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The in-depth evaluation of Charles Murray’s book Human Accomplishment continues.

In physics we find the English mathematician, astronomer, theologian and alchemist Isaac Newton (1643-1727) in first place, tied with Albert Einstein (1879-1955), born in Germany to a Jewish family, later becoming a Swiss as well as an American citizen. Behind them follow the prolific New Zealand-born British nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937); the English naturalist Michael Faraday (1791-1867), a great pioneer in the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry; the brilliant Italian naturalist, mathematician and experimentalist Galileo Galilei (1564-1642); the gifted and highly eccentric English experimental and theoretical physicist Henry Cavendish (1731-1810); the quantum and nuclear physicist Niels Bohr (1885-1962) from Denmark, known for his contributions to atomic theory; the English physicist Joseph John “J. J.” Thomson (1856-1940) who discovered the electron, the first subatomic particle; the Scottish mathematical physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), whose insights into electromagnetism and light were of fundamental importance for modern science and technology; the French physicist Pierre Curie (1859-1906), a pioneer in the study of crystallography, piezoelectricity and radioactivity.

After them comes Gustav Robert Kirchhoff of Germany (1824-1887), who developed spectroscopy for chemical analysis of the Sun and coined the term “blackbody” radiation, later used by fellow German physicist Max Planck; the Italian-born scientist Enrico Fermi (1901-1954), who made many contributions to nuclear and particle physics; the German scientist Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976), remembered for his work in the field of quantum mechanics and the formulation of his famous uncertainty principle in 1927; the Polish-born France-based physicist and chemist Marie Sklodowska Curie (1867-1934), known especially for her studies together with her husband Pierre of radioactivity, a term she coined; the English theoretical physicist Paul Dirac (1902-1984), who made great contributions to quantum mechanics and electrodynamics and predicted the existence of antimatter; the English scientific brewer James Prescott Joule (1818-1889), who studied the nature of heat and helped establish the conservation of energy principle and the First Law of Thermodynamics; the Dutch polymath Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695), who among many other things developed a wave theory of light; the English physician and natural philosopher William Gilbert (1544-1603), who introduced the term and concept “electricity” and whose work De Magnete described experimental studies of magnetism; the English physician and physicist Thomas Young (1773-1829), whose double-slit experiments conducted around the year 1800 converted many European naturalists to a wave theory of light; and finally the dynamic English natural philosopher and instrument maker Robert Hooke (1635-1703).

Newton’s and Einstein’s top position in this category should surprise nobody. Galileo’s ranking, based exclusively on his status as a founder of modern physics, not his contributions to astronomy, is uncontroversial. Rutherford discovered two types of radioactivity, described the nucleus of the atom and helped to develop our understanding of the subatomic world, bombarded atomic nuclei to change their composition and made many other valuable contributions. Faraday’s work on induction and on electricity and magnetism in general was of fundamental importance to the development of electrical generators and engines.

Other prominent physicists are Max Planck, Wolfgang Pauli, Hans Christian Ørsted, Antoine Henri Becquerel, Ludwig Boltzmann, Heinrich Hertz, John William Strutt (Lord Rayleigh), Evangelista Torricelli, Carl David Anderson , Hans Geiger, René Descartes, Otto von Guericke, Guillaume Amontons, George Gabriel Stokes, Archimedes, Amedeo Avogadro, Jacques Charles, Democritus, Hendrik Lorentz, George FitzGerald, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, Ernst Mach, Thales of Miletus, Johannes Diderik van der Waals and Charles T. Wilson.

Some lesser, but still significant names are Victor Hess, Jean le Rond d’Alembert, Loránd Eötvös, Pyotr Kapitsa, Leonardo da Vinci, Pierre Prévost, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, Joseph Sauveur, Charles Cagniard de la Tour, Carl von Linde, Louis Paul Cailletet and Raoul Pictet.

