Physical Scientists

Saturday, 24 March 2012 03:53

Georges Lamaitre: Men of Ideas

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Georges Lamaitre (1894-1966) was a Belgian physicist and astronomer. In 1931 Lamaitre proposed what is now called the Big Bang hypothesis of the origin of the universe. Einstein had postulated a steady state universe and Friedman and Lamaitre proved other wise that the universe is expanding. Lamaitre posited that the universe began from a primeval atom that exploded and created space, time and matter. Friedman merely talked about an expanding universe but it was Lamaitre who hypothesized that the universe had an origin in one atom that exploded and gave rise to it. At first Lemaitre’s hypothesis met with opposition,…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 03:53

Alexander Friedman: Men of Ideas

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Alexander Friedman (1888-1925) was a Russian, Jewish, mathematician and astronomer. His main contribution to science is positing, in 1922, the hypothesis that the universe is expanding. Edwin Hubble’s 1929 observations proved this hypothesis to be correct. Since Albert Einstein’s special relativity there had been a debate as to whether the universe is static or expanding. Lamaitre’s Big Bang hypothesis of the origin of the Universe and Edwin Hubble’s telescopic observations eventually demonstrated that the universe began at one point and is expanding outwards. The detection of cosmic microwave background radiation also lead to the abandonment of Einstein’s steady state hypothesis…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 03:52

Ernest Rutherford: Men of Ideas

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Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) was a New Zealand chemist and physicist; he is considered by many as the founder of nuclear physics. He posited the thesis that the electron orbits around the nucleus of the atom (the nucleus consists of the proton and neutron). For this discovery he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908. Rutherford discovered that the atom has a positively charged nucleus orbited by electrons. He showed that atoms do spontaneously disintegrate (decay) and do so at given rates, that is, took the same amount of time for that to happen (half time); this discovery gave…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 03:51

Max Planck: Men of Ideas

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Max Planck (1858-1947) was a German physicist. He is generally considered the reluctant founder of quantum mechanics. Planck posited that electromagnetic energy is emitted only in quantized forms (now called Planck’s action quantum, mathematically, F=hv, where h is Planck’s constant). Einstein later demonstrated that light was emitted in photons (quanta). Interestingly, Max Planck initially rejected Einstein’s hypothesis that light is emitted in quanta (photons), a hypothesis Einstein based on Phillipp Lenard’s 1902 discovery of the photoelectric effect. Planck thought that accepting Einstein’s hypothesis would discard Maxwell’s electrodynamics and thereby set physics back y centuries. Planck made other mistakes such as…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 03:50

William Thomson: Men of Ideas

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William Thomson (1824-1907) was an Irish mathematician, physicist and engineer. He did seminal work on thermodynamics and mathematical analysis of electricity. He developed what is now known as the Kelvin scale (named after him, when he was made the Baron Kelvin) of absolute temperature measurement. Thomson’s greatest work was in heat. Apparently, he was set into motion by Joules demonstration of the mutual convertibility of heat and mechanical work and their mechanical equivalence. Thomson was intrigued and set out to see if there were theoretical explanations of Joules experimental conclusions. Building on the work of Carnot-Clapeyron, Thomson predicted that the…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 03:49

Ludwig Boltzmann: Men of Ideas

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Ludwig Boltzmann Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann (1844-1908) was an Austrian mathematician and physicist. His most important contribution to physics is statistical mechanics and statistical thermodynamics. He was a supporter of Dalton’s atomic theory and he did so at a time it was controversial (that is, before Ernst Rutherford demonstrated its reality). Boltzmann’s most important contribution is his kinetic theory (of gases) for the distribution for molecular speeds in gases (now called Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution).The Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution and Boltzmann statistics are the foundations of classical statistical mechanics. Boltzmann tried to use his statistics to show that atoms indeed exist (now called Boltzmann’s constant)…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 03:48

James Clerk Maxwell: Men of Ideas

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James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) was a Scottish mathematician and theoretical physicist. His greatest contribution to physics was putting into mathematical equations (now called The Four Equations of Maxwell) discoveries made by several researchers on the nature of electricity, magnetism and inductance. These equations unified electricity and magnetism, as Faraday and others had experimentally demonstrated. Maxwell mathematically showed that light and magnetism are linked, called electromagnetism. This achievement helped found modern physics; it especially contributed to the development of special relativity and quantum mechanics. Maxwell created the first color photographs in 1861. Maxwell showed that electric and magnetic fields travel through…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 03:47

Michael Faraday: Men of Ideas

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Michael Faraday (1791-1867) was an English chemist and physicist. Though not formally trained in either chemistry, physics or mathematics, Faraday made seminal contributions to our understanding of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. Through his studies he established that electricity and magnetism go hand in hand and are essentially the same force. He established the basis for electricity as we now know it. He invented the electromagnetic rotary which formed the basis of electric motor technology. In Chemistry, Faraday discovered benzene, invented the Bunsen burner (now an indispensable source of heat in chemistry laboratories), and contributed to our understanding of anode, cathode, electrode,…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 03:44

Howard Flory: Men of Ideas

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Howard Florey (1898-1968) was an Australian pharmacologist. His notable contribution to medicine was finding a way to extract penicillin and mass produce it and use it to immunize the public against bacterial infection. Apparently, he had read Alexander Fleming’s paper regarding the extraction of penicillin from penicillin and noted Fleming’s difficulties in extracting large enough quantities of penicillin to make it useful for immunizing the public. Fleming had given up on his efforts to extract large quantities of penicillin. Florey and his associate, Ernst Boris Chain, found a way to accomplish what Fleming could not. For his work along with…
Friday, 23 March 2012 05:33

