Top 20+ Famous Space Scientists That You May Not Know

Top 20+ Famous Space Scientists That You May Not Know

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

Space scientists observe every aspect and variable of nature over an extended period. This allows them not only to gather data about everything but also to make predictions about what might happen based on past observations. This future-predicting power is one of the most valuable facets of modern science — and space science is no different.

We bring you a list of the most famous space scientists. This article is a product of our thorough research—we scoured publications for top space organizations, including NASA, to single out the following scientists.

Let’s take a look!

Table of Contents

Famous Space Scientists

#21. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (1900-1979): African-American Female who Discovered The Composition of The Stars

Famous Space Scientists

What makes Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin famous?

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin was a brilliant scientist who made considerable contributions to the field of astronomy. She was born in Buckinghamshire, England but died in Massachusetts, USA.

She was the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University’s Radcliffe College.

Her most famous accomplishment was discovering that stars were mostly composed of hydrogen and helium gas—a theory that other scientists confirmed. She also worked on solving problems related to stellar evolution and stellar structure. Payne-Gaposchkin’s research also helped establish that temperature could aid in the classification of stars.

What is the best Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin quote?

“There is nothing personal in the thunderclap of understanding. The lightning that releases it comes outside oneself.”

[Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, Brown University Department of Physics]

#20. Dr. Arthur B. Cuthbert Walker II (1936-2001): The Man Who Made it Possible To Get High-Resolution Pictures of The Sun

Famous Space Scientists
Sun’s Corona. Credits: Business Insider

 What makes Dr. Arthur B. Cuthbert Walker II famous?

Dr. Arthur B. Cuthbert Walker II, one of the greatest solar physicists of all time, is known for his work on telescopes and solar physics.

He was born in 1936 in Cleveland, Ohio, and later studied at the Case Institute of Technology, earning a bachelor’s degree in physics. Walker then went on to earn a doctorate from the University of Illinois.

During his time at Stanford University, he made several important discoveries about solar physics, including how to measure the corona—the outermost layer of our Sun. His multilayer telescope gave the world the first high-resolution pictures of the Sun.

[Source: Sky & Telescope]

#19. Beth A. Brown (1969-2008): The Lady Who Contributed To Our Understanding of Black Holes

Famous Space Scientists
Credits: Wikipedia

What makes Beth A. Brown famous?

Beth A. Brown is a NASA astrophysicist who has helped explore the furthest reaches of our solar system and beyond. She was born in 1969 in Roanoke, Virginia, and graduated from Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in astrophysics.

She’s known for her work on understanding galaxies, especially elliptical galaxies, and for studying black holes. Beth A. Brown earned a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Michigan in 1998 and was the first black woman astronomer to do so.

[Source: APS]

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#18. Jocelyn Bell Burnell (1943-present): The Lady Who Discovered Neutron Stars

Famous Space Scientists
Credits: New Scientist

What makes Jocelyn Bell Burnell famous?

Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an Irish astrophysicist who was born in 1943 in Lurgan. She studied at the University of Glasgow, earning a degree in Natural Philosophy In 1965. Cornell went on to study at Cambridge, this time earning her Ph.D.

It turns out that during her postgraduate studies, Jocelyn Bell Burnell focussed on studying pulsars—fast-spinning stars that emit radiation at regular intervals. She noticed a signal coming from one particular pulsar that didn’t fit with the rest of them, so she investigated it. 

Under the supervision of Antony Hewish, she found that this pulsar wasn’t from a star like any other they’d seen before—it was coming from a neutron star. And when they laid out their findings for publication, the Nobel Committee couldn’t figure out who deserved credit for the discovery. Hewish would eventually receive the Nobel Prize.

Jocelyn Burnell’s incredible career was featured on BBC’s Beautiful Minds series.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#17. Nancy Grace Roman (1925-2018): Mother of Hubble

Famous Space Scientists
Credits: NASA

What makes Nancy Grace Roman famous?

Astronomer Nancy Grace Roman was a trailblazer in the world of space science. Nancy Grace Roman is an American astronomer who was influential in stellar motions and classification. 

Roman was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 16, 1925. She received her bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in 1946 and her master’s degree from the University of Chicago.

Nancy Roman was also the first female executive at NASA. In her position, she helped develop the space astronomy program at NASA, contributing to the creation of the Hubble Space Telescope.

[Source: NASA Science]

#16. Edmond Halley (1656-1742): The Man Who Correctly Predicted That A Comet Would Reappear in 1758

Famous Space Scientists
Credits: Royal Museums Greenwich

What makes Edmond Halley famous?

Edmond Halley was a British astronomer who lived from 1656–1742. He is famous for the astronomical research that led him to conclude that it was possible to calculate the distances between the Sun, Earth, and Venus. 

But Halley remains popular for his prediction. He believed that a comet would return in 1758. This comet returned —unfortunately, he didn’t live to see it. 

