Top 20+ Famous Physics Scientists That You Should Know

Top 20+ Famous Physics Scientists That You Should Know

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

Who would win by a landslide if there was a popular vote for famous physics scientists? Would it be Isaac Newton or the Nobel Laureate, Marie Curie? 

We used information from major publications such as the Nobel Prize to compile a list of the world’s most famous physics scientists to answer this question.

Here is an article about the famous physicists who revolutionized our understanding of the world around us. 

Table of Contents

Famous Physics Scientists

#22. Anders Celsius (1701-1744): The Person Who Introduced The Celsius Temperature To Us

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: Otosection
Credits: Otosection

What makes Anders Celsius famous?

Anders Celsius, one of the most important figures in Swedish science, is known for his contributions to mathematics, physics, and astronomy. He was a professor at Uppsala University, where he helped the institution establish the Uppsala Astronomical Observatory.

Celsius is also popular for introducing a type of centigrade temperature scale that goes by his name. Scientists still use the scale today, and it is often referred to simply as Celsius.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#21. Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686-1736): The Man Whose Inventions Revolutionized Thermometry

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: DK Find Out
Credits: DK Find Out

What makes Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit famous?

We link the name Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit to developing several important scientific instruments, including the first accurate thermometer. He created this device using mercury in glass. 

Born in Poland, Fahrenheit also developed the Fahrenheit scale, which became popular because it was easier to use than other scales. Its accuracy made it worthwhile for measuring extremely low temperatures. 

His alcohol thermometer and Fahrenheit hydrometer were also improvements on existing devices at the time.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#20. James Chadwick (1891-1974): Father of Modern Physics

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: WIRED
Credits: WIRED

What makes James Chadwick famous?

Chadwick was a British physicist and one of the most influential scientists ever to come out of Britain. His contributions to physics are still being recognized today by students, teachers, and researchers in all fields of science.

For example, his work on the MAUD Report influenced the United States government’s decision to pursue atomic weapons during World War II. 

He discovered the neutron, which revolutionized atomic physics. He even earned the Nobel Prize for this achievement.

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#19. Georg Simon Ohm (1789-1854): Pioneering Scientists Who Shaped Physics

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: The Famous People
Credits: The Famous People

What makes Georg Simon Ohm famous?

Georg Simon Ohm was a German physicist who is best known for being the first person to use the concept of voltage to explain the relationship between electric current and resistance.

He worked on Alessandro Volta’s electrochemical cell. Ohm realized that the voltage produced by this type of battery could be measured as a function of the current flowing through it. He also came up with a mathematical equation relating voltage and electric current using this concept. It is called Ohm’s law.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#18. Henri Becquerel (1852-1908): Father of Radioactivity

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: The Famous People
Credits: The Famous People

What makes Henri Becquerel famous?

Henri Becquerel was a French physicist and engineer who did revolutionary work in physics, especially in radioactivity.

He is known for his discovery of radioactivity. Becquerel shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with Marie Curie and Pierre Curie, who are also famous for their work on radioactivity. They discovered how to isolate and purify the element polonium.

To celebrate his contributions to science and honor his legacy, the International System of Units (SI) created an SI unit named after him: the Becquerel (Bq) unit of radioactivity. 

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#17. Max Planck (1858-1947): Father of Quantum Mechanics

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: The Famous People
Credits: The Famous People

What makes Max Planck famous?

Max Planck was a German theoretical physicist known for his contributions to quantum theory, which shaped our understanding of quantum mechanics. 

It’s hard to imagine what the world would be like if Max Planck hadn’t created his revolutionary theory of quantum mechanics. Without it, we might not understand the nature of light, heat, and other forms of energy.

Planck’s discovery of the energy quanta earned him the 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics.

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#16. Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845-1923): Father of Diagnostic Radiology

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: Worldkings
Credits: Worldkings

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was a German physicist and mechanical engineer who revolutionized medicine.

He is best known for discovering X-rays. This led to the development of radiography, which has saved millions of lives.

Röntgen’s discovery changed the world forever. It allowed physicians to see inside their patients’ bodies. These advances would not have been possible without Wilhelm Röntgen. In fact, Röntgen earned the first ever Nobel Prize in Physics (1901).

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#15. Arthur Compton (1892-1962): The Man Who Explained The Particle Properties of Light

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: The Famous People
Credits: The Famous People

What makes Arthur Compton famous?

If you’re a fan of physics, you’ve probably heard of Arthur Holly Compton. But if you’re not a fan of physics, maybe it’s time to start.

This American physicist is best known for discovering the Compton effect in electromagnetic radiation. This was a significant breakthrough because it explained light’s particle properties—something that had been a mystery until then.

In 1927, Compton received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on this topic.

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#14. Lise Meitner (1878-1968): A Pioneer in Nuclear Physics 

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: Physics Today 
Credits: Physics Today 

What makes Lise Meitner famous?

Lise Meitner was an Austrian-born Swedish physicist who studied radioactivity and nuclear fission. We considered her the German Marie Curie.

She attended the University of Vienna, where she studied physics and mathematics. Meitner was among the first to earn a doctorate in physics from the University of Vienna.