Alexander Fleming : Men of Ideas

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Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) was a Scottish biologist and pharmacologist. His primary achievement was the discovery of the enzyme lysozyme in 1922, and with the Australian researcher Howard Florey the discovery of the antibiotic, in 1928, penicillin from the fungus Penicillum notatum. For this discovery they were awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology in 1945. Fleming had studied to become a medical doctor but somehow wound up a medical researcher. This was during the era when Louis Pasteur’s germ theory of diseases was in the air. The race was on to discover germs that caused diseases and figure out…
Friday, 23 March 2012 05:32

Joseph Lister: Men of Ideas

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Joseph Lister (1827-1912) was an English surgeon. His primary accomplishment is his recognition that surgeons contributed to the death of those they operated on if they did not take measures to sterilize their hands and the instruments they employed in surgery. He introduced carbolic acid (phenol) to sterilize surgical instruments and clean wounds. Essentially, Lister discovered antiseptic means of treating wounds. Lister contributed to the germ theory of diseases and helped prevent death by spreading diseases. Preventing germs from getting into wounds prevents infection and death. Sterile surgery, which Lister introduced, has done more for public health than any thing…
Friday, 23 March 2012 05:31

Louis Pasteur: Men of Ideas

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Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was a French Chemist and microbiologist. He is best known for discovering the germ theory of disease. His germ theory of diseases and consequent efforts to kill the germs that cause diseases prevent diseases. Before Pasteur’s time, folk did not understand how diseases were caused in the human body and his studies showed how germs enter the human body and cause it to malfunction. Pasteur also made the seminal discovery of how to prevent milk from rotting (caused by germs) through what is now called pasteurization (initially heating the milk to kill potential germs and then ceiling…
Friday, 23 March 2012 05:30

Gregor Mendel: Men of ideas

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Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) was a German, Augustinian priest who experimented with the inheritability of the traits of peas (and later of plants, crops, and by generalization, the inheritability of human traits). He is called the father of genetic studies. His name, Mendel, is synonymous with genetic studies. Mendel cultivated pea plants and tried to mix different varieties of the pea plants to produce hybrids of them. In the process he identified key concepts in the study of genes, such as, dominant genes, recessive genes, and alleles. Clearly, plants can be hybridized. Many of the common fruits we now consume, such…
Friday, 23 March 2012 05:28

Charles Darwin: Men of Ideas

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Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882) was an English biologist. Darwin is known for his contribution of the notion of natural selection. Early in his career as a naturalist, Darwin sailed to the Galapagos Island in South America, an Island little disturbed by man, and cut off from mainland South America; animals there were left to evolve differently from their kinds on the South American mainland. Darwin observed the behavior of animals on the island and noted that they had made some changes to their kind on the mainland of South America, a place from which they were cut off. In 1859…
Friday, 23 March 2012 05:27

John Dalton: Men of Ideas

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John Dalton (1766-1844) was an English Chemist. His work was largely responsible for resurrecting the discarded Greek notion that the atom is the smallest, irreducible part of elements. He therefore contributed to our modern understanding of the elements, the atomic theory, and quantum mechanics. He also made some useful contributions in understanding color blindness in people. He said: “There can scarcely be a doubt entertained respecting the reducibility of all elastic fluids of whatever kind, into liquids; and we ought not to despair of affecting it in low temperatures and by strong pressure exerted upon the unmixed gases further.” Dalton…
Friday, 23 March 2012 05:25

Robert Boyle: Men of Ideas

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Robert Boyle (1627-1691) was an Irish-English chemist and physicist. He developed what is now called Boyles law in Chemistry and is generally regarded as the father of modern Chemistry. In physics Boyle discovered the role of air in the propagation of sound, the forces involved in water becoming frozen, and studied, crystals, gems, hydrostatics and colors etc. In Chemistry Boyle advanced the view that elements (atoms) are the irreducible parts of matter; he contributed to the understanding of chemical mixtures and compounds. Boyle was one of the first persons to practice Francis Bacon’s empiricism, the insistence that knowledge should be…
Sunday, 05 February 2012 07:57

Isaac Newton - Men of Ideas

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Isaac Newton (1643-1727) was an English mathematician and physicist. He presented his physical findings in his Magnus opus, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687). In that book he described the laws of gravitation and the three laws of motion. Newton’s finding constituted that part of physics called mechanics and lasted until the twentieth century when Albert Einstein’s special and general relativity finally improved on it. Newton showed that the motions of objects on earth and elsewhere in the universe are governed by the same gravitational laws. He re-confirmed that the heliocentric view of our solar system is correct and laid to…
Sunday, 05 February 2012 07:52

William Harvey - Men of Ideas

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William Harvey (1578-1657) was an English physician who described how blood is pumped in the heart and circulated throughout the body and returned to the heart via the lungs where it has picked up oxygen for re-circulation around the body. There is controversy as to who first discovered the circulation of blood in the body. There is some tentative evidence that Muslim physicians knew something about blood circulation and, additionally, that some Italian physicians may also have learned about the nature of blood circulation in the body. Harvey had studied at Padua, Italy where he might have learned about the…
Sunday, 05 February 2012 07:40

Galileo Galilei - Men of Ideas

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Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was an Italian mathematician, physicist and astronomer. He made many contributions to physics and astronomy but is primarily known for improving the telescope and for using it to observe that the earth is not the center of the universe; he empirically verified Copernicus hypothesis that the solar system is composed of one sun and many planets, and that the earth is one of the many planets; and that there are many stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, our galaxy; and that some of these stars have planets orbiting around them. Our sun, a medium star, has a…