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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 Physics, for the years 2000 – 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...

Lee Smolin
# 2
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

Roger Penrose
# 3
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

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.

Edward Witten
# 5
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

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

Carlo Rovelli
# 7
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.

Frank Wilczek
# 8
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...

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.

Gerard 't Hooft
# 10
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.

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.

Joseph Polchinski
# 12
Joseph Polchinski

1954 - 2018 (64 years)

#7420 person's overall influence

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

Lawrence M. Krauss
# 13
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...

Peter Woit
# 14
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.

Sean M. Carroll
# 15
Sean M. Carroll

1966 - Present (55 years)

#5779 person's overall influence

Sean Carroll was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1966. Carroll received a bachelor’s degree from Villanova University and a PhD in astronomy from Harvard University. Carroll is currently a research professor in the Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics in the California Institute of Technology Department of Physics.

Brian Greene
# 16
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.

Neil deGrasse Tyson
# 17
Neil deGrasse Tyson

1958 - Present (63 years)

#1918 person's overall influence

Mikhail Shifman
# 18
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.

Lisa Randall
# 19
Lisa Randall

1962 - Present (59 years)

#3626 person's overall influence

Lisa Randall is a theoretical physicist and currently the Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science on the physics faculty of Harvard University. Randall showed mathematical talent at an early age, winning first place in 1980 Westinghouse Science Talent Search at the age of 18. She received a BA degree in Physics and later a Ph.D. in theoretical particle physics from Harvard University in 1987.

Freeman Dyson
# 20
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.

Andre Geim
# 21
Andre Geim

1958 - Present (63 years)

#2041 person's overall influence

Sir Andre Geim was born in Sochi, Russia in 1958. He attended the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology where he earned an MS-equivalent degree studying solid-state physics. He then received his PhD-equivalent degree from the Institute of Solid State Physics in the Russian Academy of Sciences. Geim is currently a Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester.

Peter Ware Higgs
# 22
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.

Konstantin Novoselov
# 23
Konstantin Novoselov

1974 - Present (47 years)

#2446 person's overall influence

Sir Konstantin Sergeevich Novoselov is a Russian-British physicist, and a Professor at the Centre for Advanced 2D Materials, National University of Singapore. He is also the Langworthy Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester. His work on graphene with Andre Geim earned them the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.

Sabine Hossenfelder
# 24
Sabine Hossenfelder

1976 - Present (45 years)

#25639 person's overall influence

Sabine Hossenfelder is currently a Research Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, and heads the Analog Systems for Gravity Duals group. She was previously a professor at Nordita in Stockholm, Sweden, and has held fellowships at University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of Arizona. Hossenfelder completed her BS in mathematics at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany in 1997, and stayed there for her MS and PhD studies in theoretical physics, completed in 2003.

Brian Cox
# 25
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).

Murray Gell-Mann
# 26
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.

Max Tegmark
# 27
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...

Alan Guth
# 28
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.

# 29
Jacques Distler

1961 - Present (60 years)

#21086 person's overall influence

Jacques Distler is a Canadian-born American physicist working in string theory. He has been a professor of physics at the University of Texas at Austin since 1994.

Phil Plait
# 30
Phil Plait

1964 - Present (57 years)

#13363 person's overall influence

Philip Cary Plait , also known as The Bad Astronomer, is an American astronomer, skeptic, writer and popular science blogger. Plait has worked as part of the Hubble Space Telescope team, images and spectra of astronomical objects, as well as engaging in public outreach advocacy for NASA missions. He has written two books, Bad Astronomy and Death from the Skies. He has also appeared in several science documentaries, including How the Universe Works on the Discovery Channel. From August 2008 through 2009, he served as president of the James Randi Educational Foundation. Additionally, he wrote an...

Jocelyn Bell Burnell
# 31
Jocelyn Bell Burnell

1943 - Present (78 years)

#2756 person's overall influence

Jocelyn Bell Burnell currently holds the title of Visiting Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford. Previously, she has held professorial and administrative roles at the University of Bath, Princeton University, the Open University, University College London, and University of Southampton. She was also president of the Royal Astronomical Society, president of the Institute of Physics, worked on the Interplanetary Scintillation Array, and was project manager for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope. Native to Northern Ireland, Burnell earned her BS in natural philosophy at University...

Walter Kohn
# 32
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 ...

Rainer Weiss
# 33
Rainer Weiss

1932 - Present (89 years)

#4831 person's overall influence

Rainer Weiss currently holds the title of Emeritus Professor of Physics at MIT and also works as an adjunct professor at LSU. He previously also held positions at Tufts University and Princeton University. He was also chair of the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) Science Working Group. Weiss completed his bachelor of science degree in 1955 at MIT (after having dropped out briefly), and his PhD in 1962. Native to Berlin, Germany, Weiss’ family emigrated to Prague and then to the U.S. fleeing persecution from the Nazis.

Michio Kaku
# 34
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.

