Most Influential Scientists Alive Today

Scientists are perhaps the most influential people in the world today. They are responsible not only for the great practical advances in medicine and technology, but they also give us a deep understanding of what the world is and how it works. Their role in shaping the worldview of our culture is unrivaled.
Below is Super Scholar’s list of the twenty living scientists that we regard as having most profoundly influenced our world.

1. Timothy John “Tim” Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web by being the first to successfully implement the transfer protocols on which the Web depends.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee 2012.jpg
Berners-Lee in 2012
BornTimothy John Berners-Lee
8 June 1955 (age 59)[1]
London, England
United Kingdom
ResidenceUnited Kingdom and United States[2]
Alma materThe Queen's College, Oxford
OccupationComputer scientist
Known for
  • Inventing the World Wide Web
  • Holder of the 3Com Founders Chair at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
ReligionUnitarian Universalist
  (raised as Anglican)[3]
Spouse(s)Rosemary Leith

2. Noam Chomsky, who, though a linguist and philosopher, has fundamentally reshaped the field of psychology, not least by dethroning behaviorism through his ideas about the innateness of language.
Noam Chomsky
On a visit to Vancouver, British Columbiain 2004
BornDecember 7, 1928 (age 85)
PhiladelphiaPennsylvania, United States
Other namesAvram Noam Chomsky
Alma materUniversity of Pennsylvania(B.A.) 1949, (M.A.) 1951, (Ph.D.) 1955
Era20th / 21st-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolGenerative linguisticsAnalytic philosophy
InstitutionsMIT (1955–present)
Main interestsLinguistics ·
Philosophy of language
Philosophy of mind
Politics · Ethics
Notable ideas
3. Richard Dawkins, whose use of evolutionary biology has shaped the way we understand ourselves at the most fundamental levels. [Wikipedia Link]
Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins Cooper Union Shankbone.jpg
Dawkins at Cooper UnionNew York City (2010)
BornClinton Richard Dawkins
26 March 1941 (age 73)
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
ThesisSelective pecking in the domestic chick (1967)
Doctoral advisorNikolaas Tinbergen
Doctoral studentsAlan GrafenMark Ridley
Known forGene-centred view of evolution, concept of the meme, advocacy ofatheism and science
InfluencesCharles DarwinRonald Fisher,George C. WilliamsW. D. HamiltonDaniel Dennett,Bertrand RussellNikolaas TinbergenJohn Maynard Smith,Robert Trivers
Notable awardsZSL Silver Medal (1989)
Faraday Award (1990)
International Cosmos Prize (1997)
Michael Faraday Prize (2001)
Nierenberg Prize (2009)
SpouseMarian Stamp (1967–1984)
Eve Barham (1984–?)
Lalla Ward (1992–present)
ChildrenJuliet Emma
Official website
4. Persi Diaconis, who in merging the mathematical theory of groups with statistics has radically reconfigured our understanding of randomness. [Wikipedia Link]
Persi Diaconis
Persi Diaconis 2010.jpg
Persi Diaconis, 2010
BornJanuary 31, 1945 (age 69)
New York CityNew York
InstitutionsHarvard University
Stanford University
Alma mater Harvard University M.A. (1972), Ph.D. (1974)
Doctoral advisorDennis Arnold Hejhal
Frederick Mosteller[1]
Doctoral studentsSourav Chatterjee
Arif Zaman
5. Jane Goodall, whose work on primates has led the way and given us focus in understanding our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. [Wikipedia Link]
Dame Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall HK.jpg
Born3 April 1934 (age 80)
London, United Kingdom
Alma materNewnham College, Cambridge
Darwin College, Cambridge
Doctoral advisorRobert Hinde
Known forStudy of chimpanzees, conservation, animal welfare
Notable awardsKyoto Prize (1990)
Hubbard Medal (1995)
Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (1997)
DBE (2004)
from the BBC programme Woman's Hour, 26 January 2010

6. Alan Guth, whose idea of inflationary cosmology has revolutionized our understanding of the Big Bang and the large scale structure of the universe. [Wikipedia Link]
Alan Harvey Guth
Alan Guth at Trinity College, Cambridge, 2007
Born27 February 1947 (age 67)
New Brunswick, New Jersey
ResidenceUnited States
FieldsCosmologyTheoretical physics,Particle physics
Stanford Linear Accelerator
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Doctoral advisorFrancis E. Low
Known forCosmic inflation
InfluencesRobert H. Dicke
Notable awards
MIT School of Science Prize for Undergraduate Teaching, Oscar Klein Medal (1991), The Franklin Medal for Physics of the Franklin InstituteIsaac Newton Medal ofInstitute of Physics (2009), Dirac Prize of the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation (2004),Fundamental Physics Prize(2012).
