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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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Gender designations here are based off data sourced from Wikidata.

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

Stephen Hawking
# 1
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...

Abdus Salam
# 2
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 .

Edward Witten
# 3
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

Steven Weinberg
# 4
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.

Roger Penrose
# 5
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

Leonard Susskind
# 6
Leonard Susskind

1940 - Present (81 years)

#1823 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

Munir Ahmad Khan
# 7
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.

Lee Smolin
# 8
Lee Smolin

1955 - Present (66 years)

#1030 person's overall influence

Lee Smolin was born in New York City in 1955. Smolin is best known for his foundational contributions to both loop quantum gravity and deformed special relativity. He has contributed to cosmology through the proposal of cosmological natural selection, and has authored four books exploring some of his philosophical concerns in physics. After dropping out of high school, Smolin attended Hampshire College and then Harvard University, where he earned a PhD in theoretical physics in 1979. Smolin is currently faculty at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and an adjunct professor of p

David Gross
# 9
David Gross

1941 - Present (80 years)

#2443 person's overall influence

David Gross was born in Washington D.C. in 1941. He earned his BSc and MSc degrees from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and went on to complete a PhD in physics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1966. Gross is currently the Chancellor’s Chair Professor of Theoretical Physics at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He was formerly KITP director and held the Frederick W. Gluck Chair in Theoretical Physics. Gross is also a member of the Physics Department at UC Santa Barbara.

Murray Gell-Mann
# 10
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.

Kip S. Thorne
# 11
Kip S. Thorne

1940 - Present (81 years)

#1345 person's overall influence

Kip Thorne was born in Logan, Utah in 1940. He received a BS from Caltech and earned his PhD in physics from Princeton University. He later returned to CIT to become a full professor at the age of 30. He was the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) until 2009. Thorne is a world renowned physicist who worked closely with the late Stephen Hawking, and was also a friend of Carl Sagan, the famous scientist and popular science writer. Thorne was a scientific consultant for the hit movie Interstellar, directed by Christopher Nolan.

John Archibald Wheeler
# 12
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...

Riazuddin
# 13
Riazuddin

1930 - 2013 (83 years)

#1814 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.

Carl Sagan
# 14
Carl Sagan

1934 - 1996 (62 years)

#165 person's overall influence

Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, planetary scientist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, and science 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 intelligence that might find them. Sagan argued the now-accepted hypothesis that...

Gerard 't Hooft
# 15
Gerard 't Hooft

1946 - Present (75 years)

#3909 person's overall influence

Gerard’t Hooft is a Dutch theoretical physicist and currently Professor of Physics at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. Hooft showed mathematical prowess early in his life, earning a silver medal in the second Dutch Math Olympiad. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics from Utrecht University in the Netherlands and his Ph.D. in Physics from Utrecht, working on elementary particles in theoretical physics.

# 16
Alexander Markovich Polyakov

1945 - Present (76 years)

#5994 person's overall influence

Alexander Markovich Polyakov is a Russian theoretical physicist, formerly at the Landau Institute in Moscow and, since 1990, at Princeton University, where he is the Joseph Henry Professor of Physics.

Frank Wilczek
# 17
Frank Wilczek

1951 - Present (70 years)

#4326 person's overall influence

Frank Wilczek was born in Mineola, New York in 1951. He earned his BSc degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago and proceeded to complete MA and PhD degrees at Princeton in Math and Physics respectively. Wilczek is currently the Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is also Founding Director of the T. D. Lee Institute as well as Chief Scientist at the Wilczek Quantum Center at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU). Further, he is Distinguished Professor at Arizona State University (ASU) and full Professor at Stockholm Universit...

Alan Guth
# 18
Alan Guth

1947 - Present (74 years)

#3227 person's overall influence

Alan Guth currently holds the title of Victor Weisskopf Professor of Physics at MIT. Previously, Guth has held postdoctoral positions at Princeton University, Columbia University, Cornell University, and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). He earned his B.S. in physics at MIT in 1968, and completed his MS and PhD there by 1971.

Andrew Strominger
# 19
Andrew Strominger

1955 - Present (66 years)

#4171 person's overall influence

Andrew Eben Strominger is an American theoretical physicist who is the director of Harvard's Center for the Fundamental Laws of Nature. He has made significant contributions to quantum gravity and string theory. These include his work on Calabi–Yau compactification and topology change in string theory, and on the stringy origin of black hole entropy. He is a senior fellow at the Society of Fellows, and is the Gwill E. York Professor of Physics.

Peter Ware Higgs
# 20
Peter Ware Higgs

1929 - Present (92 years)

#1111 person's overall influence

Peter Higgs was born in Newcastle, England in 1929. He is best known for postulating the existence of a field that exists throughout all of space which gives mass to fundamental particles, now known as the Higgs Field. This was verified experimentally through the discovery of the Higgs Boson at CERN in March 2013. For this work, Higgs shared the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics with François Englert.

