Manual Great Scientists

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And it shows me that faith is not ultimately an act of intellectual discernment, but grace given to us by the Holy Spirit. It is a gift, and we should not be scornful of those who have not received the gift.

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Can a Scientist be Catholic? A Conversion Story. Society of Catholic Scientists: Who they are and why we should care. Who is God? October 7, The Copernican Revolution — Differently. October 3, A Strange Anointing: Glory in Suffering.

September 30, September 25, Subscribe to our mailing list to get the Magis perspective on faith, science, culture, and more. Subscribe to our mailing list to get the Magis Center perspective on faith, science, culture, and more. Your browser does not support iframes. In the s he carried out several experiments on electromagnetism that were quite similar to those of Michael Faraday. Because Faraday published his findings before Henry did, credit for making the discovery of electromagnetic induction—which Henry had achieved independently in —went to Faraday.

He found that by winding more and more coils around an iron core produced a stronger electromagnetic field, an observation he put to good use when designing electromagnets that could lift heavy weights. Henry found that with a high voltage battery , an electric current could be sent through a very long piece of wire. An electromagnet could be used to open and close a switch, known as a relay, to transmit an electric signal along the wire. A long telegraph line, many kilometres in length, could be made up of a number of much shorter lines, each individually linked and powered by relays.

This discovery opened the way to the invention of the electric telegraph by Samuel Morse. William Herschel — was a German-born British astronomer and composer. He is famous not only for his discovery of Uranus , along with two of its moons Titania and Oberon , but also for other important discoveries using observations made through the telescopes he had built himself one had a magnifying power of times.

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In the s, Herschel carried out a survey of the sky, recording new nebulae and star clusters. He put forward a theory of how stars evolved, and came up with a model for how the stars of the Galaxy were distributed. He was also the first astronomer to suggest that nebulae—previously thought to be made of luminous fluid—are composed of stars. The foot telescope constructed by William Herschel.

A reflecting telescope, it was constructed between and at Observatory House in Slough, England. It had a cm inch diameter primary mirror and a metre-long focal length—hence the name "Forty-Foot". It may have been used to discover Enceladus and Mimas, two of the moons of Saturn.

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The foot telescope constructed by William Herschel The foot telescope constructed by William Herschel. Hertz discovering radio waves Hertz discovering radio waves Hertz discovering radio waves. Heinrich Hertz, a German physicist —94 proved the existence of electromagnetic waves first predicted by James Clerk Maxwell. He acheived this in a series of experiments carried out in Hertz built a transmitter in which two copper rods, each attached to large zinc spheres, were separated by a small gap.

He placed a receiver, a simple loop of copper wire which also had a tiny gap between its ends, 1. When he applied a high-voltage electric current to the transmitter, sparks jumped the gap, creating pulses of electricity in the wires. These pulses sent out electromagnetic waves— radio waves —through the air around the transmitter.

Picked up by the receiver, the waves created a small spark in the gap. The unit of frequency of a radio wave—one cycle per second—is named the hertz in his honour. Hippocrates Hippocrates Hippocrates. The scientific approach to medicine was introduced by the ancient Greeks. Hippocrates c. He believed that all diseases had a natural cause rather than a supernatural one, that is, caused by the gods. He also proposed that diet and exercise affected the human body.

Such ideas led to Hippocrates being known as the Father of Medicine. Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin —94 was a British chemist, best known for her groundbreaking work in X-ray crystallography. This is a technique used to determine the structures of molecules. Hodgkin determined the structure of the antibiotic penicillin in Her work in discovering the molecular structure of vitamin B 12 began in It took six years of research to complete the task in and it resulted in Hodgkin being awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in In , at the conclusion of a project that took 35 years, Hodgkin was among those who determined the complex structure of insulin.

The English scientist, inventor, artist and architect Robert Hooke is most famous for his pioneering work using the first microscopes. He also invented or improved a number of scientific instruments, including the anchor escapement mechanism used in a pendulum clock and the balance spring used in a pocket watch. His scientific studies extended across the disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics.

