The Most Famous

PHYSICISTS from Poland

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This page contains a list of the greatest Polish Physicists. The pantheon dataset contains 851 Physicists, 17 of which were born in Poland. This makes Poland the birth place of the 10th most number of Physicists behind Austria, and Japan.

Top 10

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

Photo of Marie Curie

1. Marie Curie (1867 - 1934)

With an HPI of 85.49, Marie Curie is the most famous Polish Physicist.  Her biography has been translated into 177 different languages on wikipedia.

Maria Salomea Skłodowska-Curie (Polish: [ˈmarja salɔˈmɛa skwɔˈdɔfska kʲiˈri] ; née Skłodowska; 7 November 1867 – 4 July 1934), known simply as Marie Curie ( KURE-ee, French: [maʁi kyʁi]), was a Polish and naturalised-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win a Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two scientific fields. Her husband, Pierre Curie, was a co-winner of her first Nobel Prize, making them the first married couple to win the Nobel Prize and launching the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes. She was, in 1906, the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris. She was born in Warsaw, in what was then the Kingdom of Poland, part of the Russian Empire. She studied at Warsaw's clandestine Flying University and began her practical scientific training in Warsaw. In 1891, aged 24, she followed her elder sister Bronisława to study in Paris, where she earned her higher degrees and conducted her subsequent scientific work. In 1895, she married the French physicist Pierre Curie, and she shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with him and with the physicist Henri Becquerel for their pioneering work developing the theory of "radioactivity"—a term she coined. In 1906, Pierre Curie died in a Paris street accident. Marie won the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery of the elements polonium and radium, using techniques she invented for isolating radioactive isotopes. Under her direction, the world's first studies were conducted into the treatment of neoplasms by the use of radioactive isotopes. She founded the Curie Institute in Paris in 1920, and the Curie Institute in Warsaw in 1932; both remain major medical research centres. During World War I, she developed mobile radiography units to provide X-ray services to field hospitals. While a French citizen, Marie Skłodowska Curie, who used both surnames, never lost her sense of Polish identity. She taught her daughters the Polish language and took them on visits to Poland. She named the first chemical element she discovered polonium, after her native country. Marie Curie died in 1934, aged 66, at the Sancellemoz sanatorium in Passy (Haute-Savoie), France, of aplastic anemia likely from exposure to radiation in the course of her scientific research and in the course of her radiological work at field hospitals during World War I. In addition to her Nobel Prizes, she received numerous other honours and tributes; in 1995 she became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Paris Panthéon, and Poland declared 2011 the Year of Marie Curie during the International Year of Chemistry. She is the subject of numerous biographical works.

Photo of Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit

2. Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686 - 1736)

With an HPI of 74.07, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit is the 2nd most famous Polish Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 78 different languages.

Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit FRS (; German: [ˈfaːʁn̩haɪt]; 24 May 1686 – 16 September 1736) was a physicist, inventor, and scientific instrument maker, born in Poland to a family of German extraction. Fahrenheit invented thermometers accurate and consistent enough to allow the comparison of temperature measurements between different observers using different instruments. Fahrenheit is also credited with inventing mercury-in-glass thermometers more accurate and superior to spirit-filled thermometers at the time. The popularity of his thermometers led to the widespread adoption of his Fahrenheit scale attached to his instruments.

Photo of Maria Goeppert Mayer

3. Maria Goeppert Mayer (1906 - 1972)

With an HPI of 71.17, Maria Goeppert Mayer is the 3rd most famous Polish Physicist.  Her biography has been translated into 95 different languages.

Maria Goeppert Mayer (German pronunciation: [maˈʁiːa ˈɡœpɛʁt ˈmaɪ̯ɐ] , née Göppert; June 28, 1906 – February 20, 1972) was a German-born American theoretical physicist, and Nobel laureate in Physics for proposing the nuclear shell model of the atomic nucleus. She was the second woman to win a Nobel Prize in physics, the first being Marie Curie. In 1986, the Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award for early-career women physicists was established in her honor. A graduate of the University of Göttingen, Goeppert Mayer wrote her doctoral thesis on the theory of possible two-photon absorption by atoms. At the time, the chances of experimentally verifying her thesis seemed remote, but the development of the laser in the 1960s later permitted this. Today, the unit for the two-photon absorption cross section is named the Goeppert Mayer (GM) unit. Maria Goeppert married chemist Joseph Edward Mayer and moved to the United States, where he was an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University. Strict rules against nepotism prevented Johns Hopkins University from taking her on as a faculty member, but she was given a job as an assistant and published a landmark paper on double beta decay in 1935. In 1937, she moved to Columbia University, where she took an unpaid position. During World War II, she worked for the Manhattan Project at Columbia on isotope separation, and with Edward Teller at the Los Alamos Laboratory on the development of thermonuclear weapons. After the war, Goeppert Mayer became a voluntary associate professor of physics at the University of Chicago (where her husband and Teller worked) and a senior physicist at the university-run Argonne National Laboratory. She developed a mathematical model for the structure of nuclear shells, for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963, which she shared with J. Hans D. Jensen and Eugene Wigner. In 1960, she was appointed full professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego.

Photo of Otto Stern

4. Otto Stern (1888 - 1969)

With an HPI of 70.98, Otto Stern is the 4th most famous Polish Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 86 different languages.

Otto Stern was also the pen name of German women's rights activist Louise Otto-Peters (1819–1895). Otto Stern (German pronunciation: [ˈɔto ˈʃtɛʁn] ; 17 February 1888 – 17 August 1969) was a German-American physicist and Nobel laureate in physics. He was the second most nominated physicist for a Nobel Prize, with 82 nominations in the years 1925–1945 (most times nominated is Arnold Sommerfeld with 84 nominations), ultimately winning in 1943.

