Top 17 Famous Modern Scientists That You Should Know

Top 17 Famous Modern Scientists That You Should Know

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

Every time we think about famous scientists who have made a mark in history, we remember Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, Marie Curie, or Rosalind Franklin.

But what if I were to tell you that many scientists who have revolutionized science were born in the 20th century? From discovering the human immunodeficiency virus to developing the Covid-19 vaccine, modern scientists have contributed to history in their way.

This article is a result of our team’s intense research. We condensed the information from the Nobel Prize publication, online libraries, videos, podcasts, and several biographies.

Let’s explore the brief history of some of the most famous modern scientists! This is a ride through the 20th and 21st centuries. Put your safety belts on!

Famous Modern Scientists

#17. Jean M.J. Frechet (1944-present): The Father of Modern Chemistry

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: King Abdullah University 
Credits: King Abdullah University 

What makes Jean-Marie Frechet famous?

Jean-Marie Frechet was born in France. He is known for his contributions to the fields of polymer chemistry and organic synthesis, as well as nanotechnology.

Frechet is most famous for his work with Craig Hawker on a convergent synthetic approach for making dendrimers, which increased the manufacture of dendrimers (branched polymeric molecules).

Jean M.J. Frechet is a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s College of Chemistry.

[Source: UC Berkeley]

#16. Lene Vestergaard Hau (1959-present): The Scientist Who Stopped Light

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: Olav Stiftelsen
Credits: Olav Stiftelsen

What makes Lene Vestergaard famous?

Lene Vestergaard Hau is a Danish theoretical physicist who was born in 1959. She is known for her work on quantum optics and nanotechnology. 

Hau’s work is famous for its contribution to extending the limits of what can we can achieve using light beams. She has used Bose-Einstein condensates to stop light beams in their tracks and show how they behave at the microscopic level. 

Her research has helped us understand how light behaves on the atomic scale, which has led to advances in quantum computing and nanotechnology.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#15. John Tyler Bonner (1920-2019): The World’s Foremost Expert in Cellular Slime Molds

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: Web of Stories
Credits: Web of Stories

What makes John Tyler Bonner famous?

While we may be familiar with James Watson, Francis Crick, and Rosalind Franklin, we forget one of the influential evolutionary biologists. John Tyler Bonner was an American biologist and professor known for his work in the developmental and evolutionary biology field.

Bonner’s research focused on cellular slime molds, single-celled organisms that reproduce by fission and can be grown in test tubes without a host organism (like bacteria). He was one of the first scientists to study evolution using these cellular slime molds.

His work has had a lasting impact on evolutionary biology and developmental biology. It paved the way for other scientists to develop their theories about evolution or development over time.

[Source: The Embryo Project Encyclopedia] 

#14. Dennis Bray (1939-present): The Pioneering Biologist 

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: Alchetron
Credits: Alchetron

What makes Dennis Bray famous?

Dennis Bray is a British neuroscientist and professor who has made contributions to cell motility and nerve growth.

Bray is known for his research on chemotaxis. This is the ability of cells to move toward or away from chemicals or other stimuli. He won Microsoft’s European Science Award in 2007 for his work.

[Source: The Science Factory]

#13. Simon Conway Morris (1951-present): The Man Who Explained The Origin of Life

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: Flickr
Credits: Flickr

What makes Simon Conway Morris famous?

Ever wonder where our ancestors came from? You might not think you needed to. After all, we live in a time when there are more species on the planet than ever.

We have a pretty good idea of how humans and apes evolved from what was once a common ancestor. But the answer to that question—and our place in the scheme of life on Earth—may not be as simple as you think.

Simon Conway Morris is an evolutionary biologist who has spent his career studying Cambrian fossils and their relationship to modern organisms. 

If you’ve read Stephen Jay Gould’s Wonderful Life, you know that he used Morris’s discoveries to show how the Cambrian explosion happened.

[Source: The Gifford Lectures]

#12. Pierre Chambon (1931-2018): The Award-Winning Scientist Who Cloned Nuclear Hormone Receptors

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: The Medicine Marker
Credits: The Medicine Marker

What makes Pierre Chambon famous?

Pierre Chambon, who died at 87, was a French biologist who gained recognition for his work on nuclear hormone receptors, which he cloned and studied.

