Top 17 Famous Disabled Scientists That You Should Know

Top 17 Famous Disabled Scientists That You Should Know

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To celebrate scientists and scientific advancements, we have collected a list of the most famous disabled scientists that will inspire us for the greater good.

Did you know that many disabled scientists have made groundbreaking discoveries and changed the face of science? Some of these scientists developed groundbreaking mobility devices. Others left their marks in their respective fields. Let’s take a look at the 17 most famous scientists with disabilities.

With this list, we’re going to look at some of history’s most influential scientists with disabilities. We’ll explore their disabilities, how they overcame them, and what they accomplished due to their work.

We hope this list will help you see that no matter what your disability may be, it’s possible to be successful and impact the world around you.

Famous Disabled Scientists

#17. Temple Grandin (1947-Present): An Advocate for People Living With Autism

Credits: Pig Progress; Famous Disabled Scientists
Credits: Pig Progress

What makes Temple Grandin famous?

Temple Grandin is an American scientist and autism advocate who is best known for her work in animal behavior. She is one of the foremost experts on this subject.

Grandin was born with autism and uses her experience with it to help others who are also on the spectrum. She works with schools to make sure that students with autism are getting the support they need to succeed.

Temple Grandin speaks publicly about the condition and has written several books on the subject.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#16. Sara Rankin: A Pioneering Stem Cell Scientist

Credits: The Royal Society; Famous Disabled Scientists
Credits: The Royal Society

What makes Sara Rankin famous?

Sara Rankin is an English scientist best known for her scientific research in stem cell biology. She was born with dyslexia and developmental coordination disorder, which made it difficult for her to read and write.

Despite these challenges, she went on to have a successful career as a scientist and educator. Her research focuses on the use of stem cells from bone marrow to treat heart disease or injured bones. 

Her life is a testament to the fact that even if you have a learning disability, you can still go on to do great things.

[Source: The Royal Society]

#15. Solomon Lefschetz (1884-1972): A Prominent Mathematician Who Contributed to Algebraic Geometry 

Credits: The Royal Society; Famous Disabled Scientists
Credits: The Royal Society

What makes Solomon Lefschetz famous?

Solomon Lefschetz was an American mathematician who was involved in an accident at work, destroying his limbs in 1907. This made it quite difficult for him to continue working as a mathematician, but he didn’t give up on his life goals.

Lefschetz is best known for his contributions to algebraic topology, geometry, and differential equations. He worked with other mathematicians to help them formulate their ideas.

Solomon Lefschetz’s contributions helped shape the field of mathematics into what it is today. His work helped inspire a new generation of mathematicians and scientists.

[Source: The Royal Society]

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#14. Caroline M. Solomon: The Person Who Helps Visually Impaired Students Study Science

Credits: Research Gate; Famous Disabled Scientists
Credits: Research Gate

What makes Caroline M. Solomon famous?

Caroline M. Solomon is an American scientist and educator who lost her hearing ability when she was young. 

A spinal meningitis attack left her deaf, but this didn’t stop her from achieving her dreams. This Harvard-educated scientist is best known for helping visually impaired students study science. 

She developed a database that uses American Sign Language to explain scientific terms. This teaching system has made it possible for many deaf or hard of hearing students to pursue careers in science. 

Caroline Solomon’s work has helped countless people learn about science despite physical limitations. She has inspired others to push past obstacles and pursue their dreams despite adversity.

[Source: Rochester Institute of Technology]

#13. Jesse Shanahan (1991-Present): An AI Researcher & Disability Activist

Credits: Hello Flo; Famous Disabled Scientists
Credits: Hello Flo

What makes Jesse Shanahan famous?

Jesse Shanahan is an American scientist and pioneer in machine learning.

She was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic disease that affects her movement. This condition didn’t stop her from becoming a successful researcher.

Shanahan is also an advocate for people with disabilities, speaking out about how they can be included in the workplace and other aspects of life.

The life and work of Jesse Shanahan are an inspiration to anyone who wants to overcome their obstacles.

[Source: Wikipedia]

#12. Joshua Miele (1969-Present): The Inventor and Assistive Technology Pioneer

Credits: The New York Times; Famous Disabled Scientists
Credits: The New York Times

What makes Joshua Miele famous?

Joshua Miele is an American scientist who lost his vision as a child. He went on to become the “savior” for the visually impaired.

Miele is best known for his work at Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute. He developed web applications to help people with visual impairments.

Miele continues with his work on adaptive technology at Amazon Lab126 in California. He is currently working on solutions for those who want to use computers but may not have the sight needed for traditional mouse and keyboard interfaces.

[Source: People]

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#11. Florence B. Seibert (1897-1991): A Pioneering Medical Researcher

Credits: The Lassicist; Famous Disabled Scientists
Credits: The Lassicist

What makes Florence B. Seibert famous?