John Ellis
# 35
John Ellis

1946 - Present (75 years)

#9780 person's overall influence

John Ellis is a theoretical physicist who currently holds the title of Clerk Maxwell Professor of Theoretical Physics at King’s College London. He has also worked with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) since 1978, and held post doctoral positions at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and California Institute of Technology in the early 1970s. Ellis earned his PhD in theoretical particle physics in 1971 from King’s College Cambridge.

François Englert
# 36
François Englert

1932 - Present (89 years)

#5523 person's overall influence

François Englert is a Belgian theoretical physicist and currently Professor emeritus at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), where he is also a member of the Service de Physique Théorique. A person of importance in the study of physics world-wide, he is also Sackler Professor by Special Appointment in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Tel Aviv University, Israel and a member of the Institute for Quantum Studies at Chapman University in California. Englert is the 2013 Nobel Prize laureate.

Cather Simpson
# 37
Cather Simpson
#19362 person's overall influence

Miriam Cather Simpson is a New Zealand-American physics/chemistry academic and entrepreneur. She is currently a professor at the University of Auckland, a joint appointment between the physics and chemistry departments. She is the founder of the Photon Factory laser lab at the University of Auckland and the chief science officer for two spin-off companies, Engender Technologies and Orbis Diagnostics. She is an Associate Investigator for the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies and an Emeritus Investigator for the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology

Neil Turok
# 38
Neil Turok

1958 - Present (63 years)

#12360 person's overall influence

Neil Geoffrey Turok is a South African physicist. He was the director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics from 2008 to 2019. He specializes in mathematical physics and early-universe physics, including the cosmological constant and a cyclic model for the universe.

James Kakalios
# 39
James Kakalios

1958 - Present (63 years)

#25968 person's overall influence

James Kakalios is a physics professor at the University of Minnesota. Known within the scientific community for his work with amorphous semiconductors, granular materials, and 1/f noise, he is known to the general public as the author of the book The Physics of Superheroes, which considers comic book superheroes from the standpoint of fundamental physics.

# 40
Howard Georgi

1947 - Present (74 years)

#15759 person's overall influence

Howard Mason Georgi III is an American theoretical physicist and the Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Harvard College Professor at Harvard University. He is also Director of Undergraduate Studies in Physics. He was Co-Master and then Faculty Dean of Leverett House with his wife, Ann Blake Georgi, from 1998 to 2018. His early work was in Grand Unification and gauge coupling unification within SU and SO groups .

Nima Arkani-Hamed
# 41
Nima Arkani-Hamed

1972 - Present (49 years)

#23224 person's overall influence

Nima Arkani-Hamed is an Iranian-American-Canadian theoretical physicist, with interests in high-energy physics, quantum field theory, string theory, cosmology and collider physics. Arkani-Hamed is a member of the permanent faculty at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. He is also director of The Center for Future High Energy Physics in Beijing, China.

Carl Wieman
# 42
Carl Wieman

1951 - Present (70 years)

#3623 person's overall influence

Carl Edwin Wieman is an American physicist and educationist at Stanford University. In 1995, while at the University of Colorado Boulder, he and Eric Allin Cornell produced the first true Bose–Einstein condensate and, in 2001, they and Wolfgang Ketterle were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Wieman currently holds a joint appointment as Professor of Physics and Professor in the Stanford Graduate School of Education, as well as the DRC Professor in the Stanford University School of Engineering.

Luboš Motl
# 43
Luboš Motl

1973 - Present (48 years)

#32859 person's overall influence

Luboš Motl is a Czech theoretical physicist. He was an assistant professor at Harvard University from 2004 to 2007. His scientific publications were focused on string theory.

Yoichiro Nambu
# 44
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...

David Hutchinson
# 45
David Hutchinson

1969 - Present (52 years)

#28498 person's overall influence

David A. W. Hutchinson is a quantum physicist and professor at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. He is the inaugural and current Director of the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies, a New Zealand government-funded national Centre of Research Excellence. Hutchinson's research interests are in the areas of quantum biology, Bose-Einstein condensates, and the underlying mathematics of quantum physics.

John C. Baez
# 46
John C. Baez

1961 - Present (60 years)

#19905 person's overall influence

John Carlos Baez is an American mathematical physicist and a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Riverside in Riverside, California. He has worked on spin foams in loop quantum gravity, applications of higher categories to physics, and applied category theory.

Andrei Linde
# 47
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.

Alan Sokal
# 48
Alan Sokal

1955 - Present (66 years)

#2122 person's overall influence

Alan David Sokal is a professor of mathematics at University College London and professor of physics at New York University. He works in statistical mechanics and combinatorics. He is a critic of postmodernism, and caused the Sokal affair in 1996 when his deliberately nonsensical paper was published by Duke University Press's Social Text. He also works to counter faulty scientific reasoning, as seen with his involvement in criticising the critical positivity ratio concept in positive psychology.

Paul Steinhardt
# 49
Paul Steinhardt

1952 - Present (69 years)

#7279 person's overall influence

Paul Joseph Steinhardt is an American theoretical physicist whose principal research is in cosmology and condensed matter physics. He is currently the Albert Einstein Professor in Science at Princeton University where he is on the faculty of both the Departments of Physics and of Astrophysical Sciences.

Stuart Kauffman
# 50
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.