Saturday, 24 March 2012 09:54

Johannes Guttenberg: Men of Ideas

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Johannes Guttenberg (1400-1468) was a German goldsmith credited with inventing the metal moveable type printing. Although such printing type may have existed in China for several centuries, Guttenberg was the first in the Western world to make it possible. In so doing he made it possible to mass produce books. Prior to him books, mostly Bibles, were laboriously hand written and reproduced by hand. Making books easily and cheaply produced meant that people with ideas could now print their ideas and sell them and that way spread alternative ideas than was taught by the Catholic Church. In a manner of…
Francis Crick (1916-2004) was an English molecular biologist. James D Watson (1928- ) is an American molecular biologist. Crick and Watson are noted for been the co-discoverers of DNA in 1953, for which they won the Nobel Prize in Biology in 1963. According to his biography, Crick was interested in how molecules make the transition from non-living to living things and how the brain makes the conscious mind. Apparently, he succeed in the former and failed in understanding the later, for no one has understood how the brain makes consciousness, mind. Crick and Watson worked hard and eventually showed how…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 09:51

John Von Neuman: Men of Ideas

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John von Neumann (1903-1957) was a Hungarian turned American mathematician. He made mathematical contributions in many areas including functional analysis, quantum mechanics, computer science, statistics, economics, game theory, geometry and hydrodynamics. He is considered one of the best mathematicians of the twentieth century. Neumann was a member of the Manhattan Project that exploded the first atomic bomb. He provided mathematical analysis of whatever was needed. He provided operator theory of quantum mechanics. Neumann was an outstanding mathematician and that is just about all that can be said for him. As a human being he had very little to recommend him…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 06:17

Paul Dirac: Men of Ideas

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Paul Dirac (1902-1984) was a British theoretical physicist. He made seminal contributions to Quantum Mechanics. Dirac was noted for formulating what is now called Dirac equation, which describes the behavior of fermions and which led to the prediction of the existence of anti matter. For this discovery he was awarded the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics (along with Erwin Schrödinger). Dirac built on Pauli’s non-relativistic spin systems to propose what is now called Dirac equation, a relativistic equation of motion for the wave function of the electron. His equation led him to predict the existence of an anti electron particle,…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 06:15

Edwin Hubble: Men of Ideas

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Edwin Hubble (1889-1953) was an American astronomer. With his telescope, Hubble demonstrated the existence of other galaxies other than our own, the Milky Way, and in so doing profoundly changed our understanding of the universe. He showed the immensity of the universe, now calculated to be over thirteen billion light years across. Hubble showed that the universe is expanding. Finally, he showed that light coming from other galaxies, redshift, increased in proportion to the distance of that galaxy from the Milky Way. Hubble’s discoveries consist of the fact that there is more than one galaxy. During his time, early part…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 06:14

Louis Broglie: Men of Ideas

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Louis Broglie (1892-1987) was a French physicist. In his 1922 doctoral thesis he introduced the theory of electron waves. He developed this idea into what is now called Broglie hypothesis, which states that any moving particle or object has an associated wave (that is, moving matter has both particular and wave function). In effect, Broglie united the wave and particle functions of particles. He further united the physics of light and matter by showing that the wave-particular function is applicable to all matter, not just light. For this discovery he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1929. Broglie’s work…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 06:13

Erwin Schrodinger: Men of Ideas

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Erwin Schrodinger (1887-1961) was an Austrian-Irish physicist. He contributed what is now called Schrodinger equations in quantum mechanics and for which he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1933. He is also known for his thought experiment called the Schrodinger cat thought experiment. Like his Friend, Albert Einstein, Schrodinger’s fame rests on four papers he published in quick succession. In the first paper, in 1926, he showed that there is energy eigenvalues for the hydrogen-like atom, proving a derivation of the wave equation for time independent systems. The second paper solved the quantum harmonic oscillator problem. The third paper…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 06:11