Cumrun Vafa
# 21
Cumrun Vafa

1960 - Present (61 years)

#2690 person's overall influence

Cumrun Vafa is an Iranian-American theoretical physicist and the Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Harvard University.

Peter Woit
# 22
Peter Woit

1957 - Present (64 years)

#5934 person's overall influence

Peter Woit is an American theoretical physicist. He is a senior lecturer in the Mathematics department at Columbia University. Woit, a critic of string theory, has published a book Not Even Wrong and writes a blog of the same name.

Joseph Polchinski
# 23
Joseph Polchinski

1954 - 2018 (64 years)

#7420 person's overall influence

Joseph Gerard Polchinski Jr. was an American theoretical physicist and string theorist.

A. Q. Khan
# 24
A. Q. Khan

1936 - Present (85 years)

#691 person's overall influence

Abdul Qadeer Khan , known as A. Q. Khan, is a Pakistani nuclear physicist and metallurgist who is colloquially known as the "father of uranium enrichment project" for his nation's clandestine atomic bomb program.

Yoichiro Nambu
# 25
Yoichiro Nambu

1921 - 2015 (94 years)

#3687 person's overall influence

was a Japanese-American physicist and professor at the University of Chicago. Known for his contributions to the field of theoretical physics, he was awarded half of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2008 for the discovery in 1960 of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics, related at first to the strong interaction's chiral symmetry and later to the electroweak interaction and Higgs mechanism. The other half was split equally between Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa "for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least thr...

Carlo Rovelli
# 26
Carlo Rovelli

1956 - Present (65 years)

#3981 person's overall influence

Italian Quantum Physicist Carlo Rovelli currently holds the title of Director of the quantum gravity team at the Centre de Physique Théorique at Aix-Marseille University in Provence, France. Previously, Rovelli was a professor at Pittsburgh University, and held fellowships at Syracuse University and Yale University. Rovelli completed his BS and MS in physics at the University of Bologna in 1981, and his PhD at the University of Padova in 1986.

Stephen Shenker
# 27
Stephen Shenker

1953 - Present (68 years)

#8283 person's overall influence

Stephen Hart Shenker is an American theoretical physicist who works on string theory. He is a professor at Stanford University and former director of the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics. His brother Scott Shenker is a computer scientist.

Freeman Dyson
# 28
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.

Paul Dirac
# 29
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.

Lawrence M. Krauss
# 30
Lawrence M. Krauss

1954 - Present (67 years)

#3256 person's overall influence

Lawrence Krauss was born in New York City in 1954. He received bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physics from Carleton University and proceeded to earn a PhD from MIT having specialized in cosmology. Krauss is currently President of The Origins Project Foundation and is host of The Origins Podcast with Lawrence Krauss. He had professorships in physics in several institutions prior to this, including at Arizona State University, Yale University, and Case Western Reserve University. He founded the Origins Project at Arizona State University and served as its director. Due to allegations o...

Max Tegmark
# 31
Max Tegmark

1967 - Present (54 years)

#3063 person's overall influence

Max Tegmark was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1967. He received a BA in economics from the Stockholm School of Economics and completed a BSc degree in physics a year later at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology. He then ventured to the University of California, Berkeley where he earned an MA and PhD studying physics. He is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Scientific Director of the Foundational Questions Institute. He is also a co-founder along with Skype founder Jaan Tallinn of the Future of Life Institute, which examines issues of existential risk, particular...

Michio Kaku
# 32
Michio Kaku

1947 - Present (74 years)

#1966 person's overall influence

Michio Kaku was born in San Jose, California in 1947. He received his BSc in physics from Harvard and earned his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. Not a year later, Kaku could be found lecturing at Princeton. Kaku is currently Professor of Theoretical Physics in the City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center.

Hans Bethe
# 33
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.

Brian Greene
# 34
Brian Greene

1963 - Present (58 years)

#3686 person's overall influence

Brian Greene was born in New York City in 1963. He went to Harvard University, earning a BA in physics and then completed his PhD at Oxford University in 1987. He is Professor of Physics at Columbia University and also serves as chairman of the World Science Festival since co-founding it in 2008.

Michael Duff
# 35
Michael Duff

1949 - Present (72 years)

#8329 person's overall influence

Michael James Duff FRS, FRSA is a British theoretical physicist and pioneering theorist of supergravity who is the Principal of the Faculty of Physical Sciences and Abdus Salam Chair of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College London.

Brian Cox
# 36
Brian Cox

1968 - Present (53 years)

#3595 person's overall influence

Brian Cox was born in Lancashire, England in 1968. He is best known as a popularizer of science, having hosted Wonders of the Universe and many other shows produced by the BBC. He has authored popular science books Why Does E=mc²? and The Quantum Universe and has given a number of talks at TED on the topic of particle physics and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Kenneth G. Wilson
# 37
Kenneth G. Wilson

1936 - 2013 (77 years)

#6301 person's overall influence

Kenneth Geddes "Ken" Wilson was an American theoretical physicist and a pioneer in leveraging computers for studying particle physics. He was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on phase transitions—illuminating the subtle essence of phenomena like melting ice and emerging magnetism. It was embodied in his fundamental work on the renormalization group.

