Who are the Scientists in the Museum of Science Lobby?

by Johnny Monsarrat

I grew up about an hour’s drive from Boston and didn’t visit it much until I came here for college. As a kid, I can only remember one trip into the big city, to visit the Museum of Science, Boston.

I’m sure you’ve been there, because it’s one of Boston’s most important landmarks and one of the best science museums in the world, fueled in part by nearby MIT and Harvard. Their amazing lobby is three stories tall, and has the names of great scientists on the walls. You can see them in the left border of this photo. Who are they? I’ve always wondered. So I took some photos, did some research, and even discovered a spelling mistake (missing letter, must have fallen) in the names!

How did they choose these scientists? What about non-Europeans? More women? How would this list change today?

If you wanted to fill in that dead gap in the Dark Ages, I propose Alhazen, otherwise known as Ibn al-Haytham, who lived in Iraq and Egypt around the year 1010 and invented optics and wrote laws of motions including inertia and gravity, predating Newton! He has been called the first scientist for adapting the Ancient Greek techniques of studying nature, which were mostly thought experiments, and doing real experiments in the real world.

Scientist Lived Known For
Hippocrates 460-370BC father of western medicine
Aristotle 384-322BC father of western philosophy, physics, ethics, logic
Euclid 323-283BC father of geometry
Archimedes 287-212BC greatest mathematician of antiquity, mechanical inventor
Galen 129-200 most accomplished of all medical researchers of antiquity: anatomy
Ptolemy 90-168 mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, optics
Copernicus 1473-1543 heliocentric model of the universe
Vesalius 1514-1564 founder of modern human anatomy
Galileo 1564-1642 father of modern astronomy, physics, science: telescope, gravity
Kepler 1571-1630 laws of planetary motion
Harvey 1578-1657 first to describe circulatory system
Boyle 1627-1691 first modern chemist. Pressure vs. volume of gas.
Newton 1642-1727 laws of motion & gravity, telescope, optics, calculus
Linnaeus 1707-1778 father of modern taxonomy, ecology
Lavoisier 1743-1794 father of chemistry: element list, metric system, conservation of mass
Laplace 1749-1827 mathematical astronomy & statistics, mathematical physics, black holes
Dalton 1766-1844 modern atomic theory, color blindness
Cuvier 1769-1832 naturalist and zoologist
Faraday 1791-1867 electromagnetism and electrochemistry
Lyell 1797-1875 foremost geologist of his day, age of the Earth
Agassiz 1807-1873 Earth’s natural history, botany
Darwin 1809-1882 Discovered evolution
Helmholtz 1821-1894 vision, electrodynamics, thermodynamics
Pasteur 1822-1895 germ theory of disease, vaccination, pasteurization
Mendel 1822-1884 genetics
Maxwell 1831-1879 unified theory of electromagnetism, statistical mechanics
Gibbs 1839-1903 thermodynamics, statistical mechanics
Pavlov 1849-1936 physiology, “conditioned reflex”
Marie Curie 1867-1934 radioactivity
Rutherford 1871-1937 father of nuclear physics. greatest experimentalist since Faraday
Einstein 1879-1955 general & special theories of relativity, quantum physics
Bohr 1885-1962 atomic structure and quantum theory