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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 2000 – 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.

# 2
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

Michael Behe
# 3
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

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.

J. Craig Venter
# 5
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.

Edward O. Wilson
# 6
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

Alfonso Valencia
# 7
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.

Jerry Coyne
# 8
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.

Stephen Jay Gould
# 9
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.

Eugenie Scott
# 10
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.

Massimo Pigliucci
# 11
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
# 12
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.

Burkhard Rost
# 13
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.

# 14
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.

Carl Woese
# 15
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.

Tom Knight
# 16
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.

James D. Watson
# 17
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.

PZ Myers
# 18
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.

Kenneth R. Miller
# 19
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;

# 20
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...

Stuart Kauffman
# 21
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.

Lynn Margulis
# 22
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

Philip Bourne
# 23
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

Hamilton Smith
# 24
Hamilton Smith

1931 - Present (90 years)

#1673 person's overall influence

Hamilton Smith, M. D., is a microbiologist, distinguished professor and scientific director of Synthetic Biology & Bioenergy at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in San Diego, California. He earned a B.A. in mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1952 and a M.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1956. He interned at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis and completed a Medical Residency at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. From 1962 to 1967 he did a fellowship in the Human Genetics department, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. From 1967 to 1998 he was Professor of...

Russ Altman
# 25
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.

Jennifer Doudna
# 26
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.

Carolyn Bertozzi
# 27
Carolyn Bertozzi

1966 - Present (55 years)

#3385 person's overall influence

Carolyn Bertozzi is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University, and is an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She earned a B.A. in chemistry from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

Francisco J. Ayala
# 28
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.

Sydney Brenner
# 29
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.

Marcus Feldman
# 30
Marcus Feldman

1942 - Present (79 years)

#2485 person's overall influence

Marcus Feldman is co-director of the Center for Computational, Evolutionary, and Human Genomics and the Burnet C. and Mildred Finley Wohlford Professor of Biological Sciences, and director of the Morrison Institute for Population and Resource Studies at Stanford University. He earned degrees in mathematics and statistics from the University of Western Australia, a master of science in mathematics from Monash University, and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Werner Arber
# 31
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.

Emmanuelle Charpentier
# 32
Emmanuelle Charpentier

1968 - Present (53 years)

#2013 person's overall influence

Emmanuelle Charpentier is the Founding and Acting Director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens and an Honorary Professor at Humboldt University. She completed her undergraduate studies at the Pierre and Marie Curie University, which is now known as the Faculty of Science at Sorbonne University. She went on to earn a research doctorate from the Institut Pasteur.

# 33
Michael E. Soulé

1936 - 2020 (84 years)

#2490 person's overall influence

Michael Ellman Soulé was a U.S. biologist, best known for his work in promoting the idea of conservation biology.

Mónica Bettencourt-Dias
# 34
Mónica Bettencourt-Dias

1974 - Present (47 years)

#3167 person's overall influence

Monica Bettencourt-Dias is the Director of Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência. A biochemist and cellular biologist, she is also the head of the Cell Cycle Regulation research group. She earned her undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of Lisbon, and graduated from University College London with a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology. She split her postdoctoral time between the University of Cambridge and Birkbeck College, where she researched kinases and scientific communication. She earned a Diploma in Science Communication from Birkbeck College in 2004, which aros

David Baltimore
# 35
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.

Denis Noble
# 36
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.

Ewan Birney
# 37
Ewan Birney

1972 - Present (49 years)

#4010 person's overall influence

John Frederick William Birney is joint director with Rolf Apweiler of the European Bioinformatics Institute , in Hinxton, Cambridgeshire and deputy director the European Molecular Biology Laboratory . He also serves as non-executive director of Genomics England, chair of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health and honorary professor of bioinformatics at the University of Cambridge. Birney has made significant contributions to genomics, through his development of innovative bioinformatics and computational biology tools. He previously served as an associate faculty member at the Wellcome...