Fred Hoyle
# 38
Fred Hoyle

1915 - 2001 (86 years)

#1079 person's overall influence

Sir Fred Hoyle FRS was an English astronomer who formulated the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis. He also held controversial stances on other scientific matters—in particular his rejection of the "Big Bang" theory, a term coined by him on BBC radio, and his promotion of panspermia as the origin of life on Earth. He also wrote science fiction novels, short stories and radio plays, and co-authored twelve books with his son, Geoffrey Hoyle. He spent most of his working life at the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge and served as its director for six years.

Ashoke Sen
# 39
Ashoke Sen

1956 - Present (65 years)

#9762 person's overall influence

Ashoke Sen, FRS is an Indian theoretical physicist and distinguished professor at the Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad. He is also an honorary fellow in National Institute of Science Education and Research , Bhubaneswar, India and also a Morningstar Visiting professor at MIT and a distinguished professor at the Korea Institute for Advanced Study. His main area of work is string theory. He was among the first recipients of the Fundamental Physics Prize "for opening the path to the realisation that all string theories are different limits of the same underlying theory".

Leon M. Lederman
# 40
Leon M. Lederman

1922 - 2018 (96 years)

#4386 person's overall influence

Leon Max Lederman was an American experimental physicist who received the Wolf Prize in Physics in 1982, along with Martin Lewis Perl, for their research on quarks and leptons, and the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1988, along with Melvin Schwartz and Jack Steinberger, for their research on neutrinos. Lederman was Director Emeritus of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. He founded the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, in Aurora, Illinois in 1986, and was Resident Scholar Emeritus there from 2012 until his death in 2018.

Holger Bech Nielsen
# 41
Holger Bech Nielsen

1941 - Present (80 years)

#8487 person's overall influence

Holger Bech Nielsen is a Danish theoretical physicist, Professor emeritus at the Niels Bohr Institute, at the University of Copenhagen, where he started studying physics in 1961.

Edward Teller
# 42
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.

Jacob Bekenstein
# 43
Jacob Bekenstein

1947 - 2015 (68 years)

#5813 person's overall influence

Jacob David Bekenstein was a Mexican-born Israeli-American theoretical physicist who made fundamental contributions to the foundation of black hole thermodynamics and to other aspects of the connections between information and gravitation.

Neil deGrasse Tyson
# 44
Neil deGrasse Tyson

1958 - Present (63 years)

#1918 person's overall influence

Fritjof Capra
# 45
Fritjof Capra

1939 - Present (82 years)

#1355 person's overall influence

Fritjof Capra is an Austrian-born American physicist, systems theorist and deep ecologist. In 1995, he became a founding director of the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, California. He is on the faculty of Schumacher College.

Andrei Linde
# 46
Andrei Linde

1948 - Present (73 years)

#7960 person's overall influence

Andrei Dmitriyevich Linde is a Russian-American theoretical physicist and the Harald Trap Friis Professor of Physics at Stanford University.

Walter Kohn
# 47
Walter Kohn

1923 - 2016 (93 years)

#5518 person's overall influence

Walter Kohn was an Austrian-American theoretical physicist and theoretical chemist. He was awarded, with John Pople, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1998. The award recognized their contributions to the understandings of the electronic properties of materials. In particular, Kohn played the leading role in the development of density functional theory, which made it possible to calculate quantum mechanical electronic structure by equations involving the electronic density . This computational simplification led to more accurate calculations on complex systems as well as many new insights, and ...

David Bohm
# 48
David Bohm

1917 - 1992 (75 years)

#811 person's overall influence

David Joseph Bohm was an American scientist who has been described as one of the most significant theoretical physicists of the 20th century and who contributed unorthodox ideas to quantum theory, neuropsychology and the philosophy of mind.

Mikhail Shifman
# 49
Mikhail Shifman

1949 - Present (72 years)

#12534 person's overall influence

Mikhail “Misha” Arkadyevich Shifman is a theoretical physicist who is currently Ida Cohen Fine Professor of Theoretical Physics, William I. Fine Theoretical Physics Institute, University of Minnesota. Prior to his appointment at the University of Minnesota he was a physicist at the Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics in Moscow, Russia. Misha Shifman is well-known in the physics community for important contributions to a field known as quantum chromodynamics, a theory of the strong interactions between fundamental particles such as quarks and gluons.

# 50
Steven Gubser

1972 - 2019 (47 years)

#15835 person's overall influence

Steven Scott Gubser was a professor of physics at Princeton University. His research focused on theoretical particle physics, especially string theory, and the AdS/CFT correspondence. He was a widely cited scholar in these and other related areas.