Kavli Prize (2014).
7. Stephen Hawking, whose work on the nature of space and time remains groundbreaking and whose story of personal triumph despite suffering a neuro-muscular dystrophy has inspired millions. [Wikipedia Link]
Stephen Hawking
black and white photo of Hawking in a chair, in an office.
Hawking at NASA, 1980s
BornStephen William Hawking
8 January 1942 (age 72)
Oxford, England
ResidenceUnited Kingdom
Alma mater
ThesisProperties of Expanding Universes (1965)
Doctoral advisorDennis Sciama[2]
Other academic advisorsRobert Berman[citation needed]
Doctoral students
Known for
Notable awards
  • Jane Wilde
    (m. 1965–1995, divorced)
  • Elaine Mason
    (m. 1995–2006, divorced)
  • Robert (b. 1967)
  • Lucy (b. 1970)
  • Timothy (b. 1979)
8. Donald Knuth, whose work on the theory of the algorithm has transformed the field of computer science. (Photo courtesy of Will Robertson) [Wikipedia Link]
Donald Ervin Knuth
Donald Knuth at a reception for the Open Content Alliance, October 25, 2005
BornJanuary 10, 1938 (age 76)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US
Computer science
InstitutionsStanford University
Alma materCase Institute of Technology
California Institute of Technology
ThesisFinite Semifields and Projective Planes (1963)
Doctoral advisorMarshall Hall, Jr.
Doctoral studentsLeonidas J. Guibas
Michael Fredman
Scott Kim
Vaughan Pratt
Robert Sedgewick
Jeffrey Vitter
Andrei Broder
Known forThe Art of Computer Programming
Knuth–Morris–Pratt algorithm
Knuth–Bendix completion algorithm
Robinson–Schensted–Knuth correspondence
Notable awardsTuring Award (1974)
National Medal of Science (1979)
John von Neumann Medal (1995)
Harvey Prize (1995)
Kyoto Prize (1996)
Faraday Medal (2011)
Donald E. Knuth
9. Lynn Margulis, whose ideas about symbiogenesis have vastly enriched conventional ways of understanding biological evolution. [Wikipedia Link]
Lynn Margulis
Lynn Margulis.jpg
BornMarch 5, 1938
ChicagoIllinois, U.S.
DiedNovember 22, 2011 (aged 73)
Amherst, Massachusetts, U.S.
InstitutionsBoston University
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Alma materUniversity of Chicago
University of Wisconsin-Madison
UC Berkeley
Known forEndosymbiotic theory
Notable awardsNational Medal of Science (1999)
William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement (1999)
Darwin-Wallace Medal (2008)
SpouseCarl Sagan
(m. 1957–1965, divorced)
Thomas Margulis
(m. 1967–1980, divorced)
ChildrenDorion Sagan (1959)
Jeremy Ethan Sagan (1960)
Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma
Jennifer Margulis di Properzio
10. Gordon Moore, who as founder of Intel merged business and science in bringing about the information technology revolution (“Moore’s Law” is named after him). [Wikipedia Link]
Gordon Moore
Gordon Moore.jpg
Moore in 2004
BornGordon Earle Moore
January 3, 1929 (age 85)
San FranciscoCalifornia, USA
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
San Jose State University
University of California, Berkeley
California Institute of Technology
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Alma materSan Jose State University
University of California, Berkeley
California Institute of Technology
ThesisI. Infrared Studies of Nitrous Acid, The Chloramines and Nitrogen Dioxide II. Observations Concerning the Photochemical Decomposition of Nitric Oxide (1964)
Known forIntel
Moore's law
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
Notable awardsJohn Fritz Medal (1993)
IEEE Founders Medal (1997)
Othmer Gold Medal (2001)
Perkin Medal (2004)
Nierenberg Prize (2006)
IEEE Medal of Honor (2008)
National Medal of Technology
Presidential Medal of Freedom
11. Roger Penrose, who has broken new ground not only in fundamental physics but also on its connections to human consciousness. [Wikipedia Link]
Sir Roger Penrose
Roger Penrose-6Nov2005.jpg
Roger Penrose, 2005
Born8 August 1931 (age 83)
Colchester, Essex, England
ResidenceUnited Kingdom
FieldsMathematical physics
Alma mater
Doctoral advisorJohn A. Todd
Other academic advisorsW. V. D. Hodge
Doctoral students
Known for
Notable awards
He is the brother of Jonathan PenroseOliver Penrose and Shirley Hodgson; son of Lionel Penrose; nephew of Roland Penrose.