Photo of Rudolf Clausius

5. Rudolf Clausius (1822 - 1888)

With an HPI of 70.77, Rudolf Clausius is the 5th most famous Polish Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 68 different languages.

Rudolf Julius Emanuel Clausius (German pronunciation: [ˈʁuːdɔlf ˈklaʊ̯zi̯ʊs]; 2 January 1822 – 24 August 1888) was a German physicist and mathematician and is considered one of the central founding fathers of the science of thermodynamics. By his restatement of Sadi Carnot's principle known as the Carnot cycle, he gave the theory of heat a truer and sounder basis. His most important paper, "On the Moving Force of Heat", published in 1850, first stated the basic ideas of the second law of thermodynamics. In 1865 he introduced the concept of entropy. In 1870 he introduced the virial theorem, which applied to heat.

Photo of Albert A. Michelson

6. Albert A. Michelson (1852 - 1931)

With an HPI of 69.63, Albert A. Michelson is the 6th most famous Polish Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 92 different languages.

Albert Abraham Michelson FFRS FRSE (surname pronunciation anglicized as "Michael-son", December 19, 1852 – May 9, 1931) was a Prussian-born American physicist of Jewish descent, known for his work on measuring the speed of light and especially for the Michelson–Morley experiment. In 1907 he received the Nobel Prize in Physics, becoming the first American to win the Nobel Prize in a science. He was the founder and the first head of the physics departments of Case School of Applied Science (now Case Western Reserve University) and the University of Chicago.

Photo of Isidor Isaac Rabi

7. Isidor Isaac Rabi (1898 - 1988)

With an HPI of 67.60, Isidor Isaac Rabi is the 7th most famous Polish Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 78 different languages.

Isidor Isaac Rabi (; born Israel Isaac Rabi, July 29, 1898 – January 11, 1988) was an American physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1944 for his discovery of nuclear magnetic resonance, which is used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). He was also one of the first scientists in the United States to work on the cavity magnetron, which is used in microwave radar and microwave ovens. Born into a traditional Polish-Jewish family in Rymanów, Galicia, Rabi came to the United States as an infant and was raised in New York's Lower East Side. He entered Cornell University as an electrical engineering student in 1916, but soon switched to chemistry. Later, he became interested in physics. He continued his studies at Columbia University, where he was awarded his doctorate for a thesis on the magnetic susceptibility of certain crystals. In 1927, he headed for Europe, where he met and worked with many of the finest physicists of the time. In 1929, Rabi returned to the United States, where Columbia offered him a faculty position. In collaboration with Gregory Breit, he developed the Breit–Rabi equation and predicted that the Stern–Gerlach experiment could be modified to confirm the properties of the atomic nucleus. His techniques for using nuclear magnetic resonance to discern the magnetic moment and nuclear spin of atoms earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1944. Nuclear magnetic resonance became an important tool for nuclear physics and chemistry, and the subsequent development of magnetic resonance imaging from it has also made it important to the field of medicine. During World War II he worked on radar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Radiation Laboratory (RadLab) and on the Manhattan Project. After the war, he served on the General Advisory Committee (GAC) of the Atomic Energy Commission, and was chairman from 1952 to 1956. He also served on the Science Advisory Committees (SACs) of the Office of Defense Mobilization and the Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory, and was Science Advisor to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was involved with the establishment of the Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1946, and later, as United States delegate to UNESCO, with the creation of CERN in 1952. When Columbia created the rank of university professor in 1964, Rabi was the first to receive that position. A special chair was named after him in 1985. He retired from teaching in 1967, but remained active in the department and held the title of University Professor Emeritus and Special Lecturer until his death.

Photo of Joseph Rotblat

8. Joseph Rotblat (1908 - 2005)

With an HPI of 65.57, Joseph Rotblat is the 8th most famous Polish Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 59 different languages.

Sir Joseph Rotblat (4 November 1908 – 31 August 2005) was a Polish and British physicist. During World War II he worked on Tube Alloys and the Manhattan Project, but left the Los Alamos Laboratory on grounds of conscience after it became clear to him in 1944 that Germany had ceased development of an atomic bomb. His work on nuclear fallout was a major contribution toward the ratification of the 1963 Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. A signatory of the 1955 Russell–Einstein Manifesto, he was secretary-general of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs from their founding until 1973 and shared, with the Pugwash Conferences, the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize "for efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international affairs and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms."

Photo of Klaus von Klitzing

9. Klaus von Klitzing (b. 1943)

With an HPI of 64.86, Klaus von Klitzing is the 9th most famous Polish Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 68 different languages.

Klaus von Klitzing (German: [klaʊ̯s fɔn ˈklɪ.t͡sɪŋ] , born 28 June 1943, Schroda) is a German physicist, known for discovery of the integer quantum Hall effect, for which he was awarded the 1985 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Photo of Leopold Infeld

10. Leopold Infeld (1898 - 1968)

With an HPI of 58.31, Leopold Infeld is the 10th most famous Polish Physicist.  His biography has been translated into 28 different languages.

Leopold Infeld (20 August 1898 – 15 January 1968) was a Polish physicist who worked mainly in Poland and Canada (1938–1950). He was a Rockefeller fellow at Cambridge University (1933–1934) and a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences.


Pantheon has 17 people classified as Polish physicists born between 1686 and 1943. Of these 17, 2 (11.76%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living Polish physicists include Klaus von Klitzing, and Hagen Kleinert. The most famous deceased Polish physicists include Marie Curie, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, and Maria Goeppert Mayer.

Living Polish Physicists

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Deceased Polish Physicists

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Overlapping Lives

Which Physicists were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 14 most globally memorable Physicists since 1700.