In my recent post about heroines of science, as voted for by visitors to our exhibition during the summer, I promised to provide details of the heroes of science too – and here they are.
As mentioned previously, male scientists gathered a massive 89% of the vote, though it was interesting to see that 90 different names were mentioned. Scientists were chosen across all disciplines, and from almost all historical eras – from the ancient (the Plinys and the Venerable Bede) to the modern (Brian Cox, Stephen Hawking).
Perhaps unsurprisingly Charles Darwin was the clear winner with 14 votes, and he led the pack by some considerable margin – his closest competitor was Albert Einstein with a mere 5 votes. It was rather satisfying to see that arch-rivals Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton garnered 4 votes each , as did Richard Feynman and Joseph Banks, whilst the DNA duo Francis Crick and James Watson received 3 (half as many as Rosalind Franklin got). With 2 votes apiece we had Benjamin Franklin, Brian Cox, Thomas Kuhn, Ernest Rutherford, James Clerk Maxwell, Gregor Mendel and Gilbert White.
I particularly enjoyed reading all the comments people left about why they’d chosen their particular hero (a tough job, but someone had to do it!), and answers ranged from the serious to the comic. There was a distinctly international flavour across the group, though the British tendency to support the underdog also came through. One or two made the cut with credit for their personal appearance, and some because of their altruistic attitude. Three science teachers were acknowledged by their students, which I think is probably the highest accolade of all.
I’d like to thank everyone who wrote about their scientific hero, and if you’d like to have your say in the matter do please drop us a line. Especial credit is also due to whoever drew the wonderful picture which I’ve reproduced at the end. Below is a small selection of the comments that were made, including one or two of my personal favourites:
Charles Babbage: Father of the computer
Peter Cameron: a dedicated entomologist with a career-long commitment to sustainable agriculture in New Zealand
Charles Darwin: Who else?
Michael Faraday: Open-minded, principled, practical, a show-man, and exceptionally good looking!
Richard Feynman: Great scientist and great communicator.
Robert Hooke: The “nearly” man!
Patrick James: An excellent biology teacher
Mr Massey: He’s an amazing teacher! Academic in the true sense!
John Oxford: For giving me the best lecture I’ve ever been present for. On virology, he knows how to teach science and make it come alive! He also has done valuable work on modern viruses such as HIV, polio and SARS.
Samuel Pepys: Because he survived the great fire of London and wore a lovely wig.
Karl Popper: For undermining the tendency to certainty.
John Ray: The father of plant taxonomy: recognised diversity within species and the need for its conservation
Ed Ricketts: For revolutionizing the study of marine life, and for proving that imagination and ingenuity trump degrees (and because he was quite the colourful character)
Count Rumford: He used science to help the poor
Erwin Schrödinger: Best scientist in cat category
Nikola Tesla: What he didn’t know about thunderbolts and electricity (AC) wasn’t worth knowing. Highly imaginative etc etc and not a little mad!