Top 18 Famous Environmental Scientists You Should Know

Top 18 Famous Environmental Scientists You Should Know

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

Environmental science is a huge field. It can be pretty complicated, with lots of details and sometimes strange terminology. But don’t worry — we’re here to take you on a journey through the list of people whose efforts have helped save the environment.

The Nobel Prize was the first stop for our research team, where we gathered information that helped us create this piece. We also scoured several encyclopedias, libraries, and publications.

Meet the top voices in environmental science!

Table of Contents

Famous Environmental Scientists

#18. Penny Whetton (1958-2019): A Pioneering Scientist Skilled in the Art of Life

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: The Conversation 

What makes Penny Whetton famous?

Penny Whetton was one of Australia’s most prominent climate scientists. She was born in Melbourne in 1958 and studied physics at the University of Melbourne. Whetton spent her career researching the effects of global warming on Australia and helped her country take stronger actions against it.

[Source: The Conversation ]

#17. Greta Thunberg (2003-present): The 19-Year-Old Who Challenged World Leaders to Take Action

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: The Guardian 

What makes Greta Thunberg famous?

Greta Thunberg, the environmental activist who has been making headlines around the globe, is a 19-year-old Swedish girl.

She is known for her campaign against climate change. Thunberg has addressed international forums, including the United Nations climate conference in 2018 and World Economic Forum. 

Her activism has also earned her many fans worldwide. She is also the founder of the Fridays for Future movement, which calls for environmental conservation.

Greta Thunberg has received many awards and honors, including three Nobel Prize nominations.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica ]

#16. Jamie Margolin (2001-present): The Climate Activist Who Founded Zero Hour To Fight For Conservation 

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: Malala Fund

What makes Jamie Margolin famous?

Jamie Margolin is a Colombian-American climate justice activist who is famous for founding Zero Hour. This movement aims to give young people a platform to share their ideas about how they could help solve climate change and make a difference in their communities.

[Source: International Congress of Youth Voices]

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#15. Malaika Vaz (1997-present): The 25-Year-Old National Geographic Explorer

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: Business Insider 

What makes Malaika Vaz famous?

Malaika Vaz is a young Indian filmmaker and explorer who’s making waves in the world of TV. She’s a natural-born storyteller—you can tell she loves what she does because of her passion.

Malaika began her career as an environmentalist by documenting her journey through India, where she chronicled the conservation efforts of scientists and how they were protecting endangered species. She also highlighted the efforts of local communities who were working to save their own lands and wildlife.

Malaika highlights the importance of using natural resources wisely so future generations can benefit from them. Her work inspires others to take action against environmental problems like deforestation.

[Source: National Geographic ]

#14. Julia Hill (1974-present): The Lady Who Saved A California Redwood Tree From Death

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: Timeline

What makes Julia Butterfly Hill famous?

Julia Butterfly Hill was born in 1974 in Mount Vernon, Washington.

She is famous for living on the California redwood tree for two years to save it from the Pacific Lumber Company. The company planned to clearcut the tree, which would have left it dead. Hill climbed the tree for two years until the company gave up on its plan to cut down the tree.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#13. Winona LaDuke (1959-present): The Activist Who Promotes Environmental Conservation 

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: Winona LaDuke

What makes Winona LaDuke famous?

Winona LaDuke is an American environmentalist and economist who is famous for co-founding Honor the Earth, an organization that fights for sustainable environmental practices.

LaDuke is also well-known for being influential in finding solutions to tribal land claims. Her push for sustainable development has made her a popular figure across the country, especially among millennials who care about the environment and economic justice.

[Source: Women History]

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#12. George Washington Carver (1864-1943): The Plant Doctor Who Introduced Crop Rotation To Farming

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: New Scientist 

What makes George Washington Carver famous?

George Washington Carver was an African-American agricultural scientist who is known for his work in crop rotation and soil conservation. He was born in Diamond, Missouri, in 1864 but grew up in the South.

After graduation, Carver began working with farmers to help improve their crops by alternating them through periods. This farming method helps prevent soil erosion and depletion.

His efforts earned him several honors, including the Spingarn Medal from the National Academy of Sciences in 1923. 

[Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#11. Paul Hawken (1946-present): One of The Leading Voices in the Modern Environmental Movement 

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: Food Tank

What makes Paul Hawken famous?

Paul Hawken is a famous environmentalist and businessman who has dedicated his life to saving the planet. He was born in 1946 in San Mateo, California.

Hawken’s work has focused primarily on global warming and climate change since the 1980s. He’s also an advocate for more efficient farming techniques, sustainable agriculture, and resource conservation efforts—all of which aim to help protect the environment for future generations.

[Source: GreenBiz]

#10. David Orr (1944-present): Father of Environmental Education

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: Wikipedia 

What makes David Orr famous?

Born in Iowa, David W. Orr rose to be a pioneer in the field of environmental studies, paving the way for higher education institutions to join the fight for conservation.

He was one of the first professors to recognize that environmental studies should be part of the core curriculum. Orr created an environment where students could research and learn about these issues without fear of judgment or ridicule.

He also has a knack for writing books that continue to advocate for environmental protection. 

What is the best David Orr quote?

 “Our true destiny…is a world built from the bottom up by competent citizens living in solid communities, engaged in and by their places.”

[Source: Oberlin]

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#9. Wangari Maathai (1940-2011): The First African Woman to Win a Nobel Prize 

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: Hapa Kenya

What makes Wangari Maathai famous?

If you’re looking for someone to inspire you, you can’t get more inspiring than Wangari Maathai.

She was born in Kenya and studied in the US, courtesy of John F. Kennedy’s Airlift Africa. Maathai was the first woman to graduate with a Ph.D. in Eastern Africa.

In 1977, she founded a nonprofit organization called the Green Belt Movement (GBM), which advocated for tree planting and environmental conservation while advocating for women’s rights. The GBM aimed to combat deforestation in Kenya’s forest reserves and protect women from domestic violence.

What is the best Wangari Maathai quote?

“You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.”

[Source: Green Belt Movement ]

#8. Chico Mendes (1944-1988): The Brazil Conservationist Who Fought To Save The Amazon

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: BBC

What makes Chico Mendes famous?

Chico Mendes was a Brazilian social activist and environmentalist born in Xapuri. He was at the forefront of the fight to preserve the Amazon rainforest, which he believed was being destroyed by loggers and farmers. He spent his life trying to save the rainforest from deforestation.

In 1988, he became the target of an assassin—the 90th activist to be killed in rural Brazil that year.

What is the best Chico Mendes quote?

“At first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest. Now I realize I am fighting for humanity.”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica ]

#7. Gaylord Nelson (1916-2005): The Man Who Established Earth Day

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: Alumni Park

What makes Gaylord Nelson famous?

Gaylord Nelson was born in 1916 in Clear Lake, Wisconsin. He was an environmentalist and a politician. Nelson has been called “the father of environmentalism, ” for his efforts to conserve the environment.

But what exactly did he do to get that reputation? Well, it all started when Nelson wanted to address pollution issues in his state, which is now common across America. He took action by founding Earth Day, an event that has since become an essential part of our culture.

Although Nelson continued to fight for environmental causes throughout his life, he never left politics behind him. Gaylord Nelson served in various offices, such as being the governor of Wisconsin. He even became a senator from Wisconsin.

What is the best Gaylord Nelson quote?

“The fate of the living planet is the most important issue facing mankind.”

[Source: Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day]

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#6. Robert Bullard (1946-present): The Father of Environmental Justice

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: Vox

What makes Robert Bullard famous?

Robert D. Bullard is an American professor, activist, and author who has written several books on environmental justice.

Bullard was born in 1946 in Elba and graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in sociology from Iowa State University in 1976. 

He is best known for his efforts against environmental racism and the formation of the environmental justice movement. 

Besides being a strong environmentalist, Robert Bullard also served as a professor at Texas Southern University.

What is the best Robert Bullard quote?

“All communities are not impacted the same by climate change…to deal with climate change, the justice part has to be front and center.”

[Source: TSU]

#5. John Muir (1838-1914): The Father of National Parks

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: NBC News

What makes John Muir famous?

John Muir is one of the most recognizable names in environmentalism, and for a good reason. He was born in Scotland but grew up in Wisconsin. He attended the University of Wisconsin for botany classes and developed an interest in nature. 

