The World’s Most Famous Physicists: The Lives and Legacies of the Scientists Who Pioneered Physics

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*Includes pictures

*Includes a bibliography for further reading

*Includes a table of contents

It would be impossible to overstate the accomplishments and legacy of a man history has dubbed the “Father of Modern Science”. In his lifetime, Galileo straddled the epochs of the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution, and it was his work and technological advances that helped usher in a brand new understanding of the solar system and the scientific method. Stephen Hawking himself has asserted, “Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science.”

Sir Isaac Newton is widely considered the most influential scientist in history, best known for the discovery of gravity and the subsequent laws of motion that he theorized. Schoolchildren around the world are still taught the famous legend about an apple falling on Newton’s head, but that colorful story and the preoccupation with Newton’s work in physics tend to make people forget Newton’s work in other fields. Using empirical studies, Newton developed theories about light prisms, how matter cools, and even tried studying and calculating the speed of sound. And those are just the sciences; Newton also helped develop several mathematical fields, including calculus.

Michael Faraday, an endlessly luminous mind equipped with an unflagging hunger for knowledge, possessed a hunger so ungovernable that not even poverty or social norms could stand in the way of his ambitions. Indeed, it was reportedly Albert Einstein’s expertise in the lives of Maxwell and Faraday, as well as his mastery of their work and accomplishments, that landed him his first job at the Swiss Patent Office after months of job-scouring. Moreover, Einstein’s admiration for Faraday was so profound that when a friend gifted him a biography of his “hero” for his birthday, Einstein cherished it to the utmost degree.

Nikola Tesla was one of history’s greatest scientists, and though he is best known for his pioneering work with electricity, the fact that he is mostly remembered solely for that actually does a disservice to his legacy. Born a Serb in the Austrian Empire, Tesla came to the United States and worked in a laboratory for none other than the Wizard of Menlo Park, Thomas Edison. It was through his work on behalf of Edison that Tesla flourished and became a well-known figure in his own right.

Max Planck has been remembered as the theoretical physicist whose revolutionary discovery of energy quanta and formulation of fundamental quantum theory allowed for countless others to expand on the knowledge of atomic processes. The immensity of Max Planck’s legacy is difficult to condense into mere words.

Albert Einstein needs no formal introduction. He is known around the world as one of history’s most brilliant geniuses, and one of its most influential scientists. Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics, and he received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”. And though he is best known for his contributions to science with over 300 scientific papers, the witty Einstein also wrote over 150 non-scientific works, many of them infused with his humor.

One of the most famous, and important, physicists is Niels Bohr, a world-famous physicist and one of the patriarchs of quantum theory. Given the vibrant, peaceful haven that is Denmark today, it’s somewhat ironic that Bohr played an instrumental role in the development of the atomic bomb. Even so, the truth and depth of the matter, much like the self-professed pacifist himself, is far more complex.

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