12. Charles Townes, who invented the laser, which is now ubiquitous in technology and ordinary life. [Wikipedia Link]
Charles Hard Townes
Charles Townes Nobel.jpg
BornJuly 28, 1915 (age 99)
GreenvilleSouth Carolina
ResidenceUnited States
Bell Labs
Institute for Defense Analyses
University Of Michigan
Alma materFurman University (B.S. & B.A.)
Duke University (M.A.)
Caltech (Ph.D.)
Doctoral advisorWilliam Smythe
Doctoral studentsAli Javan
James P. Gordon
Robert Boyd
Raymond Y. Chiao
Known forInventing the Maser
Notable awardsComstock Prize in Physics (1958)
Young Medal and Prize (1963)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1964)
IEEE Medal of Honor (1967)
National Medal of Science (1982)
Lomonosov Gold Medal (2000)
Vannevar Bush Award (2006)
SPIE Gold Medal (2010)
13. Craig Venter, whose completion of the Human Genome Project and continued work on synthetic genomes and artificially constructed cells is fundamentally challenging our understanding of life. [Wikipedia Link]

J. Craig Venter
Venter in 2007
BornOctober 14, 1946 (age 67)
Salt Lake CityUtah, U.S.
InstitutionsState University of New York at Buffalo
National Institutes of Health
J. Craig Venter Institute
Alma materUniversity of California, San Diego
Known forDNA
Human genome
Synthetic genomics
Shotgun approach to genome sequencing
Notable awardsGairdner Award (2002)
Nierenberg Prize (2007)
Kistler Prize (2008)
ENI award (2008)
Medal of Science (2008)
Dickson Prize (2011)
J. Craig Venter Institute
14. James Watson, whose codiscovery with Francis Crick of the structure of DNA has revolutionized all of biology and is a landmark of the 20th century. [Wikipedia Link]
James Watson
James D Watson.jpg
James Watson
BornJames Dewey Watson
April 6, 1928 (age 86)
ChicagoIllinois, U.S.
InstitutionsIndiana University
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Harvard University
University of Cambridge
National Institutes of Health
Alma materUniversity of Chicago (B.S., 1947)
Indiana University (Ph.D., 1950)
ThesisThe Biological Properties of X-Ray Inactivated Bacteriophage (1951)
Doctoral advisorSalvador Luria
Doctoral studentsMario Capecchi[1]
Other notable studentsEwan Birney[2]
Known forDNA structure
Molecular biology
Notable awardsNobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine (1962)
Copley Medal (1993)[3]
Lomonosov Gold Medal (1994)
SpouseElizabeth Watson (née Lewis)
15. Steven Weinberg, whose work on unifying the forces of physics and whose exceptionally well-written popular books on science have made him a key public intellectual for interpreting science to the wider culture. [Wikipedia Link]
Steven Weinberg
Steven weinberg 2010.jpg
Steven Weinberg at the 2010 Texas Book Festival
BornMay 3, 1933 (age 81)
New York City, USA
ResidenceUnited States
NationalityUnited States
FieldsTheoretical Physics
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Berkeley
Harvard University
University of Texas at Austin
Alma materCornell University
Princeton University
Doctoral advisorSam Treiman
Doctoral studentsOrlando Alvarez
Claude Bernard
Lay Nam Chang
Bob Holdom
Nicholas C. Tsamis
Ubirajara van Kolck
Rafael Lopez-Mobilia
Fernando Quevedo
Mark G. Raizen
Scott Willenbrock
John Preskill
Known forElectromagnetism and Weak Force unification
Weinberg angle
Weinberg–Witten theorem
InfluencedAlan Guth
Notable awardsHeineman Prize (1977)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1979)
National Medal of Science (1991)
SpouseLouise Weinberg (m. 1954; 1 child)
16. Andrew Wiles, who in resolving the 300-year old Fermat Conjecture of mathematics decisively demonstrated how seemingly irresolvable problems may eventually yield to solution through creative insight. [Wikipedia Link]
Sir Andrew Wiles
Andrew wiles1-3.jpg
Wiles at the 61st Birthday conference for P. Deligne (Institute for Advanced Study, 2005).
