Who's your favorite scientist?

Me Me Me Me ME!!! Or Neils Bohr, or Tycho Brahe, or Tesla.

Robert Goddard (All American Boy), had balls the size of watermelons. Knew the rocketry score long before the rest of the “status quo”. Kind of eccentric in a self-preservationist sort of way. Very cool.


Ponder Stibbons.

Feynman rocks!

Mahlon Smith of Stinky Meat fame


I don’t know – lots of choices out there, and a lot of scientists were Renaissance men, although it’s not fully appreciated:

Thomas Young – single-handedly championed the Wave Theory of Light, bnot only in his famous “double-slit” experiment, but also with supernumerary rainbows, thin films, and other effects. His theories on elasticity lead to the basic parameter of springiness for materials being named “Young’s Constant” in his honor. And he’s the guy who started using the Rosetta Stone to decipher the Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Champollion gets all the credit, but even he acknowledged a debt to Young.

John Herschel, son of astronomer William Herschel, was a noted astronomer in his own day, the first to comprehensively map the southern sky. He also invented the first quantitative photometer for stars, was involved in the discovery of Neptune, invented “hypo” for fixing photographic images, made countless “snapshots” using the camera lucida, made oodles of biological notes in South Africa, wrote popular books on astronomy, and translated the Iliad into iambic hexameters.

Robert Wood was a true genius and certifiable nut. Possibly my choice for favorite. He wrote the still-in-print Physical Optics, an incredibly wide-ranging book on light. He also built a telescope using a dish of rotating mercury as a true parabolic mirror (an idea copped in at least two science fiction stories. It’s also the basis for at least one company’s process for making disposable contact lenses). He went to Paris to examine Blondlot’s claims about “N-Rays”, and demoplished them in a clever and concise set of tests, an account of which he published anonymously. This shattered “N-rays”, branding it pseudoscience. He reportedly liked to roam the streets of Baltimore, dressed in a dark robe and carrying sodium pellets wrapped in twists of paper. He tossed these into puddles, with explosive results, freaking out passers-by. He invented that weird trick of painting eyes on your chin and attaching a tiny suit of cloths to his face, so that when viewed upside-down, your mouth becomes the mouth of a grotesque creature (they used this one on TV a lot when I was a kid). And he wrote a book of rhymes, which he illustrated, called How to Tell the Birds from the Flowers (“The Parrot. The Carrot”). This is still in print from Dover books.

First on my list is Stephen Jay Gould, for sure. Both for his science and his politics.

Second would be Philo Farnsworth, without whom the Straight Dope would ultimately be naught more than a collection of books.

Thirdly, just for the coolness of name factor, comes Vesto Melvin Slipher. He was Clyde Tombaugh’s boss but did a lot for modern astronomy in his own right.

N.L. Bowen, who pioneered experimental petrology and came up with the first comprehensive model on how magmas form and evolve.

That, and his PhD advisor (Daly) is my great-great-grandfather PhD advisor!

Testla is my guy. Certified genius. If only he had a good P.R. agent (and a absent moral compass) like Edison. Issac Newton is a good one too.


Feynman was also the sexiest.

Trofim Denisovich Lysenko. Just for the sheer chutzpah of his biological and genetic theories. “The doctrine of Marxist-Leninism is mirrored in the natural world! To suggest otherwise is to be duped by decadent reactionaries!”

Jose Delgado, inventor of the Stimoceiver, a surgically implanted electronic device for altering human and animal behavior by remote control.

Sir Francis Galton, the father of Eugenics, and author of Survey of the Figures of the Hottentots.

Simon Newcomb, eminent late 19th century American astronomer and mathematician, who declared that heavier-than-air flight was an impossibility. After the Wright Bros. success at Kitty Hawk, he claimed that flying machines would never play a role in commerce. Just before his death in 1909, he altered his statements to “Well, we have such good RAILROADS, flying is POINTLESS ANYWAY.”

You didn’t say they had to be GOOD scientists.

– Ukulele “I Love Charles Fort” Ike

I am pretty partial to Brain from Pinky and the Brain.

Ben Franklin. He invented bifocals, the lightning rod, the Franklin Stove, an odometer, and that long stick with claw thingies on the end to help you reach things. See http://sln.fi.edu/franklin/inventor/inventor.html. He’s a genius for the claw thingy alone.

Plus he was funny, smart, witty and wild with the ladies. As Comin’s law says, “People will accept your idea much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first.”

Har, har, Ukulele. Very good.

Anyhow, I’m changing Da Vinci to my second favorite scientist (what WAS I thinking?) Da Vinci is one of the most admirable people ever, but for pure scientist, give me a break, Feynman? Do y’all seriously believe the scientist on the street will remember him 100 years from now?

Newton. He’s amazing, read any biography. The man may have been walking on the shore, picking up the occasional bright pebble, as he said, but few people have even ever been to that ocean.

Galileo, stealer of student’s theories, impared hysteric who refused the Catholic church’s request his discoveries be slowly introduced into mainstream science, so as to not create panic? Thanks SO much to kindergarden popular science writers for turning that shifty academic prat into a “cause celebre”.

Another vote for Feynman.

If you like the books he authored, you should also read Genius by James Gleick. Matthew Broderick played him in a movie called Infinity which was more about his relationship with his wife than his mind but is still pretty interesting.


Feynman, Gould, Sagan, Dawkins, Hawking, in no particular order. Well, maybe Feynman first.

Roger Bacon - he got to do real science on the one hand, while also transmuting metals, philosophizing stones, inventing gunpowder (maybe), writing in cool codes and probably belonging to secret societies. Not a bad life, overall.

Alan Turing. I once read an incredible account of him volunteering for the British Home Guard during WWII (he was exempt from mandatory service due to his work with decyphering codes) solely to learn how to use a rifle. He had the foresight to alter the paperwork before signing it so that he wasn’t required to actually stick around.

Also, he used to bicycle to Bletchley Park wearing his gas mask for his allergies. And was one of Britain’s top marathon runners. At the very least you have to be sympathetic towards someone who was harrassed to the point of suicide simply for being gay.

I was hoping someone would mention Dr. Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb.
A picture of him published in print media about 20 years old suggested he aged drastically since the early 50s. At that time he was photographed with a blond crew-cut and wide eyes; I guess he was about 42. Pictures published a few years later showed little difference, but in the photo from about 1980 one of his eyes is hardly visible at all and his mouth appears greatly contorted to one side. I am amazed that his appearance could have changed that much–perhaps he suffered from health problems… :frowning: