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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.

Methodology: How and Why We Rank by Influence …

Gender designations here are based off data sourced from Wikidata.

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List of the most influential people in Biology, for the years 1970 – 2020

Richard Dawkins
# 1
Richard Dawkins

1941 - Present (80 years)

#12 person's overall influence

Richard Dawkins is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford and former University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science, but he is best known for his work in evolutionary biology. He studied zoology at Balliol College, Oxford, earning a bachelor’s degree, M.A., and Ph.D.

Stephen Jay Gould
# 2
Stephen Jay Gould

1941 - 2002 (61 years)

#29 person's overall influence

Stephen Jay Gould was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was one of the most influential and widely read authors of popular science of his generation. Gould spent most of his career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In 1996, Gould was hired as the Vincent Astor Visiting Research Professor of Biology at New York University, where he divided his time teaching there and at Harvard.

Edward O. Wilson
# 3
Edward O. Wilson

1929 - Present (92 years)

#85 person's overall influence

Edward O. Wilson is the world’s leading expert on ants, a specialty known as myrmecology, but that’s not all. He is also considered the father of biodiversity and the father of sociobiology. He is the Pellegrino University Research Professor Emeritus of Entomology at the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and a lecturer at Duke University. He earned his B.S. and M.S. in biology from the University of Alabama. He was named to the Harvard Society of Fellows, which enabled him to travel around the world studying ant species from Australia to Cuba. He graduated

Richard Lewontin
# 4
Richard Lewontin

1929 - Present (92 years)

#152 person's overall influence

Richard Lewontin is a geneticist, evolutionary biologist, mathematician, and commentator. He earned a B.S. in biology from Harvard College, a master’s degree in mathematical statistics, and a Ph.D. in zoology from Columbia University. Lewontin is best known for his work in theoretical and experimental population genetics.

John Maynard Smith
# 5
John Maynard Smith

1920 - 2004 (84 years)

#213 person's overall influence

John Maynard Smith was a British theoretical and mathematical evolutionary biologist and geneticist. Originally an aeronautical engineer during the Second World War, he took a second degree in genetics under the well-known biologist J. B. S. Haldane. Maynard Smith was instrumental in the application of game theory to evolution with George R. Price, and theorised on other problems such as the evolution of sex and signalling theory.

Francis Crick
# 6
Francis Crick

1916 - 2004 (88 years)

#33 person's overall influence

Francis Harry Compton Crick was a British molecular biologist, biophysicist, and neuroscientist. In 1953, he co-authored with James Watson the academic paper proposing the double helix structure of the DNA molecule. Together with Watson and Maurice Wilkins, he was jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material". The results were based partly on fundamental studies done by Rosalind Franklin, Raymond Gosling and Wilkins.

# 7
Jonathan Wells

1942 - Present (79 years)

#430 person's overall influence

John Corrigan "Jonathan" Wells is an American author, theologian, and advocate of the pseudoscientific argument of intelligent design. Wells joined the Unification Church in 1974, and subsequently wrote that the teachings of church founder Sun Myung Moon, his own studies at the Unification Theological Seminary and his prayers convinced him to devote his life to "destroying Darwinism." The term Darwinism is often used by intelligent design proponents and other creationists to refer to the scientific consensus on evolution. He gained a PhD in religious studies at Yale University in 1986, then b

James D. Watson
# 8
James D. Watson

1928 - Present (93 years)

#93 person's overall influence

James D. Watson is a zoologist, geneticist and molecular biologist. He earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from Indiana University. He is most recently well-known due to his controversial comments about race and genetics, for which he has been largely ostracized.

Ernst Mayr
# 9
Ernst Mayr

1904 - 2005 (101 years)

#83 person's overall influence

Not to be confused with Ernst Mayr , Ernst Mayer, Ernst Meyer, Ernest Mayer or Ernest May. Ernst Walter Mayr was one of the 20th century's leading evolutionary biologists. He was also a renowned taxonomist, tropical explorer, ornithologist, philosopher of biology, and historian of science. His work contributed to the conceptual revolution that led to the modern evolutionary synthesis of Mendelian genetics, systematics, and Darwinian evolution, and to the development of the biological species concept.

Michael Behe
# 10
Michael Behe

1952 - Present (69 years)

#525 person's overall influence

Michael J. Behe is an American biochemist, author, and advocate of the pseudoscientific principle of intelligent design . He serves as professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and as a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. Behe is best known as an advocate for the validity of the argument for irreducible complexity , which claims that some biochemical structures are too complex to be explained by known evolutionary mechanisms and are therefore probably the result of intelligent design. Behe has testified in several court cases related

W. D. Hamilton
# 11
W. D. Hamilton

1936 - 2000 (64 years)

#382 person's overall influence

William Donald Hamilton, FRS was an English evolutionary biologist, widely recognised as one of the most significant evolutionary theorists of the 20th century.

Carl Woese
# 12
Carl Woese

1928 - 2012 (84 years)

#375 person's overall influence

Carl Richard Woese was an American microbiologist and biophysicist. Woese is famous for defining the Archaea in 1977 by phylogenetic taxonomy of 16S ribosomal RNA, a technique he pioneered that revolutionized microbiology. He also originated the RNA world hypothesis in 1967, although not by that name. Woese held the Stanley O. Ikenberry Chair and was professor of microbiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

Massimo Pigliucci
# 13
Massimo Pigliucci

1964 - Present (57 years)

#548 person's overall influence

Massimo Pigliucci is Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York, formerly co-host of the Rationally Speaking Podcast, and formerly the editor in chief for the online magazine Scientia Salon. He is an outspoken critic of pseudoscience and creationism, and an advocate for secularism and science education.

Niles Eldredge
# 14
Niles Eldredge

1943 - Present (78 years)

#595 person's overall influence

Niles Eldredge is a biologist and paleontologist. He studied Latin and geology as an undergraduate before earning a Ph.D. at Columbia University. His career and research have been devoted to the exploration of paleontology and evolutionary theory.

Stuart Kauffman
# 15
Stuart Kauffman

1939 - Present (82 years)

#335 person's overall influence

Stuart Kauffman is an emeritus professor of biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, an affiliate faculty member for the Institute of Systems Biology, a medical doctor, theoretical biologist, and researcher of complex systems. He earned his B.A. at Oxford University and an M.D. at the University of California at San Francisco.

# 16
Dean H. Kenyon

1939 - Present (82 years)

#610 person's overall influence

Dean H. Kenyon is Professor Emeritus of Biology at San Francisco State University, a young Earth creationist, and one of the instigators of the intelligent design movement. He is the author of Biochemical Predestination.

Sydney Brenner
# 17
Sydney Brenner

1927 - 2019 (92 years)

#328 person's overall influence

Sydney Brenner was a South African biologist. In 2002, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with H. Robert Horvitz and Sir John E. Sulston. Brenner made significant contributions to work on the genetic code, and other areas of molecular biology while working in the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. He established the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism for the investigation of developmental biology, and founded the Molecular Sciences Institute in Berkeley, California, United States.

J. Craig Venter
# 18
J. Craig Venter

1946 - Present (75 years)

#731 person's overall influence

Craig Venter is a biotechnologist and entrepreneur who is the founder or co/founder of Human Longevity, Inc., Synthetic Genomics, Celera Genomics, The Institute for Genomic and the J. Craig Venter Institute. He studied at the College of San Mateo in California before earning a B.S. in biochemistry and a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology from the University of California at San Diego.

Lynn Margulis
# 19
Lynn Margulis

1938 - 2011 (73 years)

#543 person's overall influence

Lynn Margulis was an American evolutionary theorist, biologist, science author, educator, and science popularizer, and was the primary modern proponent for the significance of symbiosis in evolution. Historian Jan Sapp has said that "Lynn Margulis's name is as synonymous with symbiosis as Charles Darwin's is with evolution." In particular, Margulis transformed and fundamentally framed current understanding of the evolution of cells with nuclei – an event Ernst Mayr called "perhaps the most important and dramatic event in the history of life" – by proposing it to have been the result of symbio

Brian Goodwin
# 20
Brian Goodwin

1931 - 2009 (78 years)

#940 person's overall influence

Brian Carey Goodwin was a Canadian mathematician and biologist, a Professor Emeritus at the Open University and a founder of theoretical biology and biomathematics. He introduced the use of complex systems and generative models in developmental biology. He suggested that a reductionist view of nature fails to explain complex features, controversially proposing the structuralist theory that morphogenetic fields might substitute for natural selection in driving evolution. He was also a visible member of the Third Culture movement.

