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Who are the most influential people in world?

Identify leaders in your chosen discipline, research top professors in your area of study, and search for schools based on the luminaries who most inspire you!

Note: These rankings dynamically change as our AI learns new things and new publications and citations are made. Academics are actively researching and publishing new insights, leaving our measure of more recent influence subject to continual adjustments. While we delay real-time changes for quality assurance reasons, be not surprised as you see our rankings change over time.

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List of the most influential people in Physics, for the years 1800 – 2020

Albert Einstein
# 1
Albert Einstein

1879 - 1955 (76 years)

#4 person's overall influence

Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics . His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He is best known to the general public for his mass–energy equivalence formula , which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation". He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect", a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory.

Werner Heisenberg
# 2
Werner Heisenberg

1901 - 1976 (75 years)

#109 person's overall influence

Werner Karl Heisenberg was a German theoretical physicist and one of the key pioneers of quantum mechanics. He published his work in 1925 in a breakthrough paper. In the subsequent series of papers with Max Born and Pascual Jordan, during the same year, this matrix formulation of quantum mechanics was substantially elaborated. He is known for the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which he published in 1927. Heisenberg was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the creation of quantum mechanics".

Niels Bohr
# 3
Niels Bohr

1885 - 1962 (77 years)

#88 person's overall influence

Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr was also a philosopher and a promoter of scientific research.

Paul Dirac
# 4
Paul Dirac

1902 - 1984 (82 years)

#188 person's overall influence

Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac was an English theoretical physicist who is regarded as one of the most significant physicists of the 20th century.

Richard Feynman
# 5
Richard Feynman

1918 - 1988 (70 years)

#108 person's overall influence

Richard Phillips Feynman ForMemRS was an American theoretical physicist, known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics, the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as his work in particle physics for which he proposed the parton model. For contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 jointly with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichirō Tomonaga.

Enrico Fermi
# 6
Enrico Fermi

1901 - 1954 (53 years)

#165 person's overall influence

Enrico Fermi was an Italian physicist and the creator of the world's first nuclear reactor, the Chicago Pile-1. He has been called the "architect of the nuclear age" and the "architect of the atomic bomb". He was one of very few physicists to excel in both theoretical physics and experimental physics. Fermi held several patents related to the use of nuclear power, and was awarded the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on induced radioactivity by neutron bombardment and for the discovery of transuranium elements. He made significant contributions to the development of statistical mecha...

Max Planck
# 7
Max Planck

1858 - 1947 (89 years)

#172 person's overall influence

Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, ForMemRS was a German theoretical physicist whose discovery of energy quanta won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.

Abdus Salam
# 8
Abdus Salam

1926 - 1996 (70 years)

#294 person's overall influence

Mohammad Abdus Salam , was a Pakistani theoretical physicist. He shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics with Sheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg for his contribution to the electroweak unification theory. He was the first Pakistani to receive a Nobel Prize in science and the second from an Islamic country to receive any Nobel Prize .

Erwin Schrödinger
# 9
Erwin Schrödinger

1887 - 1961 (74 years)

#137 person's overall influence

Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger , sometimes written as or , was a Nobel Prize-winning Austrian-Irish physicist who developed a number of fundamental results in quantum theory: the Schrödinger equation provides a way to calculate the wave function of a system and how it changes dynamically in time.

Stephen Hawking
# 10
Stephen Hawking

1942 - 2018 (76 years)

#135 person's overall influence

Stephen Hawking was born in Oxford, England in 1942 and died in March of 2018. He attended University College, Oxford where he received a BA in physics. Within his first year as a PhD student at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, Hawking’s speech became difficult to understand and he started to have difficulty walking. He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and predicted to only live another two years. Luckily his disease progressed much more slowly than anticipated. It’s a good thing, because he is widely considered one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century. Hawking was Lucasian Professo...

James Clerk Maxwell
# 11
James Clerk Maxwell

1831 - 1879 (48 years)

#41 person's overall influence

James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish scientist in the field of mathematical physics. His most notable achievement was to formulate the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light as different manifestations of the same phenomenon. Maxwell's equations for electromagnetism have been called the "second great unification in physics" after the first one realised by Isaac Newton.

