• Question: Who is your favourite scientist from history?

    Asked by rwingfi to Cassie, Greg, Karen, Sofia, Tommy on 12 Nov 2013. This question was also asked by zjoblin.
    • Photo: Karen Bacon

      Karen Bacon answered on 12 Nov 2013:

      That’s a tough one. There are so many interesting and great scientists and before scientists natural philosophers whom I have enjoyed learning about over the years. I’ve narrowed it down to three, but really there are many more that I would also consider “favourites”! My three are Theophrastus, Robert Hooke and Mary Anning.

      In Ancient Greece around 200 BC there was a natural philosopher called Theophrastus. He was one of Aristotle’s favourite students and wrote books on a wide range of topics. I particularly like him because his surviving works on plants were greatly important to the development of botany as a science. He was one of the earliest investigators to consider a systematic approach to studying plants and pointed out that it was important to think about the morphology, behaviour (response to environment), and reproduction. It’s really interesting to read about how people thought about plants so long ago because of course they were very aware of how important plants are to people as food and medicine.

      I am also a fan of Robert Hooke, who was probably the first professional scientist in the 1600s. He was instructed by the Royal Society to give demonstrations of microscopy at their meetings. His work on microscopes is fantastic and some of the images that he produced are really beautiful. You can find some of these on google quite easily.

      Another favourite of mine is Mary Anning. She was from Lyme Regis in Dorset and is known as one of the most outstanding palaeontologists of her time (1800s). She was from a poor background and had no formal education but through her own interest and hard work she became recognised as an authority on fossil animals. She was the first person to describe an ichthyosaur (a type of fossil fish) and the first to identify fossil faeces (poop). She had a tough life in many respects but she was an incredible scientist and became well-regarded among the scientific community of her time and remains so today.

    • Photo: Cassandra Raby

      Cassandra Raby answered on 13 Nov 2013:

      I think I would choose Alfred Wallace…

      Not heard of him? Well he also came up with the same idea that Darwin did… that everything has evolved, and this is through natural selection (survival of the fittest!).
      He travelled the world too, looking at everything he saw to come up with this conclusion.
      And yet, he didn’t have much money. He had to work harder at the chance to travel, he didn’t have any family to fall back on, but none of that stopped him from discovering the world. And I find that very inspirational .

      There are also many women scientists that I think have made amazing contributions to science, but because they were women they had a harder time getting acknowledged for the work they did. In particular I like Rosalind Franklin. She did amazing research that led to the amazing discovery of DNA, by finding out what shape DNA is!

    • Photo: Thomas Doherty-Bone

      Thomas Doherty-Bone answered on 13 Nov 2013:

      I find this really hard to answer.

      I might have to stick to dead scientists, as I know so many scientists who have already made history (my own supervisors, folks such as Jared Diamond come to mind). Maybe I could cheat and shoot one of them to make answering this easier, but, hey, got stuff to do.

      Being an ecologist working in the field, I find it hard not to keep thinking of Charles Darwin. I feel this is cheating cos everyone bigs him up all the time, and I have read more of his works. But he was PROLIFIC!!! Even before he travelled around the world he was a beetle collector. He made discoveries on the ecology of our own humble biodiversity, such as whelks on the coast. Then, after kicking round after uni, got picked up by a Royal Navy ship, then went around the world, making alsorts of clever discoveries. Not just evolution, but things such as the formation of islands by coral or the discovery of fossils of giant sloths. He wrote about barnacles. He did experiments too, thats a major factor for me – he used wee to discover why some plants ate insects (for the nitrogen). He put seeds in salt water and tested which would survive floating to islands across the ocean. And he studied how earthworms are so important in soil formation (that book apparently sold more copies than the Origin of Species back then). And he seemed to be a great guy too.

      After him, maybe Gregor Mendel who discovered genetics – a versatile scientist who when told he could not use mice to make his studies (too much carnality for a monastery!!!), adapted it to pea plants.

      And Newton! ……………

    • Photo: Sofia Franco

      Sofia Franco answered on 18 Nov 2013:

      This is a really though question so I will go around it 😉 there are loads of great and hugely important scientists! Therefore, I will choose someone that I think is really impressive and not only a scientist: I would go for Leonardo Da Vinci! He was a great, artist, inventor and scientist! He worked in so many fields that is even hard to compare him to others. Check in out on wikipedia and tell me if he was not really impressive! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_inventions_of_Leonardo_da_Vinci