They Changed the Science They Were Involved With and the World
No bigger impact can be felt by these men who created or changed the science they were involved with. But the affected the thinking of the human race as well.
There are many great painters, writers, composers, and engineers. But it is scientists that have made the most profound change in how humans look at themselves. They may not have created wealth like bankers, or comfort like engineers, but their impact has gone beyond the science that they were working on. Here is a list of the 10 greatest scientists of all time. They were great because the science that they worked on was not the same after them, and their influence on the world was staggering.
This group has two things in common, the changed their science but also changed how humans saw themselves in nature.
1. Isaac Newton
Physicist and Mathematician. The scientists scientist. Co-inventor of the Calculus; he wrote about light, chemistry, and physics. After Newton’s Principia, the universe’s behavior could be predicted. Airplanes fly because of his equations of mass and motion are well understood. Before Newton there was experimentation about natural phenomena. After Newton there was science. Still the Mount Everest of scientists.
A biologist. He founded the Theory of Evolution. Spent five years on the Beagle, a ship that circumnavigated the Earth, and he collected specimens of natural life. Then spent another 20 years studying and analyzing how biological change comes about. He explained that biological change occurs through the mechanism of Natural Selection. His effect on the world was tremendous. Many Christians were outraged that Darwin said that humans were descended from Apes; even though he never said that. What he did say was that humans had a common ancestry with Apes, but not Ape related. Many religious people object to evolution for fear that it is an attack on the Bible. It is not since the Bible is a document about the relationship between Man to God, and Man to Man. The Bible is not a science document. His influence also transcended Biology, people talk about the evolution of the Constitution, the evolution of the talent of Beethoven, the evolution of architecture. The term “evolution” is now common and mainstream, going far beyond biology.
Another physicist who made his greatest contributions to science before the age of 40. In one year, 1905, he wrote five monumental papers that changed physics and chemistry. The Theory of Special Relativity (what happens to objects that approach the speed of light) and General Relativity (a theory of Gravity). And his famous formula, E=MC^2 showed how energy and matter were related. He showed that Newton’s theory of gravity could not explain how the universe worked. His did.
4 and 5. Nicholas Copernicus and Johannes Kepler
Astronomers who changed how one looks at the behavior of the sun, the planets and the solar system. Copernicus said that the earth rotates around the sun was the center of the solar system. This was a paradigm change that had stood since the ancient Greeks. Kepler made the analysis that showed how planetary motion occurred and devised three laws to explain it. The effect by them on the world was as dramatic as Darwin’s.
The Second Tier of the Top 10
Many of the science revolutions had already occurred, that is their impact on the human race already changed man’s view of himself in the world. So these next 5 scientists were not as dramatic as the first five. Their effect was more on their science.
6. Dimitri Mendeleev
Chemist who organized the periodic table of elements according to their mass. He made predictions about elements and identified their structure before they were discovered. Then after they were discovered, success; they indeed had the chemical properties the Mendeleev said they would have.
Chemist and Biologist. A scientist whose work affected ordinary citizens medically. He proposed the germ theory of disease urging the use of clean medical instruments. Developed the “vaccination” process to prevent illness including rabies and chicken cholera. He also Invented Pasteurization (a form of mild heating) to kill micro-organisms.
8. Paul Dirac
Physicist. After Quantum Mechanics was invented around 1900, (the theory of the atom), he re-invented it with a new theory of the electron that took into account special relativity.. He predicted anti-matter. Even though anti-matter may sound like something out of Star-Trek, hospitals use it every day to perform PET scans of the brain.
9. Edwin Hubble
Astronomer. He cataloged distant stars and realized that they were galaxies. Moreover, they were moving away from the Milky Way. His science was so profound about the size of the universe that he even showed that Einstein was wrong when Einstein introduced the Cosmological Constant into his equations. Einstein said it was his “biggest blunder.” From Hubble one knows that the universe is expanding.
Physicist. Studied Electricity and Magnetism. He is famous for his equations that showed how electricity and magnetism are related. Without Maxwell’s equations and science, there would be no electrical transformers, no energy conversion technologies. The 20th Century would have looked like the 13th Century, very primitive.
This list has shown how science and its practitioners were changing the world by changing the area of study they were involved in. That is not to say that there can’t be more change to come, because there will be. But will it be as dramatic as Darwin’s theory or Copernicus? If a scientist found a way to make humans immortal, or to bring people back from death, that certainly would be important and even change our way of looking at the human race.