A little lab discussion this week pondered who is the most famous chemist of all time.
Note that this is not the “best” or “most telling contribution” but most well known to the general public.
Asking the Almighty Google to tell us directs to some terse discussions of the matter, putting forward such names as Marie Curie, Robert Boyle, Michael Faraday, John Dalton come up. Some others such as Neils Bohr or Antoine Lavoisier – I’m not sure how many people on the street would come up with them.
Our talk came up with Linus Pauling – perhaps more well-known for things he did outside of chemistry, but still a famous chemist (and a Nobel winner too).
It seemed like most of those well known to the general public were those that discovered elements – really at the boundary of chemistry and physics. Several of the lists I saw had people on them that I considered physicists. Heisenberg?
It is doubtful that the greta organic synthetic chemists would get much traction here. Woodward is a top choice among those in his field, but he doesn’t seem that well-known outside it. Which is strange as organic professors are not exactly known for being demur and shy.
Any other opinions out there? Anyone we’ve forgotten?