The field of biology has seen many important discoveries throughout the centuries. From vaccines to theories of the beginning and progression of life on Earth, the many discoveries have improved not only our understanding of history but also our quality of living. The following is a list of the greatest biologists of all time, along with their most significant contributions to the scientific world.
|Charles Darwin (1809–1882)
Famous For: Theory of Evolution
After attending the University of Cambridge and taking up medicine at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, Darwin was considered a naturalist. As a biologist, he proposed the concept that “all species of life” came from a single source. His theory of evolution marked the beginning of the discussion on natural selection.
|Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)
Famous For: Modern Genetics
When he wrote “Experiments on Plant Hybridization”, he paved the way for biology students to study genetic traits in peas. During his experiments, Gregor found that a specific trait would be dominant over other traits in the same species. This became to be recognized as the Mendelian inheritance.
|Aristotle (384–322 BC)
Famous For: Classified organisms into a “Ladder of Life”
Aristotle is forever linked with philosophy and logic. Few associate him with biology and medicine. His work on the classification of living things was still in use up to the 19th century. He differentiated them by calling animals and plants as he saw them, with blood, without blood, and so on.
|Claude Bernard (1813–1878)
Famous For: Blind experimental method for objective results
Born in Saint Julien, France in 1813, Claude Bernard has been considered “one of the greatest of all men of science.” He fostered the use of blind experiments in order to produce objective results. He also believed that vivisection, the use of surgery on a living thing for knowledge, was useful in the study and practice of medicine.
|Louis Pasteur (1822–1895)
Famous For: Created the process of pasteurization for treating milk and wine
As one of the founders of medical microbiology, Louis Pasteur’s education in the field of chemistry and microbiology may be credited with his success. His germ theory of disease became the catalyst to his process we know as pasteurization.
|Robert Hooke (1635–1703)
Famous For: Coined the term “cell”
Born on 1635 in the Isle of Wight, England, Robert Hooke received his higher education at Oxford University where he studied physics and chemistry. His work included the application what is known today as Hooke’s law, his use of microscopy, and for the discovery of the “cell” in 1665 using cork and a microscope.
|Hippocrates (c.460–370 BC)
Famous For: The Father of Western Medicine
Considered the “father of western medicine”, he is the first person to attribute diseases to natural causes rather than caused by the superstition that it is caused by gods. More importantly was his professional approach and discipline in the practice of medicine during his time, which has been carried over to this day.
|Edward Jenner (1749–1823)
Famous For: Creating the first effective vaccine for smallpox
Edward Jenner is considered as the “father of immunology” mainly because of his pioneering work on the smallpox vaccine and the use of vaccination. Born in Berkeley, England in 1749, he specialized in microbiology at the University of St. Andrews and the University of London.
|Antoine Lavoisier (1743–1794)
Famous For: Observing metabolism
Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier was a French biologist and chemist born in 1743 in Paris. He is credited with the naming of hydrogen, oxygen, and silicon. This has led him to be considered the father of modern chemistry. As a biologist, Lavoisier identified that living things generated heat, leading to the concept of metabolism.
|Rachel Carson (1907–1964)
Famous For: Movement against using pesticides
Rachel Louise Carson was a marine biologist born in Springdale, Pennsylvania in 1907. Carson is credited with creating awareness for the preservation of the environment. She led the crusade against the use of DDT in the United States of America, which resulted in the creation of the EPA, Environmental Protection Agency.
|Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632–1723)
Famous For: The Father of Microbiology
Antoine Philips van Leeuwenhoek was born in Delft, Netherlands in 1632. His interest in lensmaking and curiosity led him to be the first to observe single cell organisms. He is considered a biologist and microscopist which has earned him the distinction of being the father of microbiology.
|Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859)
Famous For: Humboldtian science
Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt was born in 1769. He was an explorer, geographer, and naturalist. His work in biogeography paved the way to the idea that the land in Africa, South America, and those along the Atlantic Ocean were once joined together. He believed in the approach of combining the different branches of the physical sciences, such as biology, geology, and meteorology, this we know today as Humboldtian science.
|Galen (129–161 AD)
Famous For: First to introduce medicinal experimentation
The world of science and medicine would not be the same without the early work of Galen, also known as Galen of Pergamon, Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus. He is viewed as the top medical researchers of his time, 129-200 AD. His contributions include those in the field of anatomy, logic, neurology, pathology, pharmacology, and physiology.
|Joseph Lister (1827–1912)
Famous For: Using antiseptics for cleaning and sterilizing wounds
Joseph Lister was born in 1827 in the city of Upton, Essex, England where he attended the University of London, and later in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh and University of Glasgow. He became a surgeon and pioneered the work of antiseptic or sterile surgery. He used carbolic acid to cleanse wounds and to sterilize instruments used for surgery.
|Robert Brown (1773–1858)
Famous For: Discovered the cell nucleus
Specializing in botany, Scottish born Robert Brown introduced the model that help describe random movements of cells which is known as particle theory, or more aptly, Brownian motion. Among his contributions to the world of science was his description in detail of the cell nucleus in all living things.
|Joseph Priestley (1733–1804)
Famous For: Believed to have discovered oxygen
An Englishman born in 1733, Joseph Priestly’s contribution to the world of science includes his identification of oxygen in its gaseous state. His other work includes the invention of soda water and discovery of other “gases.” Of course, his most famous discovery of “dephogisticated air”, oxygen, remains his most famous discovery.
|Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564)
Famous For: On the Fabric of the Human Body
Born in Brussels, Habsburg Netherlands in 1514, Andreas Vesalius is the noted author of one of the earliest books on anatomy, “On the Fabric of the Human Body.” He is considered as the “founder of modern human anatomy”. He served as the royal physician under Emperor Charles V and as professor at the University of Padua in Italy.