Chambon identified RNA Polymerase II (B) when studying transcription. He earned a Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize for discovering the nuclear receptor superfamily.

Chambon’s work came when scientists were still trying to understand how cells regulated their genes. He helped identify nucleosomes (the smallest unit of chromatin ) and how they organize themselves into larger structures.

[Source: Wikipedia]

#11. Gerald M. Edelman (1929-2014): The Nobel Laureate Who Contributed To Modern Science

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: Nobel Prize 
Credits: Nobel Prize 

What makes Gerald M. Edelman famous?

Gerald M. Edelman was a renowned American biologist and neuroscientist who has contributed to the field of immunology, neuroscience, and more. 

In 1972 he won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his research on the cells’ ability to respond to foreign substances by building up a barrier against them. While at Rockefeller University, he also studied how neurons communicate with other cells through electrical impulses (synapses).

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#10. Stephen Hawking (1942-2018): One of The Influential Scientists of Our Time

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: Daily News Egypt
Credits: Daily News Egypt

What makes Stephen Hawking famous?

Stephen Hawking was a man 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.

What’s the best Stephen Hawking quote?

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica ]

#9. Ronald M. Evans (1949-present): Foremost Expert in Hormones

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: Science Friday
Credits: Science Friday

What makes Ronald M. Evans famous?

Ronald M. Evans is a renowned American biologist who has dedicated his life to studying hormones. He is famous for discovering nuclear hormone receptors. 

One of Evans’ greatest achievements is finding out how nuclear hormone receptors work with other hormones in the body’s endocrine system to regulate metabolic processes. His current research focuses on this subject, emphasizing nuclear hormone signaling with an eye toward its role in metabolism.

Ronald M. Evans has won over 40 awards for his work, including the Wolf Prize in Medicine.

[Source: Salk]

#8. Andrew Z. Fire (1959-present): The Scientist Who Contributed To The Discovery of RNA Interference 

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: Wikipedia 
Credits: Wikipedia 

What makes Andrew Z. Fire famous?

Andrew Z. Fire is an American biologist and former student of Philip Sharp, who won the Nobel Prize in 2006 for his work on RNA interference.

He co-discovered RNA interference (RNAi), which works by silencing genes that are not being expressed properly. Fire shared half of his Nobel Prize with Craig C. Mello.

Andrew Z. Fire is also known for his role in developing methods that allow scientists to manipulate genes by using RNA as a molecular tool rather than DNA. 

His research has helped unravel many mysteries about how cells regulate their activities. This includes how they respond to infection or control development throughout life stages.

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#7. David Baltimore (1938-present): Nobel Laureate Who Isolated An Enzyme From Tumor Viruses

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: Caltech
Credits: Caltech

What makes David Baltimore famous?

David Baltimore is one of the most successful scientists of the 20th century. 

In his career as a scientist, Baltimore has contributed significantly to understanding the structure of viruses, especially those that cause cancer. His research has led him to discover many important enzymes involved in viral replication and reverse transcription (the process by which DNA is converted into messenger RNA). 

In addition to this work on virus structure and replication, he helped develop a new classification system for viruses called the Baltimore Classification System.

In 1975, Baltimore won a Nobel Prize for his scientific research identifying the enzyme reverse transcriptase, which allows viruses to be copied into new forms.

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#6. Allen J. Bard (1933-present): Father of Modern Electrochemistry

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: The Electrochemical Society
Credits: The Electrochemical Society

What makes Allen J. Bard famous?

Allen J. Bard is one of America’s most renowned chemists. He is known for His ability to cut through the complexity of chemistry with scalpel-like precision. this allowed him to make groundbreaking discoveries in areas like electrochemistry. 

Bard developed the scanning electrochemical microscope, which has been indispensable in many fields of chemistry and biology alike. The scanning electrochemical microscope (SECM) allows scientists to see chemical reactions inside cells or even molecules at the atomic level. 

This invention does this by illuminating the sample with light and measuring the amount of light that reflects at a specific wavelength.

Allen J. Bard was the winner of the 2008 Wolf Prize in Chemistry for his work on electrochemistry. He won many other awards, including the National Medal of Science in 2011.

