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The Most Famous

CHEMISTS from France

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This page contains a list of the greatest French Chemists. The pantheon dataset contains 509 Chemists, 59 of which were born in France. This makes France the birth place of the 4th most number of Chemists behind Germany and United Kingdom.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary French Chemists of all time. This list of famous French Chemists is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of French Chemists.

Photo of Louis Pasteur

1. Louis Pasteur (1822 - 1895)

With an HPI of 87.59, Louis Pasteur is the most famous French Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 149 different languages on wikipedia.

Louis Pasteur (, French: [lwi pastœʁ]; 27 December 1822 – 28 September 1895) was a French chemist and microbiologist renowned for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation and pasteurization, the latter of which was named after him. His research in chemistry led to remarkable breakthroughs in the understanding of the causes and preventions of diseases, which laid down the foundations of hygiene, public health and much of modern medicine. His works are credited to saving millions of lives through the developments of vaccines for rabies and anthrax. He is regarded as one of the founders of modern bacteriology and has been honored as the "father of bacteriology" and the "father of microbiology" (together with Robert Koch; the latter epithet also attributed to Antonie van Leeuwenhoek).Pasteur was responsible for disproving the doctrine of spontaneous generation. Under the auspices of the French Academy of Sciences, his experiment demonstrated that in sterilized and sealed flasks, nothing ever developed; conversely, in sterilized but open flasks, microorganisms could grow. For this experiment, the academy awarded him the Alhumbert Prize carrying 2,500 francs in 1862. Pasteur is also regarded as one of the fathers of germ theory of diseases, which was a minor medical concept at the time. His many experiments showed that diseases could be prevented by killing or stopping germs, thereby directly supporting the germ theory and its application in clinical medicine. He is best known to the general public for his invention of the technique of treating milk and wine to stop bacterial contamination, a process now called pasteurization. Pasteur also made significant discoveries in chemistry, most notably on the molecular basis for the asymmetry of certain crystals and racemization. Early in his career, his investigation of tartaric acid resulted in the first resolution of what is now called optical isomers. His work led the way to the current understanding of a fundamental principle in the structure of organic compounds. He was the director of the Pasteur Institute, established in 1887, until his death, and his body was interred in a vault beneath the institute. Although Pasteur made groundbreaking experiments, his reputation became associated with various controversies. Historical reassessment of his notebook revealed that he practiced deception to overcome his rivals.

Photo of Antoine Lavoisier

2. Antoine Lavoisier (1743 - 1794)

With an HPI of 81.80, Antoine Lavoisier is the 2nd most famous French Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 101 different languages.

Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (UK: lav-WUZ-ee-ay, US: lə-VWAH-zee-ay; French: [ɑ̃twan lɔʁɑ̃ də lavwazje]; 26 August 1743 – 8 May 1794), also Antoine Lavoisier after the French Revolution, was a French nobleman and chemist who was central to the 18th-century chemical revolution and who had a large influence on both the history of chemistry and the history of biology.It is generally accepted that Lavoisier's great accomplishments in chemistry stem largely from his changing the science from a qualitative to a quantitative one. Lavoisier is most noted for his discovery of the role oxygen plays in combustion. He recognized and named oxygen (1778) and hydrogen (1783), and opposed phlogiston theory. Lavoisier helped construct the metric system, wrote the first extensive list of elements, and helped to reform chemical nomenclature. He predicted the existence of silicon (1787) and discovered that, although matter may change its form or shape, its mass always remains the same. Lavoisier was a powerful member of a number of aristocratic councils, and an administrator of the Ferme générale. The Ferme générale was one of the most hated components of the Ancien Régime because of the profits it took at the expense of the state, the secrecy of the terms of its contracts, and the violence of its armed agents. All of these political and economic activities enabled him to fund his scientific research. At the height of the French Revolution, he was charged with tax fraud and selling adulterated tobacco, and was guillotined.

Photo of Irène Joliot-Curie

3. Irène Joliot-Curie (1897 - 1956)

With an HPI of 78.05, Irène Joliot-Curie is the 3rd most famous French Chemist.  Her biography has been translated into 94 different languages.

Irène Joliot-Curie (French: [iʁɛn ʒɔljo kyʁi] (listen); née Curie; 12 September 1897 – 17 March 1956) was a French chemist, physicist and politician, the elder daughter of Pierre and Marie Curie, and the wife of Frédéric Joliot-Curie. Jointly with her husband, Joliot-Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935 for their discovery of induced radioactivity, making them the second-ever married couple (after her parents) to win the Nobel Prize, while adding to the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes. This made the Curies the family with the most Nobel laureates to date. She was also one of the first three women to be a member of a French government, becoming undersecretary for Scientific Research under the Popular Front in 1936. Both children of the Joliot-Curies, Hélène and Pierre, are also prominent scientists.In 1945, she was one of the six commissioners of the new French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) created by de Gaulle and the Provisional Government of the French Republic. She died in Paris on 17 March 1956 from an acute leukemia linked to her exposure to polonium and X-rays.