Paul Nurse
# 38
Paul Nurse

1949 - Present (72 years)

#1458 person's overall influence

Sir Paul Maxime Nurse , is an English geneticist, former President of the Royal Society and Chief Executive and Director of the Francis Crick Institute. He was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Leland Hartwell and Tim Hunt for their discoveries of protein molecules that control the division of cells in the cell cycle.

Jared Diamond
# 39
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.

Walter Gilbert
# 40
Walter Gilbert

1932 - Present (89 years)

#736 person's overall influence

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

Brian Goodwin
# 41
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.

# 42
Eva Jablonka

1952 - Present (69 years)

#4466 person's overall influence

Eva Jablonka is an Israeli theorist and geneticist, known especially for her interest in epigenetic inheritance. Born in 1952 in Poland, she emigrated to Israel in 1957. She is a professor at the Cohn Institute for the History of Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University. In 1981 she was awarded the Landau prize of Israel for outstanding Master of Science work and in 1988, the Marcus prize for outstanding Ph.D. work. She is a proponent of academic freedom, recognising that on such matters, "academic and political issues cannot really be kept apart", although she is not a propo...

Steven J. Cooke
# 43
Steven J. Cooke

1974 - Present (47 years)

#6413 person's overall influence

Steven J. Cooke is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Conservation Physiology and a full professor and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Science and Biology for Carleton University. He earned a bachelor of environmental studies and a master’s of biology from the University of Waterloo before earning his doctorate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is best known for his work studying fish physiology, ecology, conservation physiology, fish behavior, and human dimensions of complex environmental problems.

Feng Zhang
# 44
Feng Zhang

1981 - Present (40 years)

#4246 person's overall influence

Feng Zhang is a core member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the James and Patricia Poitras Professor in Neuroscience for the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and for Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After immigrating to the U.S. from China with his mother at the age of 11, he attended school in Iowa. He earned his B.A. in Chemistry and Physics from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in chemical and biological engineering from Stanford University.

Lawrence Hunter
# 45
Lawrence Hunter

1961 - Present (60 years)

#4453 person's overall influence

Lawrence E. Hunter is a Professor and Director of the Center for Computational Pharmacology and of the Computational Bioscience Program at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Professor of Computer Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is an internationally known scholar, focused on computational biology, knowledge-driven extraction of information from the primary biomedical literature, the semantic integration of knowledge resources in molecular biology, and the use of knowledge in the analysis of high-throughput data, as well as for his foundational work in computat...

Alex Bateman
# 46
Alex Bateman

1972 - Present (49 years)

#5794 person's overall influence

Alexander George Bateman is a computational biologist and Head of Protein Sequence Resources at the European Bioinformatics Institute , part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Cambridge, UK. He has led the development of the Pfam biological database and introduced the Rfam database of RNA families. He has also been involved in the use of Wikipedia for community-based annotation of biological databases.

Frances Arnold
# 47
Frances Arnold

1956 - Present (65 years)

#3310 person's overall influence

Frances Arnold is the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Biochemistry for the California Institute of Technology. She earned a B.S. in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University and an M.S. and Ph.D in chemical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. She earned a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery of methods of using directed evolution to facilitate enzyme development.

# 48
Armand Marie Leroi

1964 - Present (57 years)

#4962 person's overall influence

Armand Marie Leroi is a New Zealand-born Dutch author, broadcaster, and professor of evolutionary developmental biology at Imperial College in London. He has written a book and presented television programs on Aristotle's biology.

John Gurdon
# 49
John Gurdon

1933 - Present (88 years)

#1270 person's overall influence

Sir John Bertrand Gurdon is an English developmental biologist. He is best known for his pioneering research in nuclear transplantation and cloning. He was awarded the Lasker Award in 2009. In 2012, he and Shinya Yamanaka were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery that mature cells can be converted to stem cells.

# 50
Giuseppe Sermonti

1925 - 2018 (93 years)

#10380 person's overall influence

Giuseppe Sermonti was an Italian professor of genetics. Sermonti is well known for his criticism of natural selection as the deciding factor of human biology.