Meitner is most famous for her work with Otto Hahn on nuclear physics. She discovered Protactinium-231 and was the first to recognize that Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman had discovered nuclear fission instead of transuranic elements. She also made contributions to understanding the process of nuclear fission in uranium.

Meitner was nominated 48 times for the Nobel Prize in Physics and Chemistry between 1924 and 1965. But she didn’t win any due to political obtuseness, disciplinary bias, haste, and ignorance.

What is the best Lise Meitner quote?

“I will have nothing to do with a bomb!”

[Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, Life of Meitner]

#13. Heinrich Hertz (1857-1894): The Second Person To Discover That Light Has Electromagnetic Waves

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: The Famous People
Credits: The Famous People

What makes Heinrich Hertz famous?

Heinrich Hertz was a German physicist who is known for his work on radio waves. In 1887, he proved James Clerk Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism. He discovered the presence of electromagnetic waves in light, as proposed by Maxwell.

To honor his legacy, the unit of frequency in hertz was given his name.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#12. C.V. Raman (1888-1970): The First Asian To Win The Nobel Prize in A Scientific Field

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: Facebook
Credits: Facebook

What makes C.V. Raman famous?

Born in 1888 in Trichy, India, C. V. Raman was a scientist known for his study of light.

While conducting his experiments, Raman discovered a phenomenon called “modified scattering.” This light scattering type is known as the Raman scattering (or Raman effect). And it earned him a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930.

 What’s the best C.V. Raman quote?

“I am the master of my failure…If I never fail how will I learn?”

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#11. Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961): The Father of Quantum Theory

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: New Scientist
Credits: New Scientist

What makes Erwin Schrödinger famous?

If you’ve ever been in a physics class, you might know Erwin Schrödinger—the Austrian physicist who won the Nobel Prize for his contributions to quantum theory.

Erwin Schrödinger was born in Vienna but later became Irish after his exile from Nazi-occupied Austria. He was proficient in both theoretical and experimental physics. 

Erwin Schrödinger won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to quantum theory, which led to a better understanding of the Schrödinger equation.

He developed the Schrödinger equation, which explains how systems change over time. Scientists use this equation to study physics and chemistry.

Schrödinger also created a famous thought experiment called “Schrodinger’s Cat” to explain concepts related to quantum mechanics. 

This experiment involves placing a cat in a box with a vial of poison and a radioactive substance. Whenever someone opens the box, they will have no way to know if the cat is alive or dead until they look inside.

[Source: The Nobel Prize ]

#10. Nikola Tesla (1856-1943): An Unsung Hero Celebrated by Elon Musk

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits:

What makes Nikola Tesla famous?

Nikola Tesla is one of the most famous inventors and engineers in history. He was born in 1856 in what is now Croatia, and he died in 1943. 

He is best known for his contributions to the modern alternating current (AC) system, which makes electric power available to homes and businesses everywhere.

He invented the Tesla coil, a device that produces high voltage and low amperage. This allowed him to create lightning-fast motors and transmitters.

What’s the best Nikola Tesla quote?

“If your hate could be turned into electricity, it would light up the whole world.”

[Source: The Smithsonian Magazine]

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

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: Daily News Egypt
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.

What’s the best Stephen Hawking quote?

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica ]

#8. Michael Faraday (1791-1867): The Father of Electricity

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: ThoughtCo
Credits: ThoughtCo

What makes Michael Faraday famous?

Born in England, Michael Faraday was the first to propose that electricity and magnetism are related. He made this discovery in 1831 when he found that a magnet can affect a current of electricity.

Faraday discovered electromagnetism while experimenting with magnetic fields to understand how electricity worked. 

He also developed the concept of induction (also known as electromagnetic induction). This explains how mechanical motion could generate electricity. It was an important discovery at the time because it meant there would be no need for batteries anymore.

Faraday also did important research on chemical sciences and discovered benzene. He also invented an early version of a Bunsen burner for studying gases. Although Faraday struggled with dyslexia, he received the 1902 Nobel Prize for his contributions to Physics.

What is the best Michael Faraday quote?

“But still try, for who knows what is possible?”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica ]

#7. Irène Joliot-Curie (1897-1956): The Woman Who Followed in Her Parents’ Footsteps 

Famous Physics Scientists : Frederic and Joliot Curie. Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica 
Frederic and Joliot Curie. Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica 

Irene Joliot-Curie, the French physicist, and chemist was born in Paris in 1897. She grew up with her parents, who were both scientists. Her father, Pierre Curie, was a physicist who discovered polonium in 1898. Irene’s mother, Marie Sklodowska, was also a scientist and chemist.

In 1923, Irene married Frédéric Joliot-Curie, who was also a chemist. Together they worked on many projects, including discovering how chemicals react when exposed to radiation. In 1935, they won their Nobel Prize for this work, becoming the second married couple to win it after their parents.

What’s the best Irène Joliot-Curie quote?

“The farther the experiment is from theory, the closer it is to the Nobel Prize.”

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#6. J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967): The Father of Atomic Bomb

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: Biography 
Credits: Biography 

What makes J. Robert Oppenheimer famous?