Wolfgang Pauli: Men of Ideas

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Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958) was an Austrian theoretical physicist. He is noted for his discovery of the exclusion principle, a principle that underpins the structure of matter. In 1945, Pauli received the Nobel Price in physics for his work on Exclusion Principle (also called the Pauli Principle). The Exclusion Principle states that no two electrons could exist in the same quantum state, identified by four quantum numbers including his two-valued degree of freedom. Pauli identified the electron’s spin degree of freedom. His research played a key role in validating Heisenberg’s matrix theory of quantum mechanics. Pauli used Heisenberg’s metric theory to…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 06:10

Neils Bohr : Men of Ideas

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Neils Henrik Bohr (1885-1962) was a Danish physicist. He made fundamental contributions to the understanding of the structure of the atom and to quantum mechanics. For his work in quantum mechanics he received the Nobel Prize in 1922. He later worked on the Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic weapon. Bohr improved Ernest Rutherford’s hypothesis on the structure of the atom; in 1913 he published a paper showing that the electron circled the nucleus of the atom; he further showed the chemical properties of each element is largely determined by the number of electrons circling its nucleus; he also…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 06:10

Max Born: Men of Ideas

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Max Born (1882-1970) was a German, Jewish physicist and mathematician. He played a crucial role in the development of quantum mechanics, solid state physics and optics. Born was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in physics for his Statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics. Born was more a mathematician than anything else. His contribution is rendering the various discoveries on quantum mechanics in mathematical language. Born was a professor of physics at Berlin University and many of his students proceeded to win the Nobel Prize in physics. As a Jew, the Nazis made life difficult for Born and he emigrated to the…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 04:10

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates: Men of Ideas

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Steve Jobs (1955- ) and Bill Gates (1955- ) are two America university drop outs whose computer and internet wizardry has come to represent the face of computers and the Internet. Whereas they were not the actual inventors of computer or the Internet but they represent the computer as we now know it. Steve Job and his friend Steve Wozniak, were the first to translate big computers into small computers, what is now called personal computers. They built the first table top computers (Apple) and marketed them. Other people got into the game and now there are tons of computer…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 03:57

Albert Einstein: Men of Ideas

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Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was a German, Jewish mathematician and physicist. He is best known for his theory of special relativity, his mass energy equation (E=MC2) and his translation of Planck’s notion that light is emitted in quanta to photons. Einstein’s special relativity theory reconciled mechanics to electromagnetism and his general relativity theory improved on Newton’s gravitation theory. Einstein made other contributions to physics but his special and general relativity and studies on light are considered his seminal contributions to science. Upon leaving college, Einstein worked at a Zurich Patents’ office. While there he had time to study what was dear…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 03:56

Fred Hoyle: Men of Ideas

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Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) was an English astronomer. He is best remembered for his work on stellar nucleosynthesis and his contrarian nature, his taking opposing perspectives on what atheistic scientists would like the public to believe, that there is no God; Hoyle believed in God. Hoyle’s primary scientific work was on stellar nucleosynthesis, how the atoms in stars decay and transmuted to other atoms (different elements). He observed that one particular nuclear reaction, the triple-alpha process, generated carbon. There is a large amount of carbon in the universe making it possible for our carbon based life forms. He speculated on the…
Saturday, 24 March 2012 03:55

George Gamow: Men of Ideas

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George Gamow (1904-1968) was a Russian theoretical physicist and cosmologist. He contributed to the idea of the Big Bang origin of the universe by demonstrating alpha decay via quantum tunneling, radioactive decay of atoms, star formation and stellar nucleosynthesis. Essentially, Gamow showed how atoms in the sun are formed and how their nucleus eventually decays to release the radiation (light and heath) that we pick up on earth. This understanding of the formation and decay of stars and by generalization the galaxies and the universe contributed to our understanding of the origin of the universe and how it would eventually…
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…