radiation density which laid the foundation of the photon theory of light, the theory of radiation, including stimulated emission; the construction of a unified field theory, and the geometrization of physics.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/22

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (About this sound pronunciation ), April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519) was an Italian polymath, having been a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer. Born as the illegitimate son of a notary, Piero da Vinci, and a peasant girl, Caterina, at Vinci in the region of Florence, Leonardo was educated in the studio of the renowned Florentine painter, Verrocchio. Much of his earlier working life was spent in the service of Ludovico il Moro in Milan. He later worked in Rome, Bologna and Venice, spending his final years in France at the home given to him by King François I.

Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the "Renaissance man", a man whose seemingly infinite curiosity was equalled only by his powers of invention.[1] He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.[2]

It is primarily as a painter that Leonardo was and is renowned. Two of his works, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper occupy unique positions as the most famous, most reproduced and most parodied portrait and religious painting of all time, their fame approached only by Michelangelo's Creation of Adam.[1] Leonardo's drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also iconic. Perhaps fifteen of his paintings survive, the small number due to his constant, and frequently disastrous, experimentation with new techniques, and his chronic procrastination.[b] Nevertheless, these few works together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting, comprise a contribution to later generations of artists only rivalled by that of his contemporary, Michelangelo.

Portal:Science/Featured biography/23

Bundesarchiv Bild183-R57262, Werner Heisenberg.jpg

Werner Karl Heisenberg (5 December 1901 – 1 February 1976) was a German theoretical physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1932 "for the creation of quantum mechanics". Heisenberg, along with Max Born and Pascual Jordan, set forth the matrix formulation of quantum mechanics in 1925. In 1927 he published his uncertainty principle, upon which he built his philosophy and for which he is best known. He also made important contributions to the theories of the hydrodynamics of turbulent flows, the atomic nucleus, ferromagnetism, cosmic rays, and subatomic particles, and he was instrumental in planning the first West German nuclear reactor at Karlsruhe, together with a research reactor in Munich, in 1957. Considerable controversy surrounds his work on atomic research during World War II.

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Otto Hahn

Otto Hahn, (8 March 1879 – 28 July 1968) was a German chemist and Nobel laureate, a pioneer in the fields of radioactivity and radiochemistry.[2] He is regarded as "the father of nuclear chemistry".

Hahn was a courageous opposer of Jewish persecution by the Nazi Party and after World War II he became a passionate campaigner against the use of nuclear energy as a weapon. He served as the last President of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (KWG) in 1946 and as the founding President of the Max Planck Society (MPG) from 1948 to 1960. Considered by many to be a model for scholarly excellence and personal integrity, he became one of the most influential and revered citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany.

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Feel free to add top or high importance scientists to the above list. Other science-related biographies may be nominated here.

  1. ^ a b Gardner, Helen (1970), Art through the Ages, Harcourt, Brace and World 
  2. ^ Vasari, Boltraffio, Castiglione, "Anonimo" Gaddiano, Berensen, Taine, Fuseli, Rio, Bortolon, etc. See specific quotations under heading "Leonardo, the legend".
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