If you’re unfamiliar with J. Robert Oppenheimer, it may be because he’s not a household name. But he is one of the most influential people in modern history—not just because he helped develop the atomic bomb that ended World War II.

Oppenheimer was born in 1904 in New York City and received his education from several institutions, including Harvard College and Cambridge University. He was an expert on nuclear physics and would lead the team of scientists who designed the nuclear bomb used in World War II. 

Although he was a member of President Truman’s Atomic Energy Commission, he criticized the development of a thermonuclear weapon.

Afterward, he became a key figure in President Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program, promoting peaceful uses of nuclear power and development.

What is the best J. Robert Oppenheimer quote?

“I become death, the destroyer of the worlds.”

[Source: Atomic Heritage Foundation]

#5. Richard Feynman (1918-1988): The ‘Little Jewish Boy’ Who Became A Nobel Laureate 

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: Archinect
Credits: Archinect

What makes Richard Feynman famous?

Richard Feynman was a man who stood at the intersection of two worlds. He was born in New York City in 1918 to Jewish parents. Feynman studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He went on to earn his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1942.

This theoretical physicist served at the US lab under brilliant genius J. Robert Oppenheimer at the Manhattan Project during World War II. He helped construct the atomic bomb that stopped the war.

After the war, Feynman turned his attention to particle physics and developed what we now call the parton model, which explains how quarks are formed within the atomic nucleus. He also helped lay the groundwork for quantum electrodynamics theory, which is still widely used in physics research labs worldwide.

Feynman received a Nobel Prize for his work on quantum electrodynamics in 1965, alongside two other scientists (Julian Schwinger and Shin’ichiro Tomonaga).

What is the best Richard Feynman quote?

“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#4. Pierre Curie (1859-1906): The Nobel Laureate 

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: History and Biography 
Credits: History and Biography 

Pierre Curie was a physicist and chemist, considered one of the most influential people in history. He was born in Paris in 1859.

Curie’s most famous discovery was regarding radioactivity. He discovered that certain elements were radioactive, emitting radiation when they changed from one form to another. He also studied magnetism, crystallography, and many other fields.

This discovery earned him the 1903 Nobel Prize for Physics, alongside Marie Curie (his wife) and Henri Becquerel.

Curie was the first married couple to be awarded a Nobel Prize for their work—they (with Marie Curie) received it jointly in 1903 for their work on radioactivity and magnetism.

What’s the best Pierre Curie quote?

“It would be a fine thing, in which I hardly dare believe, to pass our lives near each other, hypnotized by our dreams.”

[Source: The Nobel Prize]

#3. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727): The Man Who Formulated The Laws of Motion

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica
Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica

What makes Sir Isaac Newton famous?

Sir Isaac Newton was an English scientist and mathematician. He is best known for his contributions to astronomy, physics, and optics and his many other works that extended throughout the 18th century.

His contributions to astronomy were enormous. He was one of the first scientists to suggest that the earth is an oblate spheroid rather than a spherical object. Newton’s work on optics revolutionized how we see things in space. His invention of the reflecting telescope helped him study the solar system. 

Newton’s laws of motion were important in understanding how objects move on Earth.

What’s the best Sir Isaac Newton quote?

“What we know is a drop; what we don’t know is an ocean.”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#2. Marie S. Curie (1867-1934): A Pioneer in Radioactivity 

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: Live Science
Credits: Live Science

What makes Marie Curie famous?

Marie Curie was a Polish-born scientist who studied the phenomenon of radioactivity. She was the first female scientist to receive a Nobel Prize, which she won in 1903 and 1911. 

Curie is best known for her research on radiation and radioactivity, which won her two Nobel Prizes: one for chemistry and one for physics. She contributed to the race for cancer treatment. Marie Curie is also famous for discovering radium and polonium.

Pierre and Marie Curie were the first couple to win the Nobel Prize.

She holds many firsts, including:

  • the only woman in the Brussels’ Solvay Conference.
  • the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.
  • the first person to win two Nobel Prizes.
  • the first person to win the prize in two distinct fields.

She died in 1934 from aplastic anemia, which was likely caused by exposure to radiation during her career.

What’s the best Marie Curie quote?

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

[Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, News Think]

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

Famous Physics Scientists : Credits: Biography
Credits: Biography

What makes Albert Einstein famous?

Albert Einstein was a German theoretical physicist best known for his contributions to modern physics through his work on quantum mechanics and relativity. 

Not only did he develop the theory of relativity, but he also developed one of the most famous equations of all time—the mass-energy equivalence. He came up with the laws of photoelectric effects, which earned him a Nobel Prize in 1921.

What’s the best Albert Einstein quote?

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

[Source: Nobel Prize]

Final Thoughts

We have overcome many difficulties which appeared unsolvable 500 years ago. This leap is due to the past research that these scientists conducted. They gave us a deep insight into nature and its forces.

 We have witnessed many changes in the world, including the development of faster, better transportation and the advancement of technology.

Scientists are working to take us to another level in education and technology. Physics is never an ending field. You should do your best to understand more about it every day.

Who is your favorite physics scientist? Let us know in the comment section 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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