Among those who studied electricity in addition to Faraday, Cavendish, Gilbert and Ørsted we find François Arago, André-Marie Ampère, Charles-Augustin de Coulomb, Charles du Fay, Benjamin Franklin, Stephen Gray, Francis Hauksbee, Joseph Henry, Ewald Georg von Kleist, Pieter van Musschenbroek, Jean-Antoine Nollet, Georg Ohm, William Sturgeon, Alessandro Volta, Wilhelm Weber, Charles Wheatstone, Jean Peltier and Thomas Johann Seebeck. It is in my opinion wrong not to mention the German naturalist Franz Aepinus, who published the first mathematical theory of electric and magnetic phenomena in 1759. He was at least as important in this field as was his Swedish-born student Johan Wilcke, who is listed.

Another group of people besides James Joule and Ludwig Boltzmann were associated with the emergence of what we now know as thermodynamics: Nicolas Carnot, Rudolf Clausius, Josiah Willard Gibbs, Hermann von Helmholtz, Julius Robert von Mayer, Leopoldo Nobili, Alexis Petit, Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford) and William Thomson (Lord Kelvin).

Hippolyte Fizeau and Léon Foucault in France measured the speed of light with great accuracy in the mid-1800s, followed by Albert Michelson and Edward Morley in the USA. Many names in addition to Maxwell, Huygens and Young are related to studies of the properties of light in the widest possible sense: Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen), Johann J. Balmer, Anders J. Ångström and Henry A. Rowland, Erasmus Bartholin, Jean-Baptiste Biot, David Brewster, Pavel Cherenkov, Ilya Frank and Igor Tamm, Christian Doppler, Joseph von Fraunhofer, Augustin-Jean Fresnel, Dennis Gabor, Francesco Grimaldi, Pyotr Lebedev, Étienne-Louis Malus, Chandrasekhara V. Raman, Willebrord Snell, Johannes Stark, Josef Stefan, Paul Villard, Wilhelm Wien and Pieter Zeeman. After their discovery in 1895 by Wilhelm Röntgen, X-rays were used for fundamental scientific research by Max von Laue, Henry Moseley, Charles Barkla, William H. Bragg and William L. Bragg, Arthur Compton and many others. William D. Coolidge in the USA invented an improved X-ray tube in 1913.

Many individuals mentioned in the index of Human Accomplishment are remembered for studies of the subatomic world, quantum physics and nuclear fission, among them Max Born, Walther Bothe, Louis de Broglie, James Chadwick, John Cockcroft, Ernest Walton, Clinton Davisson, Johann Geissler, Eugen Goldstein, Frédéric Joliot-Curie, Irène Joliot-Curie, Ernest Lawrence, Philipp Lenard, Fritz London, Heinz London, Ernest Marsden, Maria Goeppert-Mayer and Johannes Hans Daniel Jensen, Edwin McMillan, Vladimir Veksler, Lise Meitner, Otto Frisch, Robert Millikan, Erwin Schrödinger, Emilio G. Segrè, Arnold Sommerfeld, Fritz Strassmann, Leó Szilárd and Julius Robert Oppenheimer, George P. Thomson, Ida Noddack, Walter Zinn, Hideki Yukawa and Cecil Frank Powell (but not César Lattes).

Following Paul Dirac’s lead, Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga from Japan developed quantum electrodynamics and shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 for this. Why is Glenn T. Seaborg not ranked in either physics or chemistry for his involvement in the discovery of a number of transuranium elements, among them plutonium?

The Hungarian-born Jew Leó Szilárd was partly responsible for initiating the Manhattan Project through writing the Einstein-Szilard letter sent by the famous scientist Einstein to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in August 1939, urging the USA to study the use of nuclear fission for weapons before Nazi Germany could make such devices. Another Hungarian Jew who became a key person in the American nuclear program was Edward Teller. He was to play a central role in the development of thermonuclear weapons, or hydrogen bombs.
zilárd also helped the great Italian-born physicist Enrico Fermi construct the first nuclear reactor. Fermi’s group, which included the Canadian physicist Walter Zinn, achieved the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in December 1942 in Chicago in the USA.