Edwin Hubble — was an American astronomer. He is best known for his discovery of galaxies other than our own Milky Way Galaxy. Between and , he discovered the existence of isolated masses of stars called galaxies that were too distant to be part of our own galaxy. Up until then, astronomers had believed that the Universe consisted of the Milky Way alone. Alexander von Humboldt — was a German explorer and naturalist. He is best known for his works on botanical geography, laying the foundations of the new science of biogeography. Humboldt learned how the South American Indians prepared a poison—called curare—from plants, which they used to tip their arrows, and which paralysed their victims.

Humboldt and Bonpland, with Chimborazo in the distance Humboldt and Bonpland, with Chimborazo in the distance Humboldt and Bonpland, with Chimborazo in the distance. He published all his scientific observations and findings in a work called Kosmos , the first volume of which was published in Christiaan Huygens —95 was a Dutch mathematician, physicist and astronomer. He first put forward the idea that light travelled as waves , and discovered centrifugal force. He is also known for his improvements to the design of telescopes along with his studies of the rings of Saturn and the discovery of its moon, Titan.

After investigating the forces on bodies moving in circular paths, Huygens went on to invent the pendulum clock in , increasing the accuracy of clocks enormously, from minutes to seconds per day. Millions of people died from them. It was the discovery of a means to protect people against one such disease, smallpox, that began the modern era of medicine.

Edward Jenner — , an English country doctor, observed that milkmaids who caught a disease called cowpox from their cows never caught smallpox itself. Cowpox is similar to smallpox, but much milder, and produces pus-filled blisters on the hands. Jenner realised that infection with cowpox must be protecting the milkmaids from smallpox, and decided to test his theory. Within a few days, the boy developed mild cowpox.

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A few weeks later, Jenner infected the boy with smallpox—but he did not develop the disease. Jenner had "vaccinated" the boy against smallpox. Edward Jenner vaccinating his young child Edward Jenner vaccinating his young child Edward Jenner vaccinating his young child. Jenner had developed vaccines —substances introduced into the bloodstream that protect people from serious disease. They are dead or weakened versions of germs that cause the disease—although Jenner himself was unaware of what germs were. It will then recognize the germs again quickly in the future. It took until the s before the medical establishment could accept the findings of a country doctor and adopt vaccination as a method of preventing disease.

English physicist James Joule —89 is best known for his research into thermodynamics. In he calculated the amount of mechanical work needed to produce an equivalent amount of heat. But his findings challenged the view, widely held by physicists at the time, that heat was some kind of fluid.

Thomson and Joule proceeded to carry out a number of experiments in the study of heat and energy , a field of physics that came to be known as thermodynamics. In one experiment, gases were observed to become cooler as they expanded, which became known as the Joule Thomson effect. It is the principle on which refrigeration is based. The SI unit for an amount of heat is named the joule in Joule's honour.

The German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler — developed the laws of planetary motion. Publishing his discovery in a work called Astronomia Nova The New Astronomy in , Kepler was the first person to arrive at the completely correct view of the Solar System. This design, the new standard for refracting telescopes, enabled higher magnifications. He named the gases oxygen and hydrogen , and worked out the role oxygen played in combustion burning.


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He compiled the first proper list of known elements and helped to reform the way chemicals were named. He also discovered that, although matter could change its form or its shape, its mass always remained the same. In so doing, Lavoisier completely changed the way chemistry was practised. Lavoisier also helped to develop the metric system in order to make weights and measures uniform throughout France.

The palaeoanthropologists Louis Leakey —72 and Mary Leakey —96 were famous for their work in the study of human evolution. This is now identified as that of the human ancestor Australopithecus boisei. Dated to 1. Then, in she found remains of a large-brained hominid living at the same time as Australopithecus , but, according to Louis, the earliest member of the human genus, Homo. The Leakeys called it Homo habilis. In and , Mary made the most exciting find of her career. About 50 kilometres 30 miles south of the Olduvai Gorge at a site called Laetoli in Tanzania, she and her team discovered well-preserved hominid footprints in volcanic rock.