[Source: Academic Influence]

#5. Charles K. Kao (1933-2018): Father of Fiber Optic Communications

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: Lindau Mediatheque
Credits: Lindau Mediatheque

What makes Charles K. Kao famous?

Charles K. Kao is one of the most influential figures in the history of telecommunications. He helped shape the world we live in today by developing better ways to communicate and access information.

His work with lasers and glass fibers revolutionized the internet. He helped create fiber optics, which allow us to transmit data at super high speeds. This discovery earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Kao was a man of the world. While he was born in China, he had citizenship for both the UK and US.

What’s the best Charles K. Kao quote?

“If you really look at it, I was trying to sell a dream…There was very little I could put in concrete to tell these people it was really real.”

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#4. Luc Montagnier (1932-2022): The Scientist Who Co-discovered HIV

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: BBC
Credits: BBC

What makes Luc Montagnier famous?

Luc Montagnier was a French virologist who won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with two other scientists for their work in medicine.

He is famous for discovering the human immunodeficiency virus. Montagnier was also known for promoting the idea that the virus that causes COVID-19 was lab-made. This theory received criticism from the scientific community.

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#3. Sydney Brenner (1927-2019): The Nobel Laureate Who Contributed To Our Understanding of Genes

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: Science 
Credits: Science 

What makes Sydney Brenner famous?

If you’re a fan of science, you might be familiar with Sydney Brenner. He wrote more than 1,000 publications and is known for his research in developmental biology, which he began at Berkeley’s Molecular Sciences Institute.

Born in South Africa, Brenner first became interested in genetics while a graduate student at the University of Oxford. He was working on the genetic code when he realized that there were gaps in knowledge about how developmental processes occur. 

In particular, he wanted to know why plants and animals have roughly the same number of genes as they do. This led him to create a model organism (a roundworm species) that scientists could use to study how these processes work. 

This roundworm has been used extensively by other researchers since then.  His model organism for development helped spur new research in this area of science.

Additionally, Brenner was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 2002 for his contributions to understanding how genes function during development.

What’s the best Sydney Brenner quote?

“Progress in science depends on new techniques, new discoveries and new ideas, probably in that order.”

[Source: The Nobel Prize ]

#2. Kary B. Mullis (1944-2019): The Man Whose Work Shaped Modern Science

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: Los Angeles Times 
Credits: Los Angeles Times 

What makes Kary B. Mullis famous?

Kary B. Mullis is an American biochemist who was born in 1944. He is known for developing the polymerase chain reaction, which is still useful in modern scientific research.

Mullis received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry alongside Michael Smith in 1993 for his work on the polymerase chain reaction. 

Mullis also argued that there might be other causes of AIDS other than HIV. His ideas remain controversial and against what scientists know about AIDS.

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#1. Timothy J. Berners-Lee (1955-present):  The Inventor of The World Wide Web 

Famous Modern Scientists : Credits: W3C
Credits: W3C

What makes Timothy Berners-Lee famous?

Tim Berners-Lee is a computer scientist born in London in 1955. He attended school at Emanuel School and then went on to earn a BA in physics at The Queen’s College in Oxford.

Berners-Lee is best known for creating a way for computers to communicate with each other over networks using simple commands. This invention has led to many new ways of using computers and changed how people use the internet daily.

This computer science expert was also one of the founders of Europe’s first global hypertext information system, now known as HTML (HyperText Markup Language). One example of this system is ‘hyperlink,’ which allows you to embed links in documents on web pages.

Berners-Lee continues to work on improving how people interact with technology through his foundation called The World Wide Web Foundation (WWWF).

What’s the best Timothy Berners-Lee quote?

“The Web does not just connect machines, it connects people.”

[Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, WWWF]

Final Thoughts

We view scientists as people who make observations about the natural environment. They find ways for machines to operate more efficiently. These important figures work on things that make the world a better place.

Today’s scientists are famous for several inventions in medicine, artificial intelligence, biochemistry, and many other scientific fields.

This article looks at the most influential scientists who have shaped the world today. 

What did you think of this list? Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comments below.


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Joannah W.
Joannah has been a science publisher with close to 20 years of experience. She wants to help students and researchers stay ahead of the trends and developments in the science community by making science more accessible to everyone.

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