Wolfgang Pauli
# 12
Wolfgang Pauli

1900 - 1958 (58 years)

#376 person's overall influence

Wolfgang Ernst Pauli was an Austrian theoretical physicist and one of the pioneers of quantum physics. Later in life he got the citizenships of the United States and Switzerland. In 1945, after having been nominated by Albert Einstein, Pauli received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his "decisive contribution through his discovery of a new law of Nature, the exclusion principle or Pauli principle". The discovery involved spin theory, which is the basis of a theory of the structure of matter. He also showed a precocious ability for physics getting his PhD at age 21 even though he graduated high ...

Max Born
# 13
Max Born

1882 - 1970 (88 years)

#288 person's overall influence

Max Born was a German physicist and mathematician who was instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics. He also made contributions to solid-state physics and optics and supervised the work of a number of notable physicists in the 1920s and 1930s. Born won the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physics for his "fundamental research in quantum mechanics, especially in the statistical interpretation of the wave function".

Arnold Sommerfeld
# 14
Arnold Sommerfeld

1868 - 1951 (83 years)

#462 person's overall influence

Arnold Johannes Wilhelm Sommerfeld, was a German theoretical physicist who pioneered developments in atomic and quantum physics, and also educated and mentored many students for the new era of theoretical physics. He served as doctoral supervisor for many Nobel Prize winners in physics and chemistry .

John von Neumann
# 15
John von Neumann

1903 - 1957 (54 years)

#71 person's overall influence

John von Neumann was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, computer scientist, engineer and polymath. Von Neumann was generally regarded as the foremost mathematician of his time and said to be "the last representative of the great mathematicians"; who integrated both pure and applied sciences.

Steven Weinberg
# 16
Steven Weinberg

1933 - Present (87 years)

#471 person's overall influence

Steven Weinberg was born in New York City in 1933. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and his PhD from Princeton University. Weinberg holds the Josey Regental Chair in Science at the University of Texas at Austin, and is a member of both the Physics and the Astronomy departments there. In 2004 the American Philosophical Society called him one of the “preeminent theoretical physicist[s] alive in the world today.” Weinberg received a bachelor’s degree in Physics from Cornell University in 1954. He earned his Ph.D. in Physics at Princeton University in 1957.

Otto Hahn
# 17
Otto Hahn

1879 - 1968 (89 years)

#287 person's overall influence

Otto Hahn was a German chemist and pioneer in the fields of radioactivity and radiochemistry. Hahn is referred to as the father of nuclear chemistry. He discovered radioactive isotopes of radium, thorium, protactinium and uranium. He was also discovered the phenomena of radioactive recoil and nuclear isomerism. In 1938, Hahn and Fritz Strassmann discovered nuclear fission, for which Hahn received the 1944 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Nuclear fission was the basis for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons that were developed by the Manhattan Project during World War II.

Edward Teller
# 18
Edward Teller

1908 - 2003 (95 years)

#237 person's overall influence

Edward Teller was a Hungarian-American theoretical physicist who is known colloquially as "the father of the hydrogen bomb" , although he did not care for the title, and was only part of a team who developed the technology. Throughout his life, Teller was known both for his scientific ability and for his difficult interpersonal relations and volatile personality.

Hans Bethe
# 19
Hans Bethe

1906 - 2005 (99 years)

#470 person's overall influence

Hans Albrecht Bethe was a German-American nuclear physicist who made important contributions to astrophysics, quantum electrodynamics and solid-state physics, and won the 1967 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis.

Munir Ahmad Khan
# 20
Munir Ahmad Khan

1926 - 1999 (73 years)

#461 person's overall influence

Munir Ahmad Khan , , was a Pakistani nuclear reactor physicist who is credited, among others, with being the "father of the atomic bomb program" of Pakistan for their leading role in developing their nation's nuclear weapons during the successive years after the war with India in 1971.