It wasn’t long before Muir set his sights on conserving national parks, including Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park. These parks are considered some of the most beautiful places on earth—they were created because of John Muir’s efforts.

John Muir was also a co-founder of the Sierra Club—an environmental conservation organization. He believed humans should respect nature, so he pushed for wilderness preservation across America.

What is the best John Muir quote?

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”

[Source:  Sierra Club ]

#4. James Hansen (1941-present): The Father of Global Warming Awareness 

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: Grist

What makes James Hansen famous?

Born in Iowa, James Hansen has had an incredible career in climate change activism, which began in 1988 with his testimony to Congress on global warming. Since then, he has been at the forefront of the push for climate change mitigation and education.

Hansen started out as a physicist, but his work focussed on climate change and its effects on the world’s ecosystems. He was one of the first people to bring attention to global warming and its consequences. His research focussed on how temperatures could rise dramatically by 2100 if we don’t mitigate our use of fossil fuels.

James Hansen is also known for being an advocate for action on climate change. He spoke at many conferences and interviews, advocating for action against global warming.

What is the best James Hansen quote?

“Global warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening.”

[Source: GristGrist

#3. Jane Goodall (1934-present): The Scientist Who Studied Chimpanzees For 60 Years in Africa

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: CNET

What makes Jane Goodall famous?

Jane Goodall is a rockstar in the world of anthropology. She’s been studying chimpanzees for about 60 years and has already made an impact on our understanding of animal behavior.

Goodall was born in 1934 in London and grew up surrounded by animals.

Jane’s initially focused on how chimps act as social beings and how they use tools. However, she quickly became fascinated by their behavior within their natural environment.

And it turns out that Jane’s focus on the smaller details of chimpanzee life has helped us understand how humans evolved into what we are today—and how much more there is to learn about our closest relatives.

Jane Goodall Institute (which she founded) advocates for the protection of chimpanzees. She also established a rehabilitation center for chimpanzees in Congo.

What is the best Jane Goodall quote?

 “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

[Source: National Geographic]

#2. Aldo Leopold (1887-1948): The Father of Wildlife Ecology

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: The Aldo Leopold Foundation 

What makes Aldo Leopold famous?

Aldo Leopold was an American naturalist, conservationist, and ecologist who is most famous for the book A Sand County Almanac, which was published in 1949. He was born in 1887 in Iowa. He studied at the Lawrenceville School before graduating from Yale University.

Leopold’s work has influenced modern environmentalism, wildlife management practices, and conservation policy. In his writings on wildlife, he argued that we should preserve nature at all costs as this would benefit both people and wildlife. 

He also pushed for wildlife preservation by establishing reserves and refuges, which helped to conserve biodiversity. He also advocated for biodiversity and biodiversity-based management of ecosystems.

What is the best Aldo Leopold quote?

“Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land.”

[Source: The Aldo Leopold Foundation]

#1. Rachel Carson (1907-1964): Mother of the Modern Environmental Protection 

Famous Environmental Scientists
Credits: ThoughtCo

What makes Rachel Carson famous?

Rachel Carson is a name that has gone down in history as the person who raised awareness regarding the dangers of synthetic pesticides. She was born on May 27, 1907, in Springdale, Pennsylvania, and studied at Chatham University before attending John Hopkins University. After graduating from college, she worked at the Bureau of Fisheries before becoming a writer.

In 1962, she released her book Silent Spring, which exposed the harmful effects of synthetic pesticides. This book also led to the banning of DDT—the most widely used pesticide in the world—in 1972.

Carson’s works resulted in the establishment of the US agency for environmental protection, which aims to prevent pollution from entering water bodies and air pollution from entering land areas.

What is the best Rachel Carson quote?

“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, ‘What if I had never seen this before?’ What if I knew I would never see it again?”

[Source: Rachel Carson]

Final Thoughts

While it is undoubtedly necessary to hold the current governments accountable for the destruction of our environment, I would like to focus on some ways in which we can change our attitudes and actions. 

We can conserve energy, reduce pollutants, and make our lives more sustainable with a few changes in how we go about our everyday activities. Although change can often be difficult and take time, we do not need to wait until governments act. We should start advocating for a better environment today by making small behavioral changes.

A clean environment is every environmental scientist’s dream.

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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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