BornAndrew John Wiles
11 April 1953 (age 61)[1]
Cambridge, England
Alma mater
ThesisReciprocity Laws and the Conjecture of Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer (1979)
Doctoral advisorJohn Coates[2]
Doctoral students
Known forProving the Taniyama–Shimura Conjecture for semistable elliptic curves, thereby proving Fermat's Last Theorem
Proving the main conjecture of Iwasawa theory
Notable awardsWhitehead Prize (1988)
Ostrowski Prize (1995)
Fermat Prize (1995)
Wolf Prize (1995/6)
Royal Medal (1996)
Cole Prize (1997)
IMU Silver Plaque (1998)
King Faisal International Prize in Science (1998)
Shaw Prize (2005)
17. Edward O. Wilson, whose work on sociobiology has propelled evolutionary thinking into ethics and psychology. [Wikipedia Link]
E. O. Wilson FMLS[1]
Plos wilson.jpg
February, 2003
BornEdward Osborne Wilson
June 10, 1929 (age 85)
Birmingham, Alabama, United States
InstitutionsHarvard University
Duke University
Alma materUniversity of Alabama
Harvard University
ThesisA Monographic Revision of the Ant Genus Lasius (1955)
Doctoral advisorFrank M. Carpenter
Doctoral studentsDaniel Simberloff
Donald J. Farish
Known forPopularizing sociobiology
Epic of Evolution
Character displacement
Island biogeography
Notable awardsNewcomb Cleveland Prize (1967)
Pulitzer Prize (1979)
Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (1984)
Crafoord Prize (1990)
Pulitzer Prize (1991)
International Prize for Biology (1993)
Carl Sagan Award for Public Understanding of Science (1994)
Kistler Prize (2000)
Nierenberg Prize (2001)
International Cosmos Prize (2012)
18. Edward Witten, whose work on the mathematical underpinnings of string theory has made it the theory of everything to beat. [Wikipedia Link]
Edward Witten
Edward Witten.jpg
Witten giving a speech at Chalmers tekniska högskola, Göteborg, Sweden, April 29, 2008
BornAugust 26, 1951 (age 63)
BaltimoreMaryland, U.S.
ResidencePrinceton, New Jersey, U.S.
FieldsTheoretical physics
Superstring theory
InstitutionsInstitute for Advanced Study
Harvard University
California Institute of Technology
Princeton University
Alma materBrandeis University (B.A.)
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Princeton University (PhD)
Doctoral advisorDavid Gross
Doctoral studentsJonathan Bagger
Cumrun Vafa
Steven Giddings
Xiao-Gang Wen
Eva Silverstein
Shamit Kachru
Sergei Gukov
Mukund Rangamani
Tamar Friedmann
Peter Srvcek
Christopher Beasley
Dror Bar-Natan
Known forString theory
Quantum gravity
Quantum field theory
Notable awardsMacArthur Fellowship (1982)
Dirac Medal (1985)
Albert Einstein Medal (1985)
Fields Medal (1990)
Alan T. Waterman Award (1995)
Dannie Heineman Prize (1998)
Nemmers Prize (2000)
National Medal of Science (2002)
Harvey Prize (2005)
Henri Poincaré Prize (2006)
Crafoord Prize (2008)
Lorentz Medal (2010)
Isaac Newton Medal (2010)
Fundamental Physics Prize (2012)
Kyoto Prize (2014)
SpouseChiara Nappi