Eugene Wigner
# 21
Eugene Wigner

1902 - 1995 (93 years)

#316 person's overall influence

Eugene Paul "E. P." Wigner was a Hungarian-American theoretical physicist and mathematician. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963 "for his contributions to the theory of the atomic nucleus and the elementary particles, particularly through the discovery and application of fundamental symmetry principles".

Lev Landau
# 22
Lev Landau

1908 - 1968 (60 years)

#635 person's overall influence

Lev Davidovich Landau was a Soviet physicist who made fundamental contributions to many areas of theoretical physics.

Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker
# 23
Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker

1912 - 2007 (95 years)

#889 person's overall influence

Carl Friedrich Freiherr von Weizsäcker was a German physicist and philosopher. He was the longest-living member of the team which performed nuclear research in Germany during the Second World War, under Werner Heisenberg's leadership. There is ongoing debate as to whether or not he and the other members of the team actively and willingly pursued the development of a nuclear bomb for Germany during this time.

John Archibald Wheeler
# 24
John Archibald Wheeler

1911 - 2008 (97 years)

#805 person's overall influence

John Archibald Wheeler was an American theoretical physicist. He was largely responsible for reviving interest in general relativity in the United States after World War II. Wheeler also worked with Niels Bohr in explaining the basic principles behind nuclear fission. Together with Gregory Breit, Wheeler developed the concept of the Breit–Wheeler process. He is best known for using the term "black hole" for objects with gravitational collapse already predicted during the early 20th century, for inventing the terms "quantum foam", "neutron moderator", "wormhole" and "it from bit", and for hypo...

Roger Penrose
# 25
Roger Penrose

1931 - Present (89 years)

#632 person's overall influence

Sir Roger Penrose was born in Colchester, England in 1931. He is best known for his significant contributions to the mathematical physics of general relativity and cosmology. Penrose attended University College London where he earned his bachelor’s in mathematics. He received a PhD studying algebraic geometry at St John’s College, Cambridge in 1958. In his free time at Cambridge, he attended a few lectures led by Hermann Bondi and Paul Dirac, which lent some of his curiosity in the direction of physics. Penrose went on to become an innovator in the field of mathematical physics, and is now wid...

Max von Laue
# 26
Max von Laue

1879 - 1960 (81 years)

#829 person's overall influence

Max Theodor Felix von Laue was a German physicist who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1914 for his discovery of the diffraction of X-rays by crystals. In addition to his scientific endeavors with contributions in optics, crystallography, quantum theory, superconductivity, and the theory of relativity, he had a number of administrative positions which advanced and guided German scientific research and development during four decades. A strong objector to Nazism, he was instrumental in re-establishing and organizing German science after World War II.

David Hilbert
# 27
David Hilbert

1862 - 1943 (81 years)

#215 person's overall influence

David Hilbert was a German mathematician and one of the most influential and universal mathematicians of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Hilbert discovered and developed a broad range of fundamental ideas in many areas, including invariant theory, the calculus of variations, commutative algebra, algebraic number theory, the foundations of geometry, spectral theory of operators and its application to integral equations, mathematical physics, and foundations of mathematics .

Lise Meitner
# 28
Lise Meitner

1878 - 1968 (90 years)

#446 person's overall influence

Lise Meitner was an Austrian-Swedish physicist who worked on radioactivity and nuclear physics. Meitner and Otto Robert Frisch discovered nuclear fission of uranium when it absorbed an extra neutron; the results were published in early 1939. They understood the nuclear fission process, which splits the atomic nucleus of uranium into two smaller nuclei, must be accompanied by an enormous release of energy. Their research into nuclear fission helped to pioneer nuclear reactors to generate electricity as well as the development of nuclear weapons during World War II.

Murray Gell-Mann
# 29
Murray Gell-Mann

1929 - 2019 (90 years)

#532 person's overall influence

Murray Gell-Mann was an American physicist who received the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles. He was the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Theoretical Physics Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, a distinguished fellow and one of the co-founders of the Santa Fe Institute, a professor of physics at the University of New Mexico, and the Presidential Professor of Physics and Medicine at the University of Southern California.