The fossil footprints seemed to match the fossil remains found close by that belonged to the species Australopithecus afarensis 2. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek — was a Dutch draper and scientist. He is best known for his improvements to the newly-invented microscope and for his pioneering work in microbiology. While working in his draper's shop, van Leeuwenhoek became interested in glassmaking. Heating glass rods over a hot flame, he created long threads of glass, from which he fashioned tiny glass spheres.

These spheres became lenses for simple microscopes; the smallest spheres provided the highest magnifications, capable of magnifying between and times. Using his hand-made microscopes, van Leeuwenhoek was the first to observe and describe single-celled organisms which he called "animalcules" , now known as micro-organisms. He was also the first to observe blood flow in capillaries tiny blood vessels.

The Swedish scientist, Carl Linnaeus —78 , is famous for devising the two-part naming system, known as binomial nomenclature, used to classify all living things. A chimpanzee 's name under the Linnaean classification system, for example, is Pan troglodytes ; a weeping willow is Salix babylonica. Linnaeus has been described as the father of taxonomy, the science of grouping living things together on the basis of their shared characteristics.

He is also responsible for describing and classifying the human species exactly in the same way as he classified other animals, at a time when it was generally thought that humans should be regarded as a special case—quite different from animals. Inspired by Pasteur 's work, British surgeon Joseph Lister — carried out investigations into how germs micro-organisms could be killed.

He knew that while people often survived surgical operations, many died on the wards afterwards. In he came up with the idea of using carbolic acid phenol to keep wounds clean during surgery. He then experimented with hand-washing, sterilizing surgical instruments and spraying carbolic acid in the theatre while operating. English mathematician Ada Lovelace —52 is best known for her pioneering work in computer science. In her Notes of , accompanying an article explaining how Charles Babbage 's Analytical Engine, a device designed to perform calculations using punched cards but never actually built would work, Lovelace wrote about her belief that such a machine had the potential to perform much more elaborate functions than simply making mathematical calculations—just as modern computers do today.

10 greatest scientists who changed the world

She demonstrated this by completing a program for the Analytical Engine : a method for calculating a certain mathematical sequence. Effectively, she had written the world's first algorithm, a step-by-step procedure for calculations. Ada Lovelace is today considered the world's first computer programmer. In it he stated that geological processes observed taking place on Earth today could explain finds from the past. Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell —79 was best known for developing electromagnetic theory.

He wrote his first scientific paper at the age of 14, which was presented to the Royal Society of Edinburgh although he was too young to be allowed to present it himself. Later, following up on the ideas of Michael Faraday , Maxwell showed that electricity and magnetism were linked together as a single force, the electromagnetic force, and that this could be described in terms of an electromagnetic field. In his Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism , published in , he calculated that an electromagnetic field travelled at the speed of light , and that therefore light itself must also be an electromagnetic wave.

Maxwell predicted that infrared and other, as yet undiscovered electromagnetic rays, would also travel at the speed of light. We now know that these other rays, such as radio waves , microwaves , UV and X-rays , all forms of electromagnetic radiation, do indeed travel at the speed of light. In the Czech friar and scientist Gregor Mendel — published his research into pea plants. His work showed how certain characteristics, or traits, were passed on from one generation to the next. Mendel concluded traits were inherited in predictable patterns. By cross-breeding plants over many generations, Mendel discovered that certain traits appeared in the offspring without any blending of parent traits.

For example, if Mendel bred together a pea plant with purple flowers and one with white flowers, the offspring would be either purple or white—but never a lilac mix of the two colours. Each trait must have been determined by "units" that were passed on from just one parent to its offspring unchanged. These units are today known as genes. The Periodic Table of elements is a list of all known elements arranged in order of their atomic numbers the number of protons in each atom.