Florence B. Seibert was an American biochemist who made a name for herself in science despite walking with a limp. This condition was caused by polio attack earlier in her life. It didn’t stop her from making some of the most important scientific discoveries of her time.

Seibert is best known for her path-breaking research that led to the development of a Tuberculosis test. This test was so good that the US and many other countries around the world used it.

Seibert was also inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990. This makes her achievements even more impressive—and worthy of recognition.

[Source: Lemels]

#10. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519): The Painter Who Had a Knack for Science

Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica; Famous Disabled Scientists
Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica

What makes Leonardo Dapolymath,polymath, Vinci famous?

Leonardo da Vinci was a polymath, an artist, an engineer, and a scientist.

He lived during the High Renaissance, a time of great innovation in art, science, and engineering. Da Vinci was also a painter. His most famous piece is the Mona Lisa. It has been called one of the most recognizable paintings in history because of its iconic status as well as its beauty. 

Most people know Da Vinci for his work in anatomy, hydrodynamics, optics, engineering, and other fields. Even though these works were not published during his lifetime, they laid the groundwork for future research in those fields.

Da Vinci’s mirror writing and erratic handwriting were primarily attributed to dyslexia.

What’s the best Leonardo Da Vinci quote?

“Learning is the only thing that the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets.”

[Source: Dyslexia]

#9. Albert Einstein (1879-1955): The Father of Modern Physics

Credits: Biography; Famous Disabled Scientists
Credits: Biography

What makes Albert Einstein famous?

Albert Einstein was a German theoretical physicist who is best known for his work on quantum mechanics and relativity. These are important aspects of modern physics. 

Albert Einstein not only came up with the theory of relativity, but he also developed the concept of mass-energy equivalence. This is one of the most famous equations of all time. He came up with the laws of photoelectric effects, which earned him a Nobel Prize in 1921.

This influential scientist suffered from Einstein Syndrome, characterized by late speech. His problems with speech point to an undiagnosed learning disability.

What’s the best Albert Einstein quote?

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

[Source: Understood]

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#8. Farida Bedwei (1979-Present): A Pioneer in Financial Technology

Credits: CNN; Famous Disabled Scientists
Credits: CNN

What makes Farida Bedwei famous?

Farida Bedwei is a software engineer born in Nigeria but based in Ghana. She’s best known for her work developing and deploying mobile banking applications.

Bedwei has lived with cerebral palsy from a young age. She says this condition has helped her become more patient and humble. Her work as a software engineer has had a long-term effect on Ghana’s banking industry.

Bedwei is an amazing example of what you can accomplish with hard work and perseverance, even when you have barriers to success.

What’s the best Farida Bedwei quote?

“Always maintain your integrity, even if it is to your short-term detriment. It will pay off in the long term.”

[Source: Women Have Wings]

#7. Hamied Haroon: A Magnetic Resonance Imaging Researcher

Credits: The Royal Society; Famous Disabled Scientists
Credits: The Royal Society

What makes Hamied Haroon famous?

Hamied Haroon is an English scientist who has Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease. This rare genetic condition, which affects the peripheral nervous system, made him struggle through school.

He’s best known for his contributions to biomedical MRI research and for being an advocate for people with disabilities.

Although he was passionate about medical science, he didn’t think he could be a medical doctor because of his disability. But he found another way to get into this field.

His teacher’s book, Medical Physics, gave him hope of working in medicine. This is how Hamied ended up studying medical physics.

[Source: The Royal Society]

#6. Gustav Kirchhoff (1824-1887): A Pioneering Physicist 

Credits: Wikipedia; Famous Disabled Scientists
Credits: Wikipedia

What makes Gustav Kirchhoff famous?

Gustav Kirchhoff was a German physicist who lived from 1824 to 1887. He worked with crutches or a wheelchair for most of his life but kept up with his studies and research.

His work on spectroscopy and electric circuits was one of his most well-known scientific contributions. He came up with the term “black-body radiation” and explained how heated objects emit it. 

The Bunsen-Kirchhoff Award was named in his honor alongside Robert Bunsen, who is also on our list.

What’s the best Gustav Kirchhoff quote?

“I have succeeded at last in fetching some gold from the Sun.”

[Source: MacTutor]

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#5. Richard Leakey (1944-2022): A Wildlife Conservationist and Archeologist

Credits: Al Jazeera; Famous Disabled Scientists
Credits: Al Jazeera

What makes Richard Leakey famous?

Richard Leakey was a Kenyan archeologist and paleontologist who was born in 1944. He was one of the first paleontologists to discover that the early human species “Homo sapiens” originated in Africa rather than Asia or Europe.