James Chadwick
# 30
James Chadwick

1891 - 1974 (83 years)

#620 person's overall influence

Sir James Chadwick, was a British physicist who was awarded the 1935 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the neutron in 1932. In 1941, he wrote the final draft of the MAUD Report, which inspired the U.S. government to begin serious atomic bomb research efforts. He was the head of the British team that worked on the Manhattan Project during the Second World War. He was knighted in Britain in 1945 for his achievements in physics.

Hendrik Lorentz
# 31
Hendrik Lorentz

1853 - 1928 (75 years)

#854 person's overall influence

Hendrik Antoon Lorentz was a Dutch physicist who shared the 1902 Nobel Prize in Physics with Pieter Zeeman for the discovery and theoretical explanation of the Zeeman effect. He also derived the transformation equations underpinning Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity.

J. J. Thomson
# 32
J. J. Thomson

1856 - 1940 (84 years)

#467 person's overall influence

Sir Joseph John Thomson was a British physicist and Nobel Laureate in Physics, credited with the discovery of the electron, the first subatomic particle to be discovered.

Walther Bothe
# 33
Walther Bothe

1891 - 1957 (66 years)

#1331 person's overall influence

Walther Wilhelm Georg Bothe was a German nuclear physicist, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1954 with Max Born.

Marie Curie
# 34
Marie Curie

1867 - 1934 (67 years)

#191 person's overall influence

Marie Skłodowska Curie , born Maria Salomea Skłodowska , was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and the only woman to win the Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two different scientific fields. She was part of the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes. She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris, and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris.

Edward Witten
# 35
Edward Witten

1951 - Present (69 years)

#917 person's overall influence

Witten is Professor of Mathematical Physics at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study (IAS). He is known world-wide for his many important contributions to the mathematics of string theory and treatments of theoretical physics. Interestingly, Witten received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History, with a minor in Linguistics at Brandeis University in 1971. After graduation, Witten wrote for The New Republic and The Nation, and even worked on George McGovern’s presidential campaign! He returned to college and studied economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before dropping out, retur...

Michael Faraday
# 36
Michael Faraday

1791 - 1867 (76 years)

#103 person's overall influence

Michael Faraday was an English scientist who contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His main discoveries include the principles underlying electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and electrolysis.

Henri Poincaré
# 37
Henri Poincaré

1854 - 1912 (58 years)

#356 person's overall influence

Jules Henri Poincaré was a French mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, and philosopher of science. He is often described as a polymath, and in mathematics as "The Last Universalist", since he excelled in all fields of the discipline as it existed during his lifetime.

J. Robert Oppenheimer
# 38
J. Robert Oppenheimer

1904 - 1967 (63 years)

#412 person's overall influence

Julius Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist and professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Oppenheimer was the wartime head of the Los Alamos Laboratory and is among those who are credited with being the "father of the atomic bomb" for their role in the Manhattan Project, the World War II undertaking that developed the first nuclear weapons. The first atomic bomb was successfully detonated on July 16, 1945, in the Trinity test in New Mexico. Oppenheimer later remarked that it brought to mind words from the Bhagavad Gita: "Now I am become Death, the des...

Julian Schwinger
# 39
Julian Schwinger

1918 - 1994 (76 years)

#1358 person's overall influence

Julian Seymour Schwinger was a Nobel Prize winning American theoretical physicist. He is best known for his work on quantum electrodynamics , in particular for developing a relativistically invariant perturbation theory, and for renormalizing QED to one loop order. Schwinger was a physics professor at several universities.

Freeman Dyson
# 40
Freeman Dyson

1923 - 2020 (97 years)

#503 person's overall influence

Freeman John Dyson was an English-American theoretical physicist and mathematician known for his work in quantum electrodynamics, solid-state physics, astronomy and nuclear engineering. He was professor emeritus in the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, a member of the Board of Visitors of Ralston College and a member of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Ludwig Boltzmann
# 41
Ludwig Boltzmann

1844 - 1906 (62 years)

#579 person's overall influence

Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann was an Austrian physicist and philosopher. His greatest achievement was in the development of statistical mechanics, which explains and predicts how the properties of atoms determine the physical properties of matter . Boltzmann coined the word ergodic while he was working on a problem in statistical mechanics.

