Who was the most influential and important physicist?

In summary, the conversation revolves around the question of who the most influential physicist in history is. Suggestions include Aristotle, Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Einstein, Galileo, Brahe, Kepler, Archimedes, and von Neumann. It is mentioned that science is a collaborative effort and it is difficult to attribute all contributions to one individual. However, the majority agree that Einstein is the most influential, with his work on relativity and his impact on society being cited as evidence.
  • #1
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Who, in your opinion was or is the most influential physicist.
Was it Feynman and his diagrams and lectures.
Was it Dirac with his work on positrons.
Was it Einstein and his general relativity.

Who do you think and why.
 
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  • #2
CallMeDirac said:
Who, in your opinion was or is the most influential physicist.
Was it Feynman and his diagrams and lectures.
Was it Dirac with his work on positrons.
Was it Einstein and his general relativity.

Who do you think and why.
This is obviously impossible to answer definitively since you can't objectively define much less measure these traits. But I'm going to answer Aristotle Because his wrong ideas led to 2000 years of scientific stagnation.
 
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  • #3
I have to go with Newton, Faraday/Maxwell, Einstein.
 
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  • #4
Newton.
He had a mint.
 
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  • #5
Rive said:
Newton.
He had a mint.

And a funny wig
 
  • #6
I think Newton is the obvious choice, because he really set things in motion for the field of physics.

After that, the formulation of the laws of electricity and magnetism was absolutely significant, and had a massive impact on the world as we know it. Maxwell put them into mathematical form. It took a few others, Heaviside, Hodge, Fitzgerald, Hertz among them, to complete our understanding of classical electrodynamics, but Maxwell was the originator, and without Faraday, there is no Maxwell.

Einstein is the most prominent physicist of our time, for obvious reasons. His impact was huge. He is an icon of science and represents what it means to be intellectually brilliant to many.

Beyond that, it's hard to call one physicist influential, because everything that has been done has been the work of many people. Some behind the scenes and whose names might never be known to the public. I would name Philip Anderson, John Bardeen, Claude Shannon as pretty influential in that their work has made huge impacts. I am sure there are others I am missing.
 
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  • #7
Concur with the previous posts except Dirac contributed much to science beyond 'positrons', while realizing Dirac / antimatter remains a useful mnemonic. Likewise, we should not limit Einstein to relativity though I accept the shorthand.

Galileo Galilei certainly qualifies as a great contributor to physics and astronomy. Leonardo da Vinci and Tycho Brahe at least deserve honorable mention.
 
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  • #8
I considered Galileo, Brahe, and Kepler, but decided that Newton had the bigger impact. But it goes to show how science isn't done by one person, and builds upon foundations laid by others. Hence, it's hard to say who's more important or influential than who.
 
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  • #9
CallMeDirac said:
Who, in your opinion was or is the most influential physicist.
Was it Feynman and his diagrams and lectures.
Was it Dirac with his work on positrons.
Was it Einstein and his general relativity.

Who do you think and why.
Aristotle, Galileo, and Newton. They led to a revolutionary transformation of society.
 
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  • #10
Hornbein said:
Aristotle, Galileo, and Newton. They led to a revolutionary transformation of society.
Oops! I meant Archimedes, not Aristotle.
 
  • #11
Newton's realization of the connection between a falling apple and the Moon's orbit, finally connected the motions of the Heavens with the motions of the Earth - forever banishing supernatural, celestial notions in the mechanics of our universe. Wasn't that the real 'God is Dead' moment?
 
  • #12
It's a matter of opinion. I am with Wigner and say, Einstein:
“I have known a great many intelligent people in my life. I knew Max Planck, Max von Laue, and Wemer Heisenberg. Paul Dirac was my brother-in-Iaw; Leo Szilard and Edward Teller have been among my closest friends; and Albert Einstein was a good friend, too. And I have known many of the brightest younger scientists. But none of them had a mind as quick and acute as Jancsi von Neumann. I have often remarked this in the presence of those men, and no one ever disputed me. [...] But Einstein's understanding was deeper than even Jancsi von Neumann's. His mind was both more penetrating and more original than von Neumann's. And that is a very remarkable statement. Einstein took an extraordinary pleasure in invention. Two of his greatest inventions are the Special and General Theories of Relativity; and for all of Jancsi's brilliance, he never produced anything so original.”

Thanks
Bill
 
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1. Who is considered to be the most influential and important physicist of all time?

Albert Einstein is widely regarded as the most influential and important physicist of all time. His groundbreaking theories of relativity revolutionized our understanding of space, time, and gravity, and his work on the photoelectric effect laid the foundation for quantum mechanics.

2. What contributions did Isaac Newton make to the field of physics?

Isaac Newton is best known for his laws of motion and universal gravitation. His laws of motion describe how objects move in the absence of external forces, while his theory of gravity explains the force that keeps planets in orbit around the sun. He also made significant contributions to the study of optics and calculus.

3. How did Galileo Galilei impact the development of physics?

Galileo Galilei is often referred to as the "father of modern physics" for his pioneering work in the fields of mechanics and astronomy. He made important discoveries about the laws of motion and the nature of gravity, and his observations with the telescope helped to confirm the heliocentric model of the solar system.

4. What is the significance of Max Planck's work in physics?

Max Planck is known for his groundbreaking work on quantum theory, which revolutionized our understanding of the behavior of matter and energy at the atomic and subatomic levels. He is also credited with introducing the concept of the quantum of energy, now known as the Planck constant, which is a fundamental constant in physics.

5. How did Marie Curie contribute to the field of physics?

Marie Curie was a pioneering physicist and chemist who made significant contributions to the study of radioactivity. She discovered two new elements, polonium and radium, and her research on the properties of radioactive substances laid the foundation for modern nuclear physics. She was also the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the only person to win Nobel Prizes in two different scientific fields.

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