It was designed by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev — , while he was writing a chemistry textbook. Mendeleev arranged the elements known at the time in order of their atomic mass the total number of protons and neutrons in an atom. He placed groups of elements that had similar chemical properties into vertical columns in his table.

Mendeleev could even work out the atomic mass for these missing elements and thus predict their properties. When the element gallium was discovered in , its properties were found to be close to his predictions, and was duly placed in the gap below aluminium in his table. Two other predicted elements, germanium and scandium, were later discovered, further proving Mendeleev right. Mendeleev had some problems ordering the elements according to their atomic mass. In order to place iodine in the same group as other elements with similar properties e. But using the atomic number instead of atomic mass as the organizing principle first proposed by the British chemist Henry Moseley in solved the problem—iodine has a higher atomic number than tellurium.

In fact, in most cases the two, atomic mass and atomic number, result in the same order. English scientist Sir Isaac Newton — lived during an exciting period of history, known as the Age of Enlightenment, where many ideas we take for granted today were being put forward for the first time. This explosion of scientific research has been described as the Scientific Revolution.

Alfred Nobel —96 was a Swedish chemist and the inventor of dynamite and gelignite. He was interested in the safe manufacture and use of nitroglycerine, a highly unstable explosive. He called this mixture dynamite. Twelve years later, Nobel invented an even safer explosive, made from dissolving a substance called nitrocellulose in the nitroglycerine and mixing it with potassium nitrate and wood pulp.


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Nobel named this new explosive substance gelignite. The businesses Nobel set up to manufacture explosives in the s and s made him a fortune. In he set aside most of it to establish annual prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace. An Economics Prize was added later. Called the Nobel Prize , they are the most prestigious prizes in science. The magnetic field pushed a compass needle away from it—like magnetic poles always repel one another—making it swing around the wire in a circle.

Temporarily, the wire coil became a magnet and the magnetic force acted in circles around the wire. Louis Pasteur — was a French chemist and microbiologist, best known for his work on studying disease-carrying microbes micro-organisms. These are the tiny, single-celled creatures, such as bacteria , that we sometimes call germs. He discovered that microbes were responsible for turning wine, beer and milk sour, and that they could also spread diseases.

Before Pasteur's research, it was believed that these organisms could appear suddenly out of nowhere, but he proved that they already exist in the air. German physicist Max Planck — is famous for proposing quantum theory. A quantum of light energy, for example, is called a photon. Light consists of a stream of photons. Describing light as photons explains how light can be absorbed and re-emitted by atoms. Planck won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work. Before him, scientists thought that the air consisted of just carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Besides the addition of oxygen, Priestley also identified the presence of nitrogen and other gases.

Priestley discovered several important chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, nitrous oxide laughing gas and sulphur dioxide. He became the first person to isolate ammonia gas. He also invented soda water. Increasingly at odds with the government over his religious views and his support for the French Revolution , Priestley fled to the United States in , where he died 10 years later. He found that a piece of cardboard coated with crystals of the salt barium platinocyanide glowed when a thermionic valve or vacuum tube an early electronic device was switched on in the same room, even when the tube was covered over with opaque cardboard.

It was soon discovered that the invisible rays could pass through many materials, such as flesh, but not through metal or bone. New Zealand-born physicist Ernest Rutherford — is best known for his pioneering work in nuclear physics. Between and , while working with chemist Frederick Soddy at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, he investigated the newly-discovered phenomenon of radioactivity.

He demonstrated that the atoms of some heavy elements —for example, uranium —naturally decay into slightly lighter, and chemically different, atoms. Rutherford proposed that radioactivity results from this disintegration of atoms. He reported the existence of what he termed alpha and beta particles in radiation given off by this process the alpha particle was later found to be identical to the nucleus of a helium atom, the beta particle to an electron.