In astronomy, the leading names are: the Italian natural philosopher, experimentalist, instrument maker and pioneer of telescopic astronomy Galileo Galilei (1564-1642); the brilliant German mathematical astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630); the prolific German-born English observer and telescope maker Wilhelm Herschel (1738-1822); the French mathematical astronomer and naturalist Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749-1827); Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) from Poland, who successfully promoted heliocentric cosmology; Claudius Ptolemy (ca. AD 100-170), who culminated ancient Greek geocentric (Earth-centered) astronomy; Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) of Denmark, who made the most accurate astronomical observations possible before the introduction of the telescope; the English astronomer, mathematician, naturalist and meteorologist Edmond Halley (1656-1742); the Italian-born later French astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1625-1712); the brilliant Greek mathematical astronomer Hipparchus (died after 127 BC), a founder of trigonometry.

After the first ten we find the German-born astronomer Walter Baade (1893-1960); the American observational cosmologist Edwin Hubble (1889-1953), who proved that the universe is expanding; the German mathematician and astronomer Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (1784-1846); the English amateur pioneer in astronomical spectroscopy William Huggins (1824-1910); the great astrophysicist and telescope promoter George Ellery Hale (1868-1938) from the USA; the leading English astronomer and astrophysicist Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882-1944); the astronomer and astrophysicist Ejnar Hertzsprung (1873-1967) from Denmark; the German physician and astronomer Wilhelm Olbers (1758-1840); the prominent Dutch-born astronomer and planetary scientist Gerard Peter Kuiper (1905-1973); and finally the lunar astronomer Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687) from present-day Poland.

Murray comments that Laplace was a pivotal figure after Newton in applying mathematics to astronomy, contributed to the nebular hypothesis for star formation and even anticipated the existence of black holes. There is a difference between “system builders” and “brick layers,” with William Herschel being the latter and Copernicus the former. Herschel laid many “bricks” to our astronomical knowledge, discovered the first new planet since prehistoric times (Uranus), studied binary stars and nebulae, outlined the shape of the Milky Way and discovered infrared radiation, the first type of “light” not visible to human eyes. His scientific contributions were quite numerous. By contrast, Copernicus made just one, the Sun-centered model, yet his single contribution ultimately altered humanity’s view of the universe forever.

Other major names include Aristarchus of Samos, Regiomontanus (Johannes Müller), John Herschel, Walter Sydney Adams, Edward Barnard, Henry Russell, Fritz Zwicky, John Flamsteed, Urbain Le Verrier, Jan Oort, Harlow Shapley, William Lassell, Giovanni Schiaparelli, Immanuel Kant, Eudoxus of Cnidus, Pietro Angelo Secchi, Karl Schwarzschild, Simon Mayr, Christoph Scheiner, Georges Lemaître, Pierre Gassendi, Robert Hooke, Edward Pickering, Giuseppe Piazzi, John Couch Adams, Norman Lockyer, William Parsons, James Bradley, Johann Galle, Heraclides Ponticus, Mikhail Lomonosov and Georg von Peuerbach.

Quite a few individuals who made their mark in this field have an index score from 13 to 10: Johann Elert Bode, George Phillips Bond, Richard Carrington, Alexis Clairaut, Warren De la Rue, Henry Draper, Johann Franz Encke, John Goodricke, Asaph Hall, Hermann von Helmholtz, Thomas Henderson, James Jeans, Johann Lambert, Henrietta Leavitt, Antonia Maury, Charles Messier, Edward Milne, Giovanni Riccioli, Ole Rømer, Samuel Schwabe, Clyde Tombaugh, Ulugh Beg, Hermann Carl Vogel, Fred Whipple and Max Wolf.