Edmond Halley is a man who revolutionized astronomy and changed the way we think about the universe by discovering that comets were often visible to us and could be used as a forecasting tool.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

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#15. Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941): The Girl Hero of The Stars

Famous Space Scientists
Credits: ThoughtCo

What makes Annie Jump Cannon famous?

In 1863, Annie Jump Cannon was born in Dover, Delaware. She would become one of the most influential astronomers in history.

Annie Jump Cannon is known for co-creating the Harvard Classification Scheme alongside Edward Pickering. This system was influential in stellar classification. The Harvard Classification Scheme classified stars based on their spectra and luminosity classes. 

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#14. Eugene Shoemaker (1928-1997): Founder of Astrogeology Who Was Buried in The Moon

Famous Space Scientists
Credits: How Stuff Works

What makes Eugene B. Shoemaker famous?

Eugene B. Shoemaker was an American geologist who was born in 1928 in Los Angeles. He studied at Caltech and Princeton University.

In 1994, Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit Jupiter’s surface, causing a massive storm that would be visible from Earth for over a year. This comet got its name from the people who first discovered it—Eugene B. Shoemaker, David Levy, and Carolyn S. Shoemaker (Eugene’s wife.

Shoemaker also researched terrestrial craters—those formed by volcanoes or earthquakes. He died in a road accident when going to such craters in Australia.

As an honor to this great scientist, members of NASA’s Lunar Prospector mission carried his ashes to the moon.

[Source: USGS]

#13. Vera Rubin (1928-2016): The Astronomer Who Discovered The First Evidence of Dark Matter

Famous Space Scientists
Credits: Astronomy Magazine 

What makes Vera Rubin famous?

Vera Rubin was born in Philadelphia in 1928 and studied astronomy at Vassar College. She began her career as an instructor at Montgomery College. Rubin went on to be an assistant professor at Georgetown University.

Rubin would later become the first woman to use a Palomar’s telescope. At that time, many didn’t think women belonged in astronomy—which is why Vera Rubin’s work was so important.

Her research focused on how galaxies rotate, which proved the presence of dark matter—and this discovery led to further research that has led us far beyond what would have been possible without her influence.

What is the best Vera Rubin quote?

“Worldwide, half of all brains are in women.”

[Source: American Museum]

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#12. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630): The God’s Mathematician Who Discovered The Secrets of The Universe 

Famous Space Scientists
Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica 

What makes Johannes Kepler famous?

Johannes Kepler, who was born in Germany, is one of the most famous astronomers of all time. His three laws of planetary motion are a cornerstone of modern astronomy. 

He was a religious man, as evident in his writings. Kepler believed that God exists and that He had created a perfect universe and that we cannot understand it without studying it. 

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#11. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543): One of The Scientists Who Challenged Prolemy’s View of The Solar System 

Famous Space Scientists

What makes Nicolaus Copernicus famous?

Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish polymath who is best known for his work on astronomy, which led to the Copernican revolution.

He proposed that the sun was at the center of our solar system and not just one of many stars as Ptolemy had thought. This caused a huge shift in thinking because it contradicted what everyone else believed (that everything revolved around an Earth-centered model).

What is the best Nicolaus Copernicus quote?

“To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#10. Giovanni Cassini (1625-1712): The Astronomer Who Discovered Saturn’s Second-Largest Moon, Rhea

Famous Space Scientists
Credits: The Famous People

What makes Giovanni Cassini famous?

Giovanni Cassini is one of the most famous and important astronomers in history. He was born in Perinaldo, Italy, in 1625.

Cassini became interested in studying Saturn when he noticed its rings were unusually clear for a planet with such a large moon. He began observing it from his home country of Italy and discovered four new moons orbiting around the planet. 

He also discovered that the division between Saturn’s rings was marked by an “annular” gap, which is only visible from Earth if you are looking at Saturn with a telescope.

Other than Cassini Division, laws, and identity, he is also known for working on a topographic map of France. This map would become known as Cassini’s map. They were so precise that they could be used to determine the heights of mountains and valleys.


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#9. Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695): The Father of Modern Science

Famous Space Scientists
Credits: ThoughtCo

What makes Christian Huygens famous?

Christiaan Huygens is one of the most outstanding scientists in the world. He was a Dutchman who lived from 1629-1695 and made some groundbreaking astronomy and physics discoveries.

From there, Huygens would become an expert on Saturn’s moons, especially Titan—the largest moon in our Solar System. He used his telescope again to study Titan’s surface and make observations that helped scientists understand its composition better.

Huygens also made important contributions to mechanical clocks, which were not yet widely used at this point in history. His invention of pendulum clocks helped make all other sorts of clocks obsolete. 

These clocks worked on a similar principle as the swinging bridges. Instead of having weights on each end, they had weights suspended from wires that oscillated back and forth as they swung around their axis like a pendulum (hence “pendulum clock”).

What is the best Christiaan Huygens quote?

” I do not believe anything very certainly, but everything very probably.”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#8. Charles Messier (1730-1817): Father of Comets

Famous Space Scientists
Credits: Wikipedia

What makes Charles Messier famous?