It was for these discoveries that Rutherford was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in There he discovered that the atom has a very small, heavy core at its centre, the nucleus containing nearly the total mass of the atom , with a positive electrical charge. The nucleus is surrounded by a cloud of electrons, which had a negative electrical charge. This is the nuclear model of the atom, which is how we see the atom today. Title Diagram of a nuclear reaction Diagram of a nuclear reaction Title Diagram of a nuclear reaction.

During this process, high energy protons were emitted. Rutherford had succeeded in splitting the atom. Thomson J. English physicist Joseph John Thomson — is best known for his discovery of the electron , the first subatomic particle , in At the time, it was already known that atoms could exist as ions, carrying positive or negative charges. But atoms were still thought to be indivisible; they were thought to be the fundamental building blocks of all matter.

Thomson discovered the electron when studying cathode rays. These mysterious rays were observed flowing inside cathode ray tubes, glass tubes that had most of the air inside removed, with a cathode negative electrode at one end and an anode positive electrode at the other.

He realised that the particles making up cathode rays were about times smaller than atoms, that the particles were negatively charged, and that the particles were always of the same mass and charge. This was, in fact, an incorrect model: with protons and neutrons yet to be discovered, scientists still had no understanding of atomic structure.

In J. Thomson was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his discovery. His son George also won the Nobel Prize in —also for work with electrons, which he proved could behave like waves. Irish physicist and mathematician William Thomson — , later known as Lord Kelvin, is best known for developing a temperature scale based on absolute zero, named the Kelvin scale. In he estimated the age of the Earth to be around million years, basing his calculation on the temperature of the Sun and the rate of cooling for a body of the size of the Earth.

It is now known the Earth is 4. Together, they disproved the notion that heat was some kind of fluid, stating correctly that heat was the energy of motion of molecules. Thomson was chief consultant for the laying of the first transatlantic telegraph cable — Italian physicist and mathematician Evangelista Torricelli — is best known for his invention of the mercury barometer.

Galileo had observed that water could not be raised by more than height of around 10 metres 33 feet using a suction pump. In an experiment he carried out in , Torricelli proved that air had weight and could thus exert pressure. It is this pressure, also called atmospheric pressure , that determines the height to which a liquid will rise in a tube inverted over a basin containing the same liquid; the weight of the air presses down on the liquid forcing it up the tube to a certain height.

In his experiment, Torricelli used mercury some 14 times denser than water to fill a tube about a metre 3. He placed the tube vertically in a basin of mercury. The column of mercury fell to about 76 centimetres 30 inches , leaving a vacuum above. The column's height changed when the atmospheric pressure increased or decreased. This was the first barometer. The lava cools, turning into rock basalt , which forms the sea floor. As new lava erupts, the rock slowly moves away from the ridge. This is called sea-floor spreading. The farther it lies from the ridge, the older the rock: a 5 million years ago b 2—3 million years ago c present day.

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The magnetic polarity—either normal or reversed—is preserved in the rock as it was formed. Vine and Matthews used results from a survey of the Northern Indian Ocean floor to confirm two theories that explained how plate tectonics works. The data in the study carried out by Vine and Matthews clearly showed the existence of these patterns.

Plate tectonics, the engine that drives continental drift, was a reality. Alessandro Volta — was an Italian scientist, best known for inventing the battery. In another Italian scientist Luigi Galvani —98 began a series of experiments in which he caused muscular contractions in a frog 's legs by touching its nerves with different metals.

He concluded that animal tissue itself must contain a vital force which he termed "animal electricity". He believed it to be a new form of electricity , one that flowed through the body as an "electrical fluid". Volta doubted that the electricity came from animal tissue, so, in order to disprove Galvani's theory, he invented a device known as the voltaic pile in around Constructed from alternating discs of zinc and copper , each separated by pieces of cardboard soaked in brine, the voltaic pile produced a steady electric current.

It showed that "animal electricity" could be produced using non-living materials. The voltaic pile was the world's first battery. The shaded parts of the continents show the shallow seas which, at various times, covered what is now dry land. Alfred Wegener — was a German astronomer and meteorologist.