Photo of Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac

4. Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (1778 - 1850)

With an HPI of 72.02, Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac is the 4th most famous French Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 72 different languages.

Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (UK: , US: , French: [ʒɔzɛf lwi ɡɛlysak]; 6 December 1778 – 9 May 1850) was a French chemist and physicist. He is known mostly for his discovery that water is made of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen (with Alexander von Humboldt), for two laws related to gases, and for his work on alcohol–water mixtures, which led to the degrees Gay-Lussac used to measure alcoholic beverages in many countries.

Photo of Henri Moissan

5. Henri Moissan (1852 - 1907)

With an HPI of 71.08, Henri Moissan is the 5th most famous French Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 73 different languages.

Ferdinand Frédéric Henri Moissan (28 September 1852 – 20 February 1907) was a French chemist and pharmacist who won the 1906 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in isolating fluorine from its compounds. Moissan was one of the original members of the International Atomic Weights Committee.

Photo of Alfred Werner

6. Alfred Werner (1866 - 1919)

With an HPI of 70.70, Alfred Werner is the 6th most famous French Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 66 different languages.

Alfred Werner (12 December 1866 – 15 November 1919) was a Swiss chemist who was a student at ETH Zurich and a professor at the University of Zurich. He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1913 for proposing the octahedral configuration of transition metal complexes. Werner developed the basis for modern coordination chemistry. He was the first inorganic chemist to win the Nobel prize, and the only one prior to 1973.

Photo of Victor Grignard

7. Victor Grignard (1871 - 1935)

With an HPI of 67.72, Victor Grignard is the 7th most famous French Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 69 different languages.

Francois Auguste Victor Grignard (6 May 1871 – 13 December 1935) was a French chemist who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the eponymously named Grignard reagent and Grignard reaction, both of which are important in the formation of carbon–carbon bonds.

Photo of Joseph Black

8. Joseph Black (1728 - 1799)

With an HPI of 67.10, Joseph Black is the 8th most famous French Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 54 different languages.

Joseph Black (16 April 1728 – 6 December 1799) was a Scottish physicist and chemist, known for his discoveries of magnesium, latent heat, specific heat, and carbon dioxide. He was Professor of Anatomy and Chemistry at the University of Glasgow for 10 years from 1756, and then Professor of Medicine and Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh from 1766, teaching and lecturing there for more than 30 years.The chemistry buildings at both the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow are named after Black.

Photo of Paul Sabatier

9. Paul Sabatier (1854 - 1941)

With an HPI of 66.83, Paul Sabatier is the 9th most famous French Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 60 different languages.

Prof Paul Sabatier FRS(For) HFRSE (French: [sabatje]; 5 November 1854 – 14 August 1941) was a French chemist, born in Carcassonne. In 1912, Sabatier was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Victor Grignard. Sabatier was honoured for his work improving the hydrogenation of organic species in the presence of metals.

Photo of Jacques Monod

10. Jacques Monod (1910 - 1976)

With an HPI of 66.46, Jacques Monod is the 10th most famous French Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 62 different languages.

Jacques Lucien Monod (February 9, 1910 – May 31, 1976) was a French biochemist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1965, sharing it with François Jacob and André Lwoff "for their discoveries concerning genetic control of enzyme and virus synthesis".Monod and Jacob became famous for their work on the E. coli lac operon, which encodes proteins necessary for the transport and breakdown of the sugar lactose (lac). From their own work and the work of others, they came up with a model for how the levels of some proteins in a cell are controlled. In their model, the manufacture of proteins, such as the ones encoded within the lac (lactose) operon, is prevented when a repressor, encoded by a regulatory gene, binds to its operator, a specific site in the DNA sequence that is close to the genes encoding the proteins. (It is now known that a repressor bound to an operator physically blocks RNA polymerase from binding to the promoter, the site where transcription of the adjacent genes begins.) Study of the control of expression of genes in the lac operon provided the first example of a system for the regulation of transcription. Monod also suggested the existence of messenger RNA molecules that link the information encoded in DNA and proteins. For these contributions he is widely regarded as one of the founders of molecular biology.

Pantheon has 59 people classified as chemists born between 1645 and 1944. Of these 59, 2 (3.39%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living chemists include Jean-Marie Lehn and Jean-Pierre Sauvage. The most famous deceased chemists include Louis Pasteur, Antoine Lavoisier, and Irène Joliot-Curie. As of April 2022, 4 new chemists have been added to Pantheon including Louis Camille Maillard, Edmond Frémy, and Pierre Adet.

Living Chemists

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Deceased Chemists

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Newly Added Chemists (2022)

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Which Chemists were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Chemists since 1700.