Who's the greatest scientist of all time?

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  • #26
apeiron
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Galileo obviously, for mathematicizing science. Everything Newton, Einstein & all the rest afterwards was an example of Galileo's philosophy & nothing more. Descartes gets an honourable mention for having simialr views.
Galileo might indeed edge Newton in that he had both the broad insights like relativity and inertia, and also did simple experiments that proved them. Also, how much further might he have got if not restricted by the church?

QM was a bigger revolution, but the problem is then picking one of many.

With relativity, it is the other way round - an obvious candidate, but arguments that others would have got there too. On the other hand, Einstein did do a complete job, did suggests the simple tests, and also did do major early work in QM. So maybe Einstein over Galileo in the end.

So a big three in Galileo, Newton and Einstein.

Darwin and Boltzmann in the same league. No way. Nor Feynman, Descartes, etc. Merely demi-gods!
 
  • #27
Alan Briggs
The last comment to my post missed my point that was perhaps unclear.

All the responses have identified great scientists. In this forum, surprise, surprise, most are physicists! I indicated, and it is a view, or opinion, that singular views aligning with limited criteria can not determine the greatest scientist. This will clearly apply across the general population, if you take an informed vote. In my view, no scientific definition is possible of the greatest scientist where it certainly can not be determined only by scientists.

I would ask not only which scientist had the greatest results in their field but who has not only exerted the greatest influence across science and has had the most impact on the world. That includes social impact, philosophical impact, economic impact, political impact, educational impact, and so on. This goes far beyond scientific impact (across all of science) and not just the singular impact within a scientific field.

It is interesting to note that where Darwin is widely considered the greatest biologist of all time, he did not seem to rank as a candidate for greatest scientist of all time in this forum. I would add that Darwin's work extends far beyond what he is renowned for; his early insights on behavior are recognized by neurologists, including, for example, Eric Kandel. These early considerations enable Darwin to place our race alongside the rest of the animal kingdom with no evolutionary separation necessary.

I find this topic interesting because I think that Darwin's activity represents the finest example of the scientific process at work where this is readily comprehensible to the general population. I believe that we have largely lost support for scientific activity where there is little understanding, across the general population, of what science really is about; that is, what science can offer culturally, socially, educationally, philosophically, economically, etc. beyond the singular pursuit of advanced knowledge for its intrinsic value. Scientific progress often follows the form of assimilating broad principles out of diverse inconsistent incomplete information. This sounds quite like the real world where the scientific method seems more and more irrelevant every day, at least to the controlling majority.
 
  • #28
Danger
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The last comment to my post missed my point that was perhaps unclear.
If this happens to be a response to my post (and I admit that it's a bit conceited to think that it might be), what I was getting at is exactly the opposite of what you just "justified". All of your arguments were sound and well-expressed. It was only your opening that I had issue with. That clearly stated that there was only one answer, and that all of the other responses were erroneous. That, to me, contradicts the principles of scientific investigation.
As I said, though, the rest of your statements are well worth reading.

edit: Oh, crap... I just re-read this post that I'm responding to and realized that you are referring to the previous post by Apeiron. Sorry.
 
  • #29
Pythagorean
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Einstein, but only because he was such a humanitarian.
 
  • #30
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Value judgements. I’m one of those who instinctively feels dismissive about all these ‘who was the greatest ever…?’ ‘what was the greatest ever…?’ etc. etc. Of course the responses are entirely subjective and I find no discernable conclusion of any value that can be drawn from the results. But Alan Briggs’s posts prompted me to remember something I read once that puts a different perspective on this. It was an essay about three figures it identified as having had the greatest influence on our modern way of life. It perceived them not just as scientists, but as founders of new branches of science. In all cases, it asserted, the branches of science they had founded have moved on to incorporate advances of a magnitude that mean that their modern form is barely recognisable as the branch of science each figure had founded, but that each of those branches of science still owed its greatest debt to their founder.

One of the three figures this essay identified has been mentioned by Alan Briggs – it was Charles Darwin. The other two?

Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx.
 
  • #31
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As Alan Briggs mentioned, I feel Charles Darwin is the greatest scientist because he is the one who questioned about our existence and survival, all other scientists explained the natural phenomenon forgetting to think who they are and how they got this knowledge and power to know about Nature.
 
  • #32
Alan Briggs
After I wrote my comments, I reflected on how much science has changed since the era of the early individual independent contributors like Newton, Darwin, Einstein. Then I read the news from CERN.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2010/09/06/AR2010090603891.html?wpisrc=nl_tech [Broken]

This validates my concern that progress in science will benefit greatly from scientists with broad communication skills that engages the general population. This seems to be more widely recognized in other fields. I would be very surprised to read that those great Washington institutions, such as the Office of Management and Budget, are to be mothballed for a year due to the record financial that they have generated. A hypothetical example is given here for purposes of illustration.
 
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  • #33
If Tesla counts as a "scientist",

then Tesla.

With Galileo a close 2nd.
 
  • #34
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The answer is clear and the responses are singularly incorrect.

Charles Darwin represents the greatest scientist of all time. No other scientist has created a body of work that has advanced our understanding and view of practically everything including our overall position in the world. No other scientist was so challenged in his views, as advanced in his global explanations and reasoning or broadly accepted by so large a body of people. And yet amazingly, to this day, to so many, the results of his work remains so controversial 150 years or so on. Even the understanding of our political and economic world, although still primitive, controlling all our daily lives, is best understood as an extension of Darwinian theory of the ultimate survival of the successful, that is fittest; that is, where, at least we are all completely driven by Darwin's thinking here.

This ultimate recognition is evidenced where Darwin is prominently featured currently on a major reserve currency recognizing the man who was clearly right on the money all the time.

Surprise runners up include Ludwig Boltzmann who took statistical insight to the finest level that is appropriately recognized in the most fundamental constant in all of science. Newton, Maxwell and Einstein provided the greatest scientific insight in unifying, and ultimately 'simplifying', our understanding of nature. This advancing work has yet to be completed by the greatest scientist of all time who may not even have been born yet.

An answer supporting recognition of any great scientist can never be as important, or as interesting, as the thoughtful understanding that goes behind it.
i would go back further and suggest that Galen set the stage for scientific inquiry
 
  • #35
All of these responses deal solely on the scientific achievements of the individual, but we can't forget others such as Carl Sagan who have brought scientific interest and basic knowledge to the masses. Sagan may be greater than all the others based on this point alone.
 
  • #36
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Bill Nye because he's the science guy.
 
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  • #37
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Being someone that is interested in physics, and cares less about biology, its odd to say this but...

It seems to me one of the greatest scientists would be someone that greatly advanced a field to provide better human living, and their discoveries would not be easily discovered otherwise.

It seems to me like most things in physics if not discovered by one person would have been soon discovered by someone else, and even if this is not the case (probably especially with some of the more ancient ones) it seems like it takes a long time for their discoveries to have any real world impact.

I would think that someone who discovered certain vaccines or germ theories which saved many lives would have the greatest scientific impact on the masses. I will admit i don't know enough about the subject to say who that might be.
 
  • #38
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Sagan
 
  • #39
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Why does it matter to make all these idiotic ranking lists Americans are so pathologically fond of?
Why are you even in this thread when you aren't answering the question? Dude, this is just a for fun topic. It's like asking. What's the coolest pokemon? It's a question for fun.
 

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