In 1984, he became famous for discovering a skull of an early hominid called “Turkana Boy,” belonging to Homo erectus. His team also found another fossil—the black skull. 

After further research and analysis, they determined it wasn’t either Homo habilis or Homo erectus. Instead, it was a new species entirely: Australopithecus aethiopicus.

Leakey is also famous for his efforts to conserve wildlife in Kenya. He joined the Kenya Wildlife Service (then the Department of Wildlife Conservation and Management) in 1989 as part of a government-sponsored effort to preserve endangered species like elephants and rhinos. 

In 1993, a plane crash destroyed Leakey’s legs but did not stop him from continuing his passion: paleontology and archeology. He joined politics but later ditched it for a teaching position in the United States.

What’s the best Richard Leakey quote?

“My father used to say that, through culture, humans effectively domesticated themselves.”

 [Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#4. Sang-Mook Lee (1962–Present): The Korean Stephen Hawking

Credits: Beauty Ability; Famous Disabled Scientists
Credits: Beauty Ability

What makes Sang-Mook Lee famous?

Sang-Mook Lee is a South Korean scientist specializing in marine geology and computational science. He has significantly contributed to research on underwater earthquakes, tectonic plates, and volcanoes.

In 2006, Lee was involved in a car accident that killed his four limbs. Despite his disability, he is still dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities by developing technologies that help them live independently.

[Source: The Royal Society]

#3. Thomas Edison (1847-1931): The Inventor of the Incandescent Light Bulb

Famous Disabled Scientists; Credits: ThoughtCo
Credits: ThoughtCo

What makes Thomas Alva Edison famous?

Thomas Edison was born in 1847 in Ohio to Samuel and Nancy Elliot. As a boy, he studied arithmetic under the guidance of his mother—a school teacher. Edison would later sign up for a chemistry class, which was the only class he ever took at a college or university.

Edison wasn’t just a dyslexic studeHis work on the light bulb and motion picture cameras was later adopted by other inventors.nt. He was a troublemaker, too. His mother resorted to homeschooling when she noticed that her son was lazy in school. Edison struggled with speech and couldn’t grasp arithmetic concepts.

In 1869, Edison patented his first invention: a vote register and recorder. He went on to create devices that made it possible for people to communicate over long distances and at great speeds.

Thomas Alva Edison was the man behind one of history’s most groundbreaking inventions: the light bulb. His work on the light bulb and motion picture cameras was later adopted by other inventors.

These inventions changed the world forever. For example, they gave us light in our homes and offices. They made it possible for us to communicate with each other across continents.

What’s the best Thomas Edison quote?

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.”

[Source: Gemm Learning]

#2. Stephen Hawking (1942-2018): One of the Scientists Who Contributed to Our Understanding of the Universe 

Credits: Daily News Egypt; Famous Disabled Scientists
Credits: Daily News Egypt

What makes Stephen Hawking famous?

Stephen Hawking was an English theoretical physicist who made an indelible mark on the world. He was born in 1942 in England and is best known for his work in theoretical physics.

He contributed to the study of the universe by focusing on its origin and structure, which continues to appeal to millions worldwide.

In addition to being a brilliant scientist, Stephen Hawking was also an avid writer. His books continue to appeal to millions of readers globally.

Hawking had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. This nervous system disorder affected his muscles responsible for speech, movement, breathing, and eating.

What’s the best Stephen Hawking quote?

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

[Source: Read and Spell Blog]

#1. Edwin Krebs (1918-2009): The Biochemist and Nobel Prize Winner

Credits: Wikipedia; Famous Disabled Scientists
Credits: Wikipedia

What makes Edwin Krebs famous?

Edwin Krebs was an American biochemist who made a revolutionary discovery about the human body, particularly cellular activities. This improved the general understanding of enzymes, cells, and cellular processes. 

His biomedical research earned him the 1992 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, among other top prizes.

Krebs had a hearing disability, but it didn’t stop him from leaving a mark in the biochemical field. His work inspired many other scientists to study cellular processes and helped pave the way for modern science as we know it today.

[Source: Washington University]

Final Thoughts

The world of science is a place where everyone can succeed, regardless of their physical or mental restrictions. 

Some scientists have had to overcome tremendous odds to get where they are today. But it’s also true that their achievements have opened up the possibilities for many more people in the future.

These scientists represent just a fraction of the people who have been able to make huge contributions despite having a disability. They all share the same trait. They refused to let their disabilities hold them back.

We hope you were able to find inspiration from these stories and facts about famous disabled scientists. Now go out and make your own stories.

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SJ Tsai
Chief Editor. Writer wrangler. Research guru. Three years at scijournal. Hails from a family with five PhDs. When not shaping content, creates art. Peek at the collection on Etsy. For thoughts and updates, hit up Twitter.

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