Additional names in astronomical research listed before 1950 are Anaximander of Miletus, Peter Apian, William Bond, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, David Fabricius, Jacobus Kapteyn, Forest Ray Moulton, Charles Perrine, William Henry Pickering, Erasmus Reinhold, Sosigenes of Alexandria, Johann Daniel Titius, Friedrich Wilhelm Argelander, William Wallace Campbell, Heber Curtis, Jeremiah Horrocks, Philolaus, Édouard Roche, Ibn Yunus, Bertil Lindblad, Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve, al-Zarqali (Arzachel), Francis Baily, Ludwig Biermann, Annie Jump Cannon, John Dreyer, Caroline Herschel, Maria Mitchell, Jean-Louis Pons, Willem de Sitter, Robert Julius Trumpler, Viktor Ambartsumian, Pierre Janssen, Daniel Kirkwood, Meton of Athens, John Plaskett, Chang Heng, Percival Lowell, Nevil Maskelyne, John Michell, Simon Newcomb, Georg Rheticus and Thomas Wright.

The author does not mention the American astronomer Vesto M. Slipher, who had measured the radial velocities of some spiral nebulae before Hubble in the 1920s proved that the universe is expanding; nor the English-born woman astronomer Cecilia Payne who showed in 1925 that the stars are composed mainly of hydrogen. Karl Jansky and Grote Reber from the USA are not listed, although both are mentioned among central events for founding radio astronomy in the 1930s. Likewise, Murray credits the Dutch lens makers Zacharias Jansen and Hans Lippershey with having independently invented a crude telescope shortly after the year 1600, a very important event, yet their names are not listed in the astronomy index.

Emanuel Swedenborg is not credited for introducing the nebular hypothesis for the formation of our Solar System, although Immanuel Kant and Laplace are both credited for this.

He also does not list the English mathematician Thomas Harriot, who drew the Moon after watching it through his telescope in July 1609, several months before Galileo did the same. I do not dispute Galileo’s top ranking. Harriot did not publish his observations, and his impact on the future course of astronomy was practically zero. Nevertheless, he might deserve a brief mention. Several individuals in Western Europe between 1608 and 1610 may have aimed a telescope at the night sky, but the studies made by Galileo were particularly energetic. His influential book Sidereus Nuncius (“Sidereal Messenger” or “Starry Messenger” in English), published in early 1610, for all practical purposes marks the birth of telescopic astronomy.

Charles Murray’s worst mistake in this section is arguably his failure to rank the American Jewish cosmologist Ralph Asher Alpher. Together with George Gamow, Alpher in 1948 introduced the concept of Big Bang nucleosynthesis to explain how the first elements were created in the early universe. Later that same year, along with Robert Herman, he predicted the existence of a cosmic background radiation as an echo from this event. In many ways the modern Big Bang theory starts with these two papers, which extended the less sophisticated model introduced by Georges Lemaître before. Yet Alpher is not mentioned at all in either the astronomy or in the physics index, and Gamow receives only a modest listing in physics.

Among central events in astronomy is mentioned that Hans Bethe and Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker by 1938 had independently worked out the basics of hydrogen fusion in stars such as the Sun. This constitutes one of the greatest triumphs of science in all history, yet they are not listed in the inventory. Weizsäcker is ignored in all of the rosters of significant figures. Bethe has a score of 3 out of 100 in physics, curiously low for one of the great astrophysicists of the twentieth century. Bethe and Weizsäcker are possible contenders for the top twenty list in astronomy, as is Ralph Alpher, where they deserve to be at least as much as Hevelius does.