Jerry Coyne
# 21
Jerry Coyne

1949 - Present (72 years)

#710 person's overall influence

Jerry Coyne is professor emeritus at the University of Chicago for the Department of Ecology and Evolution. He earned a B.S. in biology from the College of William & Mary. He was drafted while attending graduate school at Rockefeller University, but returned to his studies upon his return, earning a Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University. He went on to a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California at Davis. He is an expert in speciation and ecological and evolutionary genetics.

Alfonso Valencia
# 22
Alfonso Valencia

1959 - Present (62 years)

#1310 person's overall influence

Alfonso Valencia is director of the Spanish National Bioinformatics Institute and the Life Sciences department at Barcelona Supercomputing Center. He is a professor for the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies and former president of the International Society for Computational Biology. He earned his Ph.D. in molecular biology from the Autonomous University of Madrid before completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory.

David Baltimore
# 23
David Baltimore

1938 - Present (83 years)

#488 person's overall influence

David Baltimore is director of the Joint Center for Translational Medicine and President Emeritus and Robert Andrews Milliken Professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College and a Ph.D. in biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he also conducted his postdoctoral research on virus replication.

Eugenie Scott
# 24
Eugenie Scott

1945 - Present (76 years)

#953 person's overall influence

Eugenie Carol Scott is an American physical anthropologist, a former university professor and educator who has been active in opposing the teaching of young Earth creationism and intelligent design in schools.

Frederick Sanger
# 25
Frederick Sanger

1918 - 2013 (95 years)

#373 person's overall influence

Frederick Sanger was a British biochemist who twice won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, one of only two people to have done so in the same category , the fourth person overall with two Nobel Prizes, and the third person overall with two Nobel Prizes in the sciences. In 1958, he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for his work on the structure of proteins, especially that of insulin". In 1980, Walter Gilbert and Sanger shared half of the chemistry prize "for their contributions concerning the determination of base sequences in nucleic acids". The other half was awarded to Paul Berg "for his...

Burkhard Rost
# 26
Burkhard Rost

1961 - Present (60 years)

#1564 person's overall influence

Burkhard Rost is head of the Department of Computational Biology & Bioinformatics for the Technical University of Munich. He is also the chair of the Study Section Bioinformatics Munich with the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. He studied physics at the University of Giessen and physics, history, philosophy, and psychology at the University of Heidelberg, where he earned his Ph.D.

George Gaylord Simpson
# 27
George Gaylord Simpson

1902 - 1984 (82 years)

#284 person's overall influence

George Gaylord Simpson was a US paleontologist. Simpson was perhaps the most influential paleontologist of the twentieth century, and a major participant in the modern synthesis, contributing Tempo and Mode in Evolution , The Meaning of Evolution and The Major Features of Evolution . He was an expert on extinct mammals and their intercontinental migrations. He anticipated such concepts as punctuated equilibrium and dispelled the myth that the evolution of the horse was a linear process culminating in the modern Equus caballus. He coined the word hypodigm in 1940, and published extensively o

Walter Gilbert
# 28
Walter Gilbert

1932 - Present (89 years)

#736 person's overall influence

Walter Gilbert is an American biochemist, physicist, molecular biology pioneer, and Nobel laureate.