Charles Messier was a French astronomer who helped us understand objects in the sky by cataloging and categorizing them. He was born in 1730 in Badonviller, and published his catalog of objects in 1774, called Messier Objects. 

What were these objects? They included star clusters and nebulae that lie far away from Earth.

Now, when you look at the night sky with your naked eye or binoculars, you can see these objects. But if you want to know more about them, or if you want to identify them on your own, then you need to know about Charles Messier.


#7. William Herschel (1738-1822): The Artist Who Discovered Uranus

Famous Space Scientists
Credits: Laki

What makes William Herschel famous?

William Herschel was a man who loved the night sky.

He was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1738 but moved to Great Britain when he was still young. Herschel was known for being a pioneer in astronomy, especially in the field of spectrophotometry. 

His work with infrared radiation paved the way for further study of the Sun’s spectrum, which allowed scientists to figure out how hot it was and determine that it had a yellowish tint.

Herschel discovered Uranus and its moons—Oberon and Titania—which were previously unknown objects. He also discovered two moons of Saturn: Mimas and Enceladus. These discoveries were huge steps toward understanding our solar system as a whole.

Herscherl’s work helped pave the way for future generations of astronomers, who would continue to study space through astronomical spectrophotometry.

What is the best William Herschel quote?

“Seeing is in some respect an art, which must be learnt.”


#6. John Herschel (1792-1871): Son of A Famous Astronomer Who Rose To Make Important Discoveries About The Universe

Famous Space Scientists

What makes John Herschel famous?

John Herschel was the son of William Herschel, an astronomer who is most well-known for discovering Uranus. He was born on March 7, 1792, in Slough, England. 

John Herschel became one of the most influential scientists of his era and a prolific inventor who contributed to several aspects of science.

His most significant contribution was identifying and naming eleven moons—seven for Saturn and four for Uranus—which was a major breakthrough at the time. He also developed a system of counting days known as Julian day, which astronomers still use today to keep track of time.

What is the best John Herschel quote?

“Self-respect is the cornerstone of all virtue.”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#5. Frank Drake (1930-present): The Man Who Dedicated His Career To Studying Alien Life

Famous Space Scientists
Credits: Wikipedia

What makes Frank Drake famous?

Frank Drake is a name that you’ve probably heard before. The American astrophysicist, who is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, has made contributions to our understanding of the universe and its potential inhabitants, including SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence).

Born in Chicago in 1930, Drake studied at Cornell and Harvard Universities. He is known for his work on Project Ozma which attempted to detect communications in extraterrestrial environments. 

The Drake equation, which developed, estimates how many civilizations are likely to exist in our galaxy.

What is the best Frank Drake quote?

” Only by doing the best we can with the very best that an era offers, do we find the way to do better in the future.”

[Source: National Radio Astronomy Observatory]

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

Famous Space Scientists
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 is the best Stephen Hawking quote?

” Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica ]

#3. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642): Father of Observational Astronomy Who Made The First Space Telescope

Famous Space Scientists
Credits: Vatican Observatory

What makes Galileo Galilei famous?

This Italian polymath is one of the most famous scientists known for his contributions to the field of observational astronomy. He made significant discoveries regarding the nature of celestial bodies, including the phases of Venus, Saturn’s rings, and lunar craters. 

Galileo also discovered that the earth revolves around the sun—considered heresy at the time. As an engineer, he also developed a thermoscope and military compasses that was useful in any weather condition. These accomplishments earned him a place in history as one of the most important scientists of all time.

What is the best Galileo Galilei quote?

” All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

#2. Edwin Hubble (1889-1953): The Man Who Found Our Place in The Cosmos

Famous Space Scientists
Credits: Encyclopedia Britannica

What makes Edwin Hubble famous?

Edwin Hubble was one of the most important American astronomers of all time. He helped to pioneer observational cosmology and extragalactic astronomy. 

Hubble is also famous for proving that galaxies existed farther from the Milky Way than was previously known. His Hubble’s Law is the most widely accepted theory, explaining that we are in an expanding universe.

Edward Hubble’s ideas and discoveries changed how we looked at the universe and paved the way for establishing the space program. The famous Hubble Telescope is named after him.

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

What is the best Edward Hubble quote?

“The search will continue. The urge is older than history. It is not satisfied and will not be suppressed.”

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

Famous Space Scientists
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 crucial in understanding how objects move on Earth.

For these discoveries and more, Sir Isaac Newton is one of the scientists who founded modern physics, astronomy, and mathematics.

What is the best Sir Isaac Newton quote?

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

[Source: Encyclopedia Britannica]

Final Thoughts

We hope this post has given you an idea of what space science is and why it’s such an exciting field to work in. We’ve discussed 21 top scientists who contributed to the various aspects of space science. 

If you’re curious about the future of space science, we encourage you to continue researching on your own—there’s no shortage of information available. And if a career in space science sounds like a good fit for your interests and talents, then go for it! A new generation of scientists and engineers are taking the next steps towards exploring our universe; they’ll be counting on people like you to help them get there.

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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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