The major names in mathematics are heavily dominated by men from the ancient Greek or especially modern European traditions. At the top we find Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) from Basel, Switzerland, who spent many years in Berlin and Saint Petersburg, worked in nearly all fields of mathematics then existing and established much of today’s mathematical notation; the English mathematical physicist and astronomer Isaac Newton (1643-1727); the Greek geometer Euclid, who worked in Alexandria around 300 BC; the great scientist Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855), originally a child prodigy from a poor family in Brunswick, Germany; Pierre de Fermat (1601-1665), a brilliant amateur mathematician working as a lawyer in of Toulouse, France; Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), the great polymath from Leipzig, Germany; the French-born military man and natural philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650), who lived for many years in the Dutch Republic; the German scholar Georg Cantor (1845-1918), the inventor of set theory; the great French natural and religious philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-1662); and the brilliant German geometer Bernhard Riemann (1826-1866).

Next comes David Hilbert (1862-1943), an influential teacher at the University of Göttingen in Germany who stressed mathematical logic; Jacob Bernoulli (1654-1705), the greatest from the Swiss Bernoulli family; Diophantus of Alexandria (third century AD), the most innovative pre-modern algebraist we know by name; the Italian Renaissance scholar Gerolamo Cardano (1501-1576); the French lawyer and innovative algebraist François Viète (1540-1603); Adrien-Marie Legendre (1752-1833) of France; John Wallis (1616-1703) of England; Augustin-Louis Cauchy (1789-1857), a prolific French pioneer of analysis; Leonardo of Pisa (ca. 1170-1250) or Fibonacci, the Italian who spread the Hindu-Arabic numeral system in Europe; and finally the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes of Syracuse (ca. 290-212 BC).

The author indicates that the ordering at the top of the mathematics list could easily be shifted according to what you emphasize. Euler was brilliant, but his top rank owes much to the fact that he was also immensely productive. Gauss was a genius, but he was more reluctant to publish. If the main criteria were fame, Newton would win. If the emphasis is influence, Euclid’s synthesis of ancient geometry in his highly influential Elements might be on top.

Other great mathematicians with an index score of 20 or more are: Arthur Cayley, Niccolò Tartaglia, Joseph-Louis Lagrange, Apollonius of Perga, William R. Hamilton, Ptolemy, Henri Poincaré, Colin Maclaurin, Gaspard Monge, Jean-Victor Poncelet, Nicole Oresme, Giuseppe Peano, Niels Henrik Abel, Joseph Fourier, Pythagoras of Samos, Muhammad al-Khwarizmi, Bonaventura Cavalieri, Richard Dedekind, James Gregory, Christiaan Huygens, Felix Klein, Luca Pacioli, George Boole, Hermann Grassmann, Simon Stevin and Karl Weierstrass.

Among other leading international mathematical names can be mentioned Aryabhata, Johann Bernoulli, Bhaskara II, János Bolyai, Bernard Bolzano, Rafael Bombelli, Brahmagupta, Henry Briggs, Luitzen Brouwer, Jost Bürgi, Lazare Carnot, Gérard Desargues, Gustav Dirichlet, Maurice René Fréchet, Évariste Galois, Joseph Gergonne, Kurt Gödel, Jacques Hadamard, Hero of Alexandria, Hippocrates of Chios, Carl Jacobi, Marie Jordan, Omar Khayyám, Leopold Kronecker, Johann Lambert, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Henri Lebesgue, Marius Sophus Lie, Carl von Lindemann, Joseph Liouville, Nikolai Lobachevsky, Menaechmus, Menelaus of Alexandria, Hermann Minkowski, August Ferdinand Möbius, Abraham de Moivre, John Napier, Emmy Noether, William Oughtred, Pappus of Alexandria, Julius Plücker, Siméon Denis Poisson, Robert Recorde, Bertrand Russell, Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri, Michael Stifel, Brook Taylor, John von Neumann and Alfred North Whitehead.