Kenneth R. Miller
# 29
Kenneth R. Miller

1948 - Present (73 years)

#1246 person's overall influence

Kenneth Raymond Miller is an American cell biologist and molecular biologist, currently Professor of Biology and Royce Family Professor for Teaching Excellence at Brown University. Miller's primary research focus is the structure and function of cell membranes, especially chloroplast thylakoid membranes. Miller is a co-author of a major introductory college and high school biology textbook published by Prentice Hall since 1990. Miller, who is Roman Catholic, is opposed to creationism, including the intelligent design movement. He has written three books on the subject: Finding Darwin's God;

Kary Mullis
# 30
Kary Mullis

1944 - 2019 (75 years)

#713 person's overall influence

Kary Banks Mullis was an American biochemist. In recognition of his invention of the polymerase chain reaction technique, he shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Michael Smith and was awarded the Japan Prize in the same year. His invention became a central technique in biochemistry and molecular biology, described by The New York Times as "highly original and significant, virtually dividing biology into the two epochs of before PCR and after PCR."

George C. Williams
# 31
George C. Williams

1926 - 2010 (84 years)

#582 person's overall influence

George Christopher Williams was an American evolutionary biologist.

Marshall Warren Nirenberg
# 32
Marshall Warren Nirenberg

1927 - 2010 (83 years)

#956 person's overall influence

Marshall Warren Nirenberg was an American biochemist and geneticist. He shared a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1968 with Har Gobind Khorana and Robert W. Holley for "breaking the genetic code" and describing how it operates in protein synthesis. In the same year, together with Har Gobind Khorana, he was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University.

Jennifer Doudna
# 33
Jennifer Doudna

1964 - Present (57 years)

#1354 person's overall influence

Jennifer Doudna is a Li Ka Shing Chancellor Chair Professor for the Department of Chemistry and Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition, she has been a professor at the University of California at San Francisco and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and senior investigator at the Gladstone Institutes. She earned a B.A. in biochemistry from Pomona College and a Ph.D. in biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology from Harvard Medical School.

Werner Arber
# 34
Werner Arber

1929 - Present (92 years)

#1330 person's overall influence

Werner Arber is a geneticist and microbiologist. He studied at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the University of Geneva. His doctorate was completed at the University of Geneva, where he studied electron microscopy and lambda bacteriophages.

Tom Knight
# 35
Tom Knight
#1341 person's overall influence

Tom Knight is a synthetic biologist and computer engineer for his company, Ginkgo Bioworks. He began his studies at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology at the tender age of 14, taking advantage of the school’s close proximity to his home.

John Sulston
# 36
John Sulston

1942 - 2018 (76 years)

#1211 person's overall influence

Sir John Edward Sulston was a British biologist and academic who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the cell lineage and genome of the worm Caenorhabditis elegans in 2002 with his colleagues Sydney Brenner and Robert Horvitz. He was a leader in human genome research and Chair of the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation at the University of Manchester. Sulston was in favour of science in the public interest, such as free public access of scientific information and against the patenting of genes and the privatisation of genetic technologies.

Russ Altman
# 37
Russ Altman

1961 - Present (60 years)

#2337 person's overall influence

Russ Biagio Altman is an American professor of bioengineering, genetics, medicine, and biomedical data science and past chairman of the bioengineering department at Stanford University.

Denis Noble
# 38
Denis Noble

1936 - Present (85 years)

#895 person's overall influence

Denis Noble is a British biologist who held the Burdon Sanderson Chair of Cardiovascular Physiology at the University of Oxford from 1984 to 2004 and was appointed Professor Emeritus and co-Director of Computational Physiology. He is one of the pioneers of systems biology and developed the first viable mathematical model of the working heart in 1960.

Paul Berg
# 39
Paul Berg

1926 - Present (95 years)

#972 person's overall influence

Paul Berg is an American biochemist and professor emeritus at Stanford University. He was the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1980, along with Walter Gilbert and Frederick Sanger. The award recognized their contributions to basic research involving nucleic acids. Berg received his undergraduate education at Penn State University, where he majored in biochemistry. He received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Case Western Reserve University in 1952. Berg worked as a professor at Washington University School of Medicine and Stanford University School of Medicine, in addition to se

François Jacob
# 40
François Jacob

1920 - 2013 (93 years)

#541 person's overall influence

François Jacob was a French biologist who, together with Jacques Monod, originated the idea that control of enzyme levels in all cellss occurs through regulation of transcription. He shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Jacques Monod and André Lwoff.

