Most Influential Living Scientist


Aug 23, 2005
I came across an interesting comment/question posed in the "Humans In Science" blog (, which I've reproduced below. I thought it might be interesting to see peoples' reactions.

Influential scientists

When my mom’s cousin’s husband saw me recently, he mentioned how he was positively in love with Lisa Randall, physicist extraordinaire, on the basis of a complimentary article that had appeared about her in the Guardian.

What makes me smile is that this article styles her as “one of the most influential living scientists.” Well, that’s debatable, isn’t it? She seems like a fantastic person and brilliant and all that, but can I entice y’all out of the lurker’s woodwork to cite some of your “most influential living scientists"? (Besides, what does that word influential mean? Influencing whom? Colleagues in the field? Lay people?)

Here’s a few of mine (in biology): Rita Levi-Montalcini. Doug Melton. Bob Horvitz. Jim Watson.
Also, there’s definitely some national bias; in France, it would be Axel Kahn for sure.

If it’s influencing me, personally, as well as scores of other young women, let me cite Nicole Le Douarin, Jane Barker and Barbara Beltz.

To comment, the blog can be found here: The Science Advisory Board
What a great question to ask! For TONMO, I would have to say Steve O'Shea (moderator of the physiology forum and a big early proponent of TONMOcon), and then the scientists who spoke at TONMOcon: William Gilly and Eric Hochberg and Lou Zeidberg.

Today, once I donned my bright orange rubber gloves, the people who develop cleaning solvents had the strongest effect on my life. Tonight will be better if the people who investigate what gives beer the best flavor count as scientists. I'll report back after discussing with the experts at my local.


The scientist most influencing me right now is Sir Roger Penrose, as I'm making a heroic attempt to read his latest monster, The Road to Reality. When I'm not using it to swat elephants, that is. It's somewhat self-aggrandisingly subtitled "A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe", which I kinda doubt is true. It does, however, serve as a wonderful reference on the law of universal gravitation, my copy having captured its own small moon on Saturday morning.
Norman Borlaug (89) is probably the person attributed with aiding humanity the most, and hes not really all that famous. He's spent his life developing food strains and taking them to 3rd world countries and teaching them how to grow them ect, he's estimated to have saved the lives of 1.3 billion people through his research and education programs. He's pro GE and the man in my opinion. :smile:
Melissa said:
Tonight will be better if the people who investigate what gives beer the best flavor count as scientists. I'll report back after discussing with the experts at my local.


Yahoo Serious (or however ya spell his name) discovered how to put bubbles in beer in the movie "Young Einstein." If you've never heard of him, think Carrot Top with an Australian accent.

But Lord bless Charlie Mopps, the man who invented beer, beer, beer. Tiddly.
I'm not sure if you chaps in the US would have heard of him, but Sir Patrick Moore, that cranky, eccentric, xylophone-playing genius of astronomy, is someone I have every respect for. He's been on television presenting The Sky at Night for nearly 50 years bringing astronomy to the public in a lively and varied way.

He became interested in astronomy during the war, he served in Bomber Command as a navigator whereby learned the stars, provoking his interest. An expert on the moon, in the late 60s NASA used his personally drawn moon maps and advice in selecting landing sites.

He has always been there on television through out my life and I have always tried to catch his programme. It'll be a sad day indeed when he goes, which unfortunately I don't think is that far off.

Of course Patrick Moore Plays the Xylophone
That's a tough one, there are so many. I think, however, that E.O Wilson has to be right up there. His 40 or so years of research, teaching and writiing have enabled him to reach so many people, and he is certainly one of the people who have raised awareness about biodiversity and the dangers and devestation we humans inflict on planet earth. If some of his writing on socio-biology hadn't been so inflammatory, I think he would definitely be number one. He isn't called the new Darwin for nothing.
hmmmmmmmmmmmmm thats a toughy! But up there for me Marie Curie, Sylvia Earle, Watson and Crick, and on a personal note my 6th form Biology teacher (2nd to last year in High schoool.......not sure what grade that would NZ now called year 12) who showed me science could be fun!! and Dr George Jackson who introduced me to the wonderful world of SQUID!!!!!!!!

I keep coming up with names of deceased scientists, so I'm probably going to sit this one out, but somebody could always nominate Richard Dawkins if they just want to get the spittle flying! His outside involvement in the U.S. "culture wars" should probably be nominated for some sort of anti-diplomacy award! :biggrin2:
Since "most influential" is not "greatest" it all comes down to their cultural footprint. Unfortunately :oshea: has a much smaller influence on our global culture than, say, Steven Hawking.

Most science is done collaboratively now. The scientists who are most well known are the popularisers rather than the Einsteins.

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