Some additional mathematical names with an index score of less than 10 include Abul Wafa, Adelhard of Bath, Albategnius (al-Battani), Archytas of Tarentum, Jean Argand, Stefan Banach, Eugenio Beltrami, Felix Borel, Christoph Clavius, Augustus De Morgan, Ludovico Ferrari, Scipione Ferro, Friedrich Frege, Aleksander Gelfond, Sophie Germain, Albert Girard, Godfrey Hardy, Felix Hausdorff, Charles Hermite, Jan Hudde, Hypatia of Alexandria, Andrey Kolmogorov, Sonya Kovalevskaya, Tullio Levi-Civita, Liu Hui, Andrei Markov, Nicolaus Mercator, Marin Mersenne, Oskar Morgenstern, George Peacock, Karl Pearson, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Christoff Rudolff, Paolo Ruffini, Jakob Steiner, James Sylvester, Vito Volterra, Hermann Weyl, Johannes Widman, Ernst Zermelo, Zhu Shijie and Zu Chongzhi.

In chemistry, Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) of France has no close competitor with his score of 100. He had “major accomplishments in theory (Traité Élémentaire de Chemie stated the law of conservation of matter and is generally accepted as the founding text of quantitative chemistry), experimentation (he deciphered the process of combustion, found that diamond consists of carbon, and discovered the composition of air), and practice (he developed the first list of known elements and established a system of chemical nomenclature).”

Next comes Jöns Jacob Berzelius (1779-1848) of Sweden; Carl Wilhelm Scheele (1742-1786) of Sweden; Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) of England; Humphry Davy (1778-1829) of England; Robert Boyle (1627-1691) of England; John Dalton (1766-1844) of England; Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (1778-1850) of France; Joseph Black (1728-1799) of Scotland (although he was born in Bordeaux, France as the son of a wine trader); William Ramsay (1852-1916) of Scotland; Justus von Liebig (1803-1873) of Germany; William Crookes (1832-1919) of England; Claude-Louis Berthollet (1748-1822) of France; Linus Pauling (1901-1994) of the USA; August Kekulé (1829-1896) of Germany; Dimitri Mendeleyev (1834-1907) of Russia; the Flemish naturalist Jan Baptist van Helmont (1580-1644); Frederick Soddy (1877-1956) of England; plus Martin Klaproth (1743-1817) and Robert Bunsen (1811-1899), both Germans.

Murray warns that while Berzelius, Scheele and Davy were all fine chemists, their ranking is slightly inflated by sheer luck: They happened to have access to powerful new tools for isolating chemical elements; electrolysis in the case of Davy. Being at the right place at the right time is always a factor in accomplishment, but it was especially important in chemistry.

Bunsen is followed closely by William Wollaston, Francis William Aston, Walther Nernst, Jacobus van ‘t Hoff and Friedrich Wöhler, all of whom definitely deserve their high ranking.

With a score from 18 to 10 we find Otto Hahn, Louis Vauquelin, Jean-Baptiste Dumas, Albertus Magnus, Hermann Emil Fischer, Torbern Bergman, Stanislao Cannizzaro, Jean Perrin, Peter Debye, Gilbert N. Lewis, Svante Arrhenius, James Dewar, Kasimir Fajans, Geber (Jabir ibn Hayyan), George de Hevesy, Wilhelm Ostwald, Joseph Proust, Smithson Tennant, Louis Thénard, Morris Travers, Richard Willstätter, Paul Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran, Thomas Graham, Edward Morley, Pierre-Eugène-Marcellin Berthelot, Antoine-François Fourcroy, Louis Bernard Guyton de Morveau, Paul Karrer, John Mayow, Julius Lothar Meyer, Johann J. Becher, Tadeus Reichstein, Harold Urey, Eduard Buchner, William Giauque, Johann Rudolf Glauber, Irving Langmuir, Johann Ritter and Theodor Svedberg.

The high ranking of Albertus Magnus from the thirteenth century is somewhat surprising. He was a naturalist and alchemist in addition to being a theologian and has presumably been credited here with the discovery of arsenic (As, atomic number 33). Most of the naturally occurring elements were identified in the European chemical revolution, from the late 1700s to the early 1900s. Henry Cavendish did fundamental research in both physics and chemistry and discovered hydrogen (“inflammable air”) in 1766, yet he is left out of the final ranking.

A number of fine chemists receive a score of less than 10: Thomas Andrews, Carl Auer von Welsbach, Antoine Jérôme Balard and Carl Jacob Löwig, Bertram Boltwood, Johannes Nicolaus Brønsted, Aleksandr Butlerov, André-Louis Debierne, Friedrich Ernst Dorn, Pierre-Louis Dulong, Edward Frankland, Walter Haworth, René Just Haüy, the Czech Nobel laureate Jaroslav Heyrovský, the Croatian Nobel laureate Leopold Ruzicka, the English woman Nobel laureate Dorothy Hodgkin, and the French Nobel laureate Henri Moissan, who isolated fluorine (F, atomic number 9; the most reactive and electronegative of all chemical elements due to its extreme ability to attract electrons) in 1886 after generations of failed efforts by others. Willard Frank Libby, a Nobel Prize winning chemist from the USA, developed radiocarbon dating in 1949. This caused a revolution in archaeology. A few additional names:

Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner (made an attempt in the 1820s to create a classification of the chemical elements), John Newlands (whose Law of Octaves from 1863 stimulated work on the table of elements), Nicolas Leblanc and Ernest Solvay, Andreas Libavius, Johann Josef Loschmidt, Johann Friedrich Miescher (found deoxyribonucleic acid – DNA – in 1869 but didn’t understand its full significance), Karl Friedrich Mohr (in 1837 one of the first to enunciate the doctrine of the conservation of energy), August Wilhelm von Hofmann and William Perkin, Daniel Rutherford (isolated nitrogen – symbol N, atomic number 7 – in 1772), Christian Friedrich Schönbein (discovered ozone – triatomic oxygen, O3 – in 1840 and was the first to describe guncotton) and Hermann Staudinger (demonstrated that polymers are long-chain molecules and laid the foundation for a great expansion of the plastics industry).

There is some overlapping between physics and chemistry. During the nineteenth century, European scientists worked out the reality of atoms and molecules. Amedeo Avogadro was important in this process, yet he has received a high ranking in physics, not in chemistry, while the physicist Jean Perrin, who in the early 1900s conclusively proved the existence of atoms, is ranked in chemistry. Otto Hahn is listed in chemistry whereas his associates in achieving nuclear fission, Fritz Strassmann and Lise Meitner, are ranked in physics.

The Scottish physical chemist William Ramsay collaborated with John William Strutt (Lord Rayleigh) on discovering an entire new family of elements, the noble gases; the English radiochemist Frederick Soddy investigated radioactivity with Ernest Rutherford at McGill University in Montreal, Canada; Robert Bunsen pioneered spectroscopy together with Gustav Kirchhoff. In all of these cases, the former is listed in chemistry, the latter in physics. This isn’t necessarily wrong; it merely reminds us how closely the two disciplines are intertwined.

The leading figures in the history of biology are, starting from the top down: Charles Darwin (1809-1882) of England; Aristotle (384-322 BC) of ancient Greece; Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) of France; Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) of France; Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866-1945) of the USA; Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), or Carl von Linné, of Sweden; William Harvey (1578-1657) of England; Theodor Schwann (1810-1882) of Germany; Stephen Hales (1677-1761) of England; Jan Swammerdam (1637-1680) of the Netherlands; Marcello Malpighi (1628-1694) of Italy; Claude Bernard (1813-1878) of France; Hugo de Vries (1848-1935) of the Netherlands; the Baltic German biologist Karl Ernst von Baer (1792-1876); John Ray (1627-1705) of England; Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) of Germany; Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799) of Italy; Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) of the Austrian Empire; Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) of the Roman Empire; and Albrecht von Haller (1708-1777) of Switzerland.

On the biology list, Albrecht von Haller has a score of 37, the same as Adolf Butenandt and slightly more than Matthias Jakob Schleiden. Many other figures have a good medium-level ranking, among them Oswald Avery, William Bateson, Martinus Beijerinck, Edouard van Beneden, Charles Bonnet, Giovanni Borelli, Theodor Boveri, Robert Brown, William Buckland, Comte de Buffon, Ferdinand Cohn, Carl Correns, Max Delbrück, René Descartes, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Empedocles, Erasistratus of Ceos, Girolamo Fabrizio, Walther Flemming, Karl von Frisch, Leonhart Fuchs, Francis Galton, Luigi Galvani, Konrad Gessner, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Hans Christian Gram, Nehemiah Grew, Hermann von Helmholtz, Herophilus of Alexandria, Frederick Hopkins, Alexander von Humboldt, Thomas Henry Huxley, Félix d’Herelle, Jan Ingenhousz, Dimitri Ivanovsky, Wilhelm Johannsen, David Keilin, Edward Calvin Kendall, Hans Adolf Krebs, Rudolf Albert von Kölliker, Leonardo da Vinci, Phoebus Levene, Fritz Lipmann, Konrad Lorenz, Jacques Monod, Hermann Joseph Muller, Severo Ochoa, Richard Owen, William Prout, Julius von Sachs, Charles Scott Sherrington, Hans Spemann, Wendell Stanley, Ernest Starling, Niels Stensen (Steno), Alfred Sturtevant, Theophrastus, Arne Tiselius, Abraham Trembley, Erich von Tschermak, Mikhail Tsvet, Frederick Twort, Wilhelm von Waldeyer-Hartz, Alfred Russel Wallace, Otto Warburg, August Weismann and Caspar Friedrich Wolff.

The biology index includes a mixture of botany, zoology, evolution, genetics and physiology. A number of these categories overlap with medicine to such an extent that the two can be hard to separate. Pasteur was a microbiologist, yet he is listed under medicine because of his seminal role in establishing the germ theory of disease. On the other hand, several prominent individuals in the biology section worked so extensively with the properties and circulation of human blood that they might just as well have been listed under medicine. These include Realdo Colombo, Michael Servetus, William Harvey, Johannes Purkinje and finally Karl Landsteiner, whose fine work on blood groups was of tremendous importance for surgery.

The same principle applies to those studying physiology, anatomy, the nervous system and the human brain, for instance neurologists like the Nobel laureates Camillo Golgi and Santiago Ramón y Cajal, although Thomas Willis, the English doctor who founded modern neurology in the 1660s, is listed in medicine. The French nineteenth century physiologist Claude Bernard, one of the founders of experimental medicine, is listed in both medicine and biology.

One could debate whether Lamarck is ranked too high or Mendel too low, but they both belong on the list. Lamarck’s theory of evolution was wrong, but he contributed to interest in the concept and founded invertebrate zoology. Georges Cuvier founded comparative anatomy and paleontology as disciplines. Morgan is the only person born in the USA to make it to the top five in any science category, thanks to his fine work on chromosomes and heredity.

The Italian physiologists Marcello Malpighi and Lazzaro Spallanzani, the Dutch naturalist Jan Swammerdam, the German physiologist Theodor Schwann and the German embryologists Karl Ernst von Baer and Ernst Haeckel all used microscopes for some of their biological investigations between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, a tool which opened up vast new research possibilities. Why isn’t the Dutch microscopist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek ranked, although in the 1670s and 80s he was the first person in the world to see bacteria?

One could claim that the biochemists Alexander Oparin and J. B. S. Haldane haven’t been properly credited for their “primordial soup” hypothesis regarding the origins of life in Earth, experimentally tested by Stanley Miller and Harold Urey at the University of Chicago in 1952. Obviously, nobody knows how life first came into being on our planet or elsewhere, and the answers will differ greatly depending upon the religious views of those you ask. Nonetheless, regardless of whether or not you agree with their hypothesis, Oparin’s and Haldane’s ideas substantially influenced this field of research and should be mentioned.

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