Linus Pauling
# 41
Linus Pauling

1901 - 1994 (93 years)

#72 person's overall influence

Linus Carl Pauling was an American chemist, biochemist, chemical engineer, peace activist, author, and educator. He published more than 1,200 papers and books, of which about 850 dealt with scientific topics. New Scientist called him one of the 20 greatest scientists of all time, and as of 2000, he was rated the 16th most important scientist in history. For his scientific work, Pauling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954. For his peace activism, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962. He is one of four individuals to have won more than one Nobel Prize . Of these, he is the

PZ Myers
# 42
PZ Myers

1957 - Present (64 years)

#1553 person's overall influence

Paul Zachary Myers is an American biologist who founded and writes the Pharyngula science-blog. He is associate-professor of biology at the University of Minnesota Morris where he works in the field of developmental biology. He is a critic of intelligent design , the creationist movement, and other pseudoscientific concepts.

Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard
# 43
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard

1942 - Present (79 years)

#1502 person's overall influence

Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard is a German developmental biologist and 1995 Nobel Prize-winner.

Francisco J. Ayala
# 44
Francisco J. Ayala

1934 - Present (87 years)

#1241 person's overall influence

Francisco José Ayala Pereda is a Spanish-American evolutionary biologist and philosopher who was a longtime faculty member at the University of California, Irvine and University of California, Davis. He is a former Dominican priest, ordained in 1960, but left the priesthood that same year. After graduating from the University of Salamanca, he moved to the United States in 1961 to study for a PhD at Columbia University. There, he studied for his doctorate under Theodosius Dobzhansky, graduating in 1964. He became a US citizen in 1971.

# 45
Robert Trivers

1943 - Present (78 years)

#1490 person's overall influence

Robert Ludlow "Bob" Trivers is an American evolutionary biologist and sociobiologist. Trivers proposed the theories of reciprocal altruism , parental investment , facultative sex ratio determination , and parent–offspring conflict . He has also contributed by explaining self-deception as an adaptive evolutionary strategy and discussing intragenomic conflict.

Philip Bourne
# 46
Philip Bourne

1953 - Present (68 years)

#2678 person's overall influence

Philip Eric Bourne is an Australian bioinformatician, non-fiction writer, and businessman. He is currently Stephenson Chair of Data Science and Director of the School of Data Science and Professor of Biomedical Engineering and was the first Associate Director for Data Science at the National Institutes of Health, where his projects include managing the Big Data to Knowledge initiative, and formerly Associate Vice Chancellor at UCSD. He has contributed to textbooks and is a strong supporter of open-access literature and software. His diverse interests have spanned structural biology, medical i

Jared Diamond
# 47
Jared Diamond

1937 - Present (84 years)

#768 person's overall influence

Jared Mason Diamond is an American geographer, historian, anthropologist, ornithologist, and author best known for his popular science books The Third Chimpanzee ; Guns, Germs, and Steel ; Collapse , The World Until Yesterday , and Upheaval . Originally trained in biochemistry and physiology, Diamond is known for drawing from a variety of fields, including anthropology, ecology, geography, and evolutionary biology. He is a professor of geography at UCLA.

Paul Ralph Ehrlich
# 48
Paul Ralph Ehrlich

1932 - Present (89 years)

#996 person's overall influence

Paul Ralph Ehrlich is an American biologist, best known for his warnings about the consequences of population growth and limited resources. He is the Bing Professor Emeritus of Population Studies of the Department of Biology of Stanford University and President of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology.

# 49
Steven Rose

1938 - Present (83 years)

#1658 person's overall influence

Steven Peter Russell Rose is an English neuroscientist, author, and social commentator. He is emeritus professor of biology and neurobiology at the Open University and Gresham College, London.

# 50
Nick Matzke
#2523 person's overall influence

Nicholas J. Matzke is the former Public Information Project Director at the National Center for Science Education and served an instrumental role in NCSE's preparation for the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial. One of his chief contributions was discovering drafts of Of Pandas and People which demonstrated that the term "intelligent design" was later substituted for "creationism". This became a key component of Barbara Forrest's testimony. After the trial he co-authored a commentary in Nature Immunology, was interviewed on Talk of the Nation, and was profiled in Seed magazin...