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The Most Famous

CHEMISTS from United Kingdom

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This page contains a list of the greatest British Chemists. The pantheon dataset contains 509 Chemists, 71 of which were born in United Kingdom. This makes United Kingdom the birth place of the 3rd most number of Chemists behind United States and Germany.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary British Chemists of all time. This list of famous British 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 British Chemists.

Photo of John Dalton

1. John Dalton (1766 - 1844)

With an HPI of 81.13, John Dalton is the most famous British Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 100 different languages on wikipedia.

John Dalton (; 5 or 6 September 1766 – 27 July 1844) was an English chemist, physicist and meteorologist. He is best known for introducing the atomic theory into chemistry, and for his research into colour blindness, which he had. Colour blindness is known as Daltonism in several languages, being named after him.

Photo of Humphry Davy

2. Humphry Davy (1778 - 1829)

With an HPI of 71.43, Humphry Davy is the 2nd most famous British Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 81 different languages.

Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet, (17 December 1778 – 29 May 1829) was a British chemist and inventor who invented the Davy lamp and a very early form of arc lamp. He is also remembered for isolating, by using electricity, several elements for the first time: potassium and sodium in 1807 and calcium, strontium, barium, magnesium and boron the following year, as well as for discovering the elemental nature of chlorine and iodine. Davy also studied the forces involved in these separations, inventing the new field of electrochemistry. Davy is also credited to have been the first to discover clathrate hydrates in his lab. In 1799 he experimented with nitrous oxide and was astonished at how it made him laugh, so he nicknamed it "laughing gas" and wrote about its potential anaesthetic properties in relieving pain during surgery.Davy was a baronet, President of the Royal Society (PRS), Member of the Royal Irish Academy (MRIA), Fellow of the Geological Society (FGS), and a member of the American Philosophical Society (elected 1810). Berzelius called Davy's 1806 Bakerian Lecture On Some Chemical Agencies of Electricity "one of the best memoirs which has ever enriched the theory of chemistry."

Photo of William Ramsay

3. William Ramsay (1852 - 1916)

With an HPI of 68.58, William Ramsay is the 3rd most famous British Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 80 different languages.

Sir William Ramsay (; 2 October 1852 – 23 July 1916) was a Scottish chemist who discovered the noble gases and received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1904 "in recognition of his services in the discovery of the inert gaseous elements in air" along with his collaborator, John William Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics that same year for their discovery of argon. After the two men identified argon, Ramsay investigated other atmospheric gases. His work in isolating argon, helium, neon, krypton, and xenon led to the development of a new section of the periodic table.

Photo of Frederick Sanger

4. Frederick Sanger (1918 - 2013)

With an HPI of 68.29, Frederick Sanger is the 4th most famous British Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 78 different languages.

Frederick Sanger (; 13 August 1918 – 19 November 2013) was an English biochemist who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry twice. He won the 1958 Chemistry Prize for determining the amino acid sequence of insulin and numerous other proteins, demonstrating in the process that each had a unique, definite structure; this was a foundational discovery for the central dogma of molecular biology. At the newly-constructed Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, he developed and subsequently refined the first-ever DNA sequencing technique, which vastly expanded the number of feasible experiments in molecular biology and remains in widespread use today. The breakthrough earned him the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which he shared with Walter Gilbert and Paul Berg. He is one of only three people to have won multiple Nobel Prizes in the same category (the others being John Bardeen in physics and Karl Barry Sharpless in chemistry), and one of five persons with two Nobel Prizes.

Photo of Frederick Soddy

5. Frederick Soddy (1877 - 1956)

With an HPI of 67.72, Frederick Soddy is the 5th most famous British Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 70 different languages.

Frederick Soddy FRS (2 September 1877 – 22 September 1956) was an English radiochemist who explained, with Ernest Rutherford, that radioactivity is due to the transmutation of elements, now known to involve nuclear reactions. He also proved the existence of isotopes of certain radioactive elements. In 1921 he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for his contributions to our knowledge of the chemistry of radioactive substances, and his investigations into the origin and nature of isotopes". Soddy was a polymath who mastered chemistry, nuclear physics, statistical mechanics, finance and economics.

Photo of William Crookes

6. William Crookes (1832 - 1919)

With an HPI of 67.56, William Crookes is the 6th most famous British Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 54 different languages.

Sir William Crookes (; 17 June 1832 – 4 April 1919) was a British chemist and physicist who attended the Royal College of Chemistry, now part of Imperial College London, and worked on spectroscopy. He was a pioneer of vacuum tubes, inventing the Crookes tube which was made in 1875. This was a foundational discovery that eventually changed the whole of chemistry and physics. He is credited with discovering the element thallium, announced in 1861, with the help of spectroscopy. He was also the first to describe the spectrum of terrestrial helium, in 1865. Crookes was the inventor of the Crookes radiometer but did not discern the true explanation of the phenomenon he detected. Crookes also invented a 100% ultraviolet blocking sunglass lens. For a time, he was interested in spiritualism and became president of the Society for Psychical Research.

Photo of Francis William Aston

7. Francis William Aston (1877 - 1945)

With an HPI of 67.08, Francis William Aston is the 7th most famous British Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 69 different languages.

Francis William Aston FRS (1 September 1877 – 20 November 1945) was a British chemist and physicist who won the 1922 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery, by means of his mass spectrograph, of isotopes in many non-radioactive elements and for his enunciation of the whole number rule. He was a fellow of the Royal Society and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Photo of Frederick Gowland Hopkins

8. Frederick Gowland Hopkins (1861 - 1947)

With an HPI of 65.66, Frederick Gowland Hopkins is the 8th most famous British Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 61 different languages.

Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins (20 June 1861 – 16 May 1947) was an English biochemist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1929, with Christiaan Eijkman, for the discovery of vitamins. He also discovered the amino acid tryptophan, in 1901. He was President of the Royal Society from 1930 to 1935.

Photo of Norman Haworth

9. Norman Haworth (1883 - 1950)

With an HPI of 64.17, Norman Haworth is the 9th most famous British Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 53 different languages.

Sir Walter Norman Haworth FRS (19 March 1883 – 19 March 1950) was a British chemist best known for his groundbreaking work on ascorbic acid (vitamin C) while working at the University of Birmingham. He received the 1937 Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for his investigations on carbohydrates and vitamin C". The prize was shared with Swiss chemist Paul Karrer for his work on other vitamins.Haworth worked out the correct structure of a number of sugars, and is known among organic chemists for his development of the Haworth projection that translates three-dimensional sugar structures into convenient two-dimensional graphical form.

Photo of John Newlands

10. John Newlands (1837 - 1898)

With an HPI of 63.85, John Newlands is the 10th most famous British Chemist.  His biography has been translated into 38 different languages.

John Alexander Reina Newlands (26 November 1837 – 29 July 1898) was a British chemist who worked concerning the periodicity of elements.

Pantheon has 71 people classified as chemists born between 1640 and 1968. Of these 71, 10 (14.08%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living chemists include John E. Walker, Fraser Stoddart, and Richard J. Roberts. The most famous deceased chemists include John Dalton, Humphry Davy, and William Ramsay. As of April 2022, 2 new chemists have been added to Pantheon including John Walker and David MacMillan.

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.