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Who are the most influential thinkers 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 change dynamically as our artificial intelligence system learns new things and incorporates new publications and citations. Academics are constantly doing research and publishing new insights, with the result that our measure of influence is subject to continual adjustments. For quality assurance reasons, however, we forgo real-time changes, with most public updates happening only quarterly. In any case, don’t be surprised to see our rankings change over time.

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List of the most influential people in Physics, for the years 1200 – 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.

Isaac Newton
# 2
Isaac Newton

1642 - 1727 (85 years)

#5 person's overall influence

Sir Isaac Newton was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author who is widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica , first published in 1687, laid the foundations of classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics, and shares credit with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for developing the infinitesimal calculus.

Werner Heisenberg
# 3
Werner Heisenberg

1901 - 1976 (75 years)

#108 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
# 4
Niels Bohr

1885 - 1962 (77 years)

#81 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.

Galileo Galilei
# 5
Galileo Galilei

1564 - 1642 (78 years)

#34 person's overall influence

Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath, from Pisa. Galileo has been called the "father of observational astronomy", the "father of modern physics", the "father of the scientific method", and the "father of modern science".

Paul Dirac
# 6
Paul Dirac

1902 - 1984 (82 years)

#186 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.

Enrico Fermi
# 7
Enrico Fermi

1901 - 1954 (53 years)

#168 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 was awarded the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on induced radioactivity by neutron bombardment and for the discovery of transuranium elements. With his colleagues, Fermi filed several patents related to the use of nuclear power, all of which were taken over by the US government....

Max Planck
# 8
Max Planck

1858 - 1947 (89 years)

#170 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
# 9
Abdus Salam

1926 - 1996 (70 years)

#290 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 .

James Clerk Maxwell
# 10
James Clerk Maxwell

1831 - 1879 (48 years)

#42 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.

Erwin Schrödinger
# 11
Erwin Schrödinger

1887 - 1961 (74 years)

#110 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
# 12
Stephen Hawking

1942 - 2018 (76 years)

#134 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...

Max Born
# 13
Max Born

1882 - 1970 (88 years)

#276 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".

Wolfgang Pauli
# 14
Wolfgang Pauli

1900 - 1958 (58 years)

#357 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 ...

Johannes Kepler
# 15
Johannes Kepler

1571 - 1630 (59 years)

#97 person's overall influence

Johannes Kepler was a German astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer. He is a key figure in the 17th-century scientific revolution, best known for his laws of planetary motion, and his books Astronomia nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae. These works also provided one of the foundations for Newton's theory of universal gravitation.

Arnold Sommerfeld
# 16
Arnold Sommerfeld

1868 - 1951 (83 years)

#471 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
# 17
John von Neumann

1903 - 1957 (54 years)

#70 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"; he integrated pure and applied sciences.

René Descartes
# 18
René Descartes

1596 - 1650 (54 years)

#22 person's overall influence

René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. A native of the Kingdom of France, he spent about 20 years of his life in the Dutch Republic after serving for a while in the Dutch States Army of Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange and the Stadtholder of the United Provinces. One of the most notable intellectual figures of the Dutch Golden Age, Descartes is also widely regarded as one of the founders of modern philosophy.

Otto Hahn
# 19
Otto Hahn

1879 - 1968 (89 years)

#295 person's overall influence

Otto Hahn was a German chemist, and a pioneer in the fields of radioactivity and radiochemistry. Hahn is referred to as the father of nuclear chemistry. Hahn and Lise Meitner discovered radioactive isotopes of radium, thorium, protactinium and uranium. He also discovered the phenomena of radioactive recoil and nuclear isomerism, and pioneered rubidium–strontium dating. In 1938, Hahn, Lise Meitner 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.

Steven Weinberg
# 20
Steven Weinberg

1933 - Present (88 years)

#455 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.

Edward Teller
# 21
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, considering it poor taste. Throughout his life, Teller was known both for his scientific ability and for his difficult interpersonal relations and volatile personality.

Hans Bethe
# 22
Hans Bethe

1906 - 2005 (99 years)

#482 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 who won the 1967 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis.

Lev Landau
# 23
Lev Landau

1908 - 1968 (60 years)

#668 person's overall influence

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

Eugene Wigner
# 24
Eugene Wigner

1902 - 1995 (93 years)

#320 person's overall influence

Eugene Paul "E. P." Wigner was a Hungarian-American theoretical physicist and also contributed to mathematical physics. 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".

Nicolaus Copernicus
# 25
Nicolaus Copernicus

1473 - 1543 (70 years)

#196 person's overall influence

Nicolaus Copernicus was a Renaissance-era mathematician and astronomer, who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than Earth at the center of the universe, in all likelihood independently of Aristarchus of Samos, who had formulated such a model some eighteen centuries earlier.

Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker
# 26
Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker

1912 - 2007 (95 years)

#929 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
# 27
John Archibald Wheeler

1911 - 2008 (97 years)

#808 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...

Munir Ahmad Khan
# 28
Munir Ahmad Khan

1926 - 1999 (73 years)

#504 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.

Lise Meitner
# 29
Lise Meitner

1878 - 1968 (90 years)

#415 person's overall influence

Lise Meitner ForMemRS ; ; 7 November 1878 – 27 October 1968

Roger Penrose
# 30
Roger Penrose

1931 - Present (90 years)

#635 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

David Hilbert
# 31
David Hilbert

1862 - 1943 (81 years)

#223 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 .

Max von Laue
# 32
Max von Laue

1879 - 1960 (81 years)

#794 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.

Hendrik Lorentz
# 33
Hendrik Lorentz

1853 - 1928 (75 years)

#756 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.

Michael Faraday
# 34
Michael Faraday

1791 - 1867 (76 years)

#100 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.

J. J. Thomson
# 35
J. J. Thomson

1856 - 1940 (84 years)

#436 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.

Murray Gell-Mann
# 36
Murray Gell-Mann

1929 - 2019 (90 years)

#508 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
# 37
James Chadwick

1891 - 1974 (83 years)

#644 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 World War II. He was knighted in Britain in 1945 for his achievements in physics.

Henri Poincaré
# 38
Henri Poincaré

1854 - 1912 (58 years)

#329 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.

Marie Curie
# 39
Marie Curie

1867 - 1934 (67 years)

#184 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.

Immanuel Kant
# 40
Immanuel Kant

1724 - 1804 (80 years)

#9 person's overall influence

Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher and one of the central Enlightenment thinkers. Kant's comprehensive and systematic works in epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics have made him one of the most influential figures in modern Western philosophy.

Edward Witten
# 41
Edward Witten

1951 - Present (70 years)

#923 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

Walther Bothe
# 42
Walther Bothe

1891 - 1957 (66 years)

#1387 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.

Tycho Brahe
# 43
Tycho Brahe

1546 - 1601 (55 years)

#418 person's overall influence

Tycho Brahe was a Danish nobleman, astronomer, and writer known for his accurate and comprehensive astronomical observations. He was born in the then Danish peninsula of Scania. Tycho was well known in his lifetime as an astronomer, astrologer, and alchemist. He has been described as "the first competent mind in modern astronomy to feel ardently the passion for exact empirical facts". Most of his observations were more accurate than the best available observations at the time.

J. Robert Oppenheimer
# 44
J. Robert Oppenheimer

1904 - 1967 (63 years)

#421 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...

Christiaan Huygens
# 45
Christiaan Huygens

1629 - 1695 (66 years)

#397 person's overall influence

Christiaan Huygens , also spelled Huyghens, was a Dutch physicist, mathematician, astronomer and inventor, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest scientists of all time and a major figure in the scientific revolution. In physics, Huygens made groundbreaking contributions in optics and mechanics, while as an astronomer he is chiefly known for his studies of the rings of Saturn and the discovery of its moon Titan. As an inventor, he improved the design of the telescope with the invention of the Huygenian eyepiece. His most famous invention, however, was the pendulum clock in 1656, which

Freeman Dyson
# 46
Freeman Dyson

1923 - 2020 (97 years)

#475 person's overall influence

Freeman John Dyson was a British-American theoretical and mathematical physicist, mathematician, and statistician known for his works in quantum field theory, astrophysics, random matrices, mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics, condensed matter physics, nuclear physics, and 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.

Leonhard Euler
# 47
Leonhard Euler

1707 - 1783 (76 years)

#247 person's overall influence

Leonhard Euler was a Swiss mathematician, physicist, astronomer, geographer, logician and engineer who made important and influential discoveries in many branches of mathematics, such as infinitesimal calculus and graph theory, while also making pioneering contributions to several branches such as topology and analytic number theory. He also introduced much of the modern mathematical terminology and notation, particularly for mathematical analysis, such as the notion of a mathematical function. He is also known for his work in mechanics, fluid dynamics, optics, astronomy and music theory.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
# 48
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

1646 - 1716 (70 years)

#91 person's overall influence

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a prominent German polymath and one of the most important logicians, mathematicians and natural philosophers of the Enlightenment. As a representative of the seventeenth-century tradition of rationalism, Leibniz developed, as his most prominent accomplishment, the ideas of differential and integral calculus, independently of Isaac Newton's contemporaneous developments. Mathematical works have consistently favored Leibniz's notation as the conventional expression of calculus. It was only in the 20th century that Leibniz's law of continuity and transcendental law

Julian Schwinger
# 49
Julian Schwinger

1918 - 1994 (76 years)

#1379 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.

Hermann Weyl
# 50
Hermann Weyl

1885 - 1955 (70 years)

#796 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.