Leonard Susskind
# 42
Leonard Susskind

1940 - Present (80 years)

#1724 person's overall influence

Leonard Susskind is Professor of Theoretical Physics at Stanford University, and the Founding Director for the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics. Among many specialties in physics, including quantum field theory, quantum statistical mechanics and quantum cosmology, Susskind is widely regarded as one of the fathers of string theory. In 1995, he was the first physicist to precisely define the string theory concept for physics. Susskind actually began working as a plumber as a teenager, and later entered the City College of New York, graduating with a B.S. in Physics in 1962. He rece...

Hermann Weyl
# 43
Hermann Weyl

1885 - 1955 (70 years)

#838 person's overall influence

Hermann Klaus Hugo Weyl, was a German mathematician, theoretical physicist and philosopher. Although much of his working life was spent in Zürich, Switzerland and then Princeton, New Jersey, he is associated with the University of Göttingen tradition of mathematics, represented by David Hilbert and Hermann Minkowski.

Riazuddin
# 44
Riazuddin

1930 - 2013 (83 years)

#1721 person's overall influence

Riazuddin, also spelled as Riaz-Ud-Din , was a Pakistani theoretical physicist, specialising in high-energy physics and nuclear physics. Starting his scientific research in physics in 1958, Riazuddin was considered one of the early pioneers of Pakistan's nuclear weapons development and atomic deterrence development. He was the director of the Theoretical Physics Group of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission from 1974 until 1984. Riazuddin was a pupil of the winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics, Abdus Salam.

Edwin Hubble
# 45
Edwin Hubble

1889 - 1953 (64 years)

#719 person's overall influence

Edwin Powell Hubble was an American astronomer. He played a crucial role in establishing the fields of extragalactic astronomy and observational cosmology and is regarded as one of the most important astronomers of all time.

James Franck
# 46
James Franck

1882 - 1964 (82 years)

#1353 person's overall influence

James Franck was a German physicist who won the 1925 Nobel Prize for Physics with Gustav Hertz "for their discovery of the laws governing the impact of an electron upon an atom". He completed his doctorate in 1906 and his habilitation in 1911 at the Frederick William University in Berlin, where he lectured and taught until 1918, having reached the position of professor extraordinarius. He served as a volunteer in the German Army during World War I. He was seriously injured in 1917 in a gas attack and was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class.

Carl Sagan
# 47
Carl Sagan

1934 - 1996 (62 years)

#166 person's overall influence

Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, planetary scientist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science popularizer, and science communicator. He is best known as a science popularizer and communicator. His best known scientific contribution is research on extraterrestrial life, including experimental demonstration of the production of amino acids from basic chemicals by radiation. Sagan assembled the first physical messages sent into space: the Pioneer plaque and the Voyager Golden Record, universal messages that could potentially be understood by any extraterrestrial...

George Gamow
# 48
George Gamow

1904 - 1968 (64 years)

#626 person's overall influence

George Gamow , born Georgiy Antonovich Gamov, was a Soviet-American theoretical physicist and cosmologist. He was an early advocate and developer of Lemaître's Big Bang theory. He discovered a theoretical explanation of alpha decay by quantum tunneling, invented the liquid drop model and the first mathematical model of the atomic nucleus, and worked on radioactive decay, star formation, stellar nucleosynthesis and Big Bang nucleosynthesis , and molecular genetics.

Rudolf Peierls
# 49
Rudolf Peierls

1907 - 1995 (88 years)

#1305 person's overall influence

Sir Rudolf Ernst Peierls, was a German-born British physicist who played a major role in the Manhattan Project and Tube Alloys, Britain's nuclear programme. His obituary in Physics Today described him as "a major player in the drama of the eruption of nuclear physics into world affairs".

Hans Geiger
# 50
Hans Geiger

1882 - 1945 (63 years)

#1324 person's overall influence

Johannes Wilhelm "Hans" Geiger was a German physicist. He is best known as the co-inventor of the detector component of the Geiger counter and for the Geiger–Marsden experiment which discovered the atomic nucleus. He was the brother of meteorologist and climatologist Rudolf Geiger.