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.
With an HPI of 84.54, John Dalton is the most famous British Chemist. His biography has been translated into 97 different languages on wikipedia.
John Dalton (; 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, sometimes referred to as Daltonism in his honour.
With an HPI of 78.63, Humphry Davy is the 2nd most famous British Chemist. His biography has been translated into 79 different languages.
Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet (17 December 1778 – 29 May 1829) was a Cornish 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, a series of 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."
With an HPI of 77.37, William Ramsay is the 3rd most famous British Chemist. His biography has been translated into 75 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.
With an HPI of 75.22, Frederick Soddy is the 4th 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. He was a polymath who mastered chemistry, nuclear physics, statistical mechanics, finance and economics.
With an HPI of 75.13, Frederick Sanger is the 5th most famous British Chemist. His biography has been translated into 76 different languages.
Frederick Sanger (; 13 August 1918 – 19 November 2013) was a British biochemist who twice won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, one of only two people to have done so in the same category (the other is John Bardeen in physics), the fourth person overall with two Nobel Prizes, and the third person overall with two Nobel Prizes in the sciences. In 1958, he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for his work on the structure of proteins, especially that of insulin". In 1980, Walter Gilbert and Sanger shared half of the chemistry prize "for their contributions concerning the determination of base sequences in nucleic acids". The other half was awarded to Paul Berg "for his fundamental studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids, with particular regard to recombinant DNA".
With an HPI of 74.85, William Crookes is the 6th most famous British Chemist. His biography has been translated into 51 different languages.
Sir William Crookes (; 17 June 1832 – 4 April 1919) was a British chemist and physicist who attended the Royal College of Chemistry in 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.
With an HPI of 74.25, Arthur Harden is the 7th most famous British Chemist. His biography has been translated into 55 different languages.
Sir Arthur Harden, FRS (12 October 1865 – 17 June 1940) was a British biochemist. He shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1929 with Hans Karl August Simon von Euler-Chelpin for their investigations into the fermentation of sugar and fermentative enzymes. He was a founding member of the Biochemical Society and editor of its journal for 25 years.
With an HPI of 74.16, Francis William Aston is the 8th most famous British Chemist. His biography has been translated into 67 different languages.
Francis William Aston FRS (1 September 1877 – 20 November 1945) was an English 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.
With an HPI of 73.48, Frederick Gowland Hopkins is the 9th most famous British Chemist. His biography has been translated into 55 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, even though Casimir Funk, a Polish biochemist, is widely credited with discovering vitamins. He also discovered the amino acid tryptophan, in 1901. He was President of the Royal Society from 1930 to 1935.
With an HPI of 72.61, Norman Haworth is the 10th most famous British Chemist. His biography has been translated into 52 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.
Pantheon has 70 people classified as chemists born between 1609 and 1954. Of these 70, 9 (12.86%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living chemists include John E. Walker, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Richard J. Roberts. The most famous deceased chemists include John Dalton, Humphry Davy, and William Ramsay. As of October 2020, 7 new chemists have been added to Pantheon including M. Stanley Whittingham, Peter J. Ratcliffe, and Edward Charles Howard.
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1954 - Present
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1766 - 1844
1778 - 1829
1852 - 1916
1877 - 1956
1918 - 2013
1832 - 1919
1865 - 1940
1877 - 1945
1861 - 1947
1883 - 1950
1886 - 1975
1875 - 1968
Which Chemists were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Chemists since 1700.