Important Physicists and Their Insights

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton was an Englishman who lived from 1643-1727, developed theories of gravitation and mechanics, invented differential calculus. He is said to be "the greatest genius of our time" by Lagrange and one of the most influential minds of the last millennium. He wrote [[wiki/Philosophiæ_Naturalis_Principia_Mathematica|Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica which is known to be one of the most influential books in the history of science. In this book, Newton described universal gravitation and his three laws of motion. More indepth
information of his law can be found at Newton's Laws.
"I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." -Isaac Newton

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was one of the smartest men to ever walk the Earth and one of the most influential scientists ever. He is regarded to be a theoretical physicist. He never thought of his achievements as being near to spectacular, as the rest of the world did. According to the Nobel Prize Organization, "Einstein always appeared to have a clear view of the problems of physics and the determination to solve them. He had a strategy of his own and was able to visualize the main stages on the way to his goal. He regarded his major achievements as mere stepping-stones for the next advance." Living from 1879-1955, Einstein was most well known for his contributions to physics, and more specifically the delopepment of Galileo's theories in relativity.
His most notable contribution was the famous equation, E=mc(squared). This is known as the theory of relativity. E stands for energy, which is usually measured in Joules for this equation. m is obviously mass, and c stands for the speed of light which is 186,000 miles per second. From this equation, you can find out the amount of energy any matter has in it.

Einstein spent the last part of his life struggling to find a "theory for everything." He wanted to connect the electromagnetic science with the laws of gravity in one simple theory. He however refused to accept any of the new knowledge about quantum physics and left that out of his equation. He therefore died before completing his goal.
"One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike - and yet it is the most precious thing we have." -Albert Einstein

Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei was born 1564 in Italy and was seen as a major contributor to the sciences of astronomy, physics, and philosophy. He made many advances in physics and is sometimes called the "father of modern physics." His discovery of the 3x magnification of the telescope led to advances in the field of astronomy. In physics, he led the way in the discovery of the basic principle or relativity. The work done by Galileo began the research of many vital concepts used today. His observations and experiments of inertia are the information that Newton based his "Law of Inertia" on.
He performed many experiments to test gravity. He used falling bodies as experiments, testing gravity by dropping different objects that had different masses from different heights and locations. He was the one who proposed that all bodies fell with a uniform acceleration, as long as there was no friction acting on the object (the only place this is true is in a vacuum).
He also did alot of work with pendulums. Read more about Galileo's work with pendulums in the section titled "Momentum".


"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the poing is to discover them." -Galiileo Galilei

Robert Hooke

Robert Hooke, an english natural philosopher, an architect, and polymath, played an important role in scientific revolution.
He is known for his law of elasticity (Hooke's Law), along with the title "the father of microscopy", and for creating the term
"cell" to describe the basic unit of life.


"The truth is, the science of Nature has been already too long made only a work of the brain and the fancy: It is now high time that it should return to the plainness and soundness of observations on material and obvious things." - Robert Hooke

James Prescott Joule

James Prescott Joule, an English physicist, discovered the relationship between heat and mechanical work which led to the Therory of Conservation of Energy and development of the First Law of Thermodynamics. The unit for energy and work, Joule (J), is named after him. He also a pair of laws representing the relationship between heat produced by a current and the energy dependence of an ideal gas to that of pressure, volume, and temperature, better known as Joule's Laws.

"It is evident that an acquaintance with natural laws means no less than an acquaintance with the mind of God therein expressed. " - James Prescott Joule

James Watt

James Watt was a Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer whose improvements on the steam engine led to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution. He began a business in instrument making and was sent a Newcomen steam engine, a type of engine, to repair. While he was repairing the engine he began to think of ways to make the engine more efficient. His idea was to cool the used steam in a separate consender from the main cylinder of the engine. After some struggling to get his idea off of the ground, Watt came across a partner who helped him and his invention take off. He began to improve his engine even more than before allowing the engine to be used on more than one type of machinery. Watt's success was duly noted as the unit for power, or the watt (W), is named after him.

"We don't have to protect the environment, the Second Coming is at hand." - James Watt

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Lise Meitner

Lise Meitner was an Austrian physicist (but later moved to Sweden when she was forced to leave Germany by the Nazis because she was Jewish) and played a large role in discovering nuclear fission with her colleague Otto Hahn. She studied nuclear physics and radioactivity, and when nuclear fission was discovered, her colleague, Otto Hahn, received the Nobel Prize (she should have received it alongside him), neglecting to mention little more than her name in his speech. She was one of the most over-looked, yet important physicists that started out as a shy girl, and made her way up to the brilliant discovery of nuclear fission. Meitner also realized that the discovery of Einstein's equation E=mc^2 explained that the conversion of mass into energy was the source of the enormous releases of energy in atomic decay.

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"Science makes people reach selflessly for truth and objectivity; it teaches people to accept reality, with wonder and admiration, not to mention the deep awe and joy that the natural order of things brings to the true scientist." - Lise Meitner

Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday was an English physicist and chemist that studied electromagnetism and electrochemistry. Faraday started off as an apprentice of a blacksmith, and was given tickets to a lecture of Humphry Davy that changed his career. After taking notes on Davy's lecture in a 300 page book, he presented it to Davy; he was only hired as a secretary after Davy damaged his eyesight in an experiment. Later on, he was appointed to Chemical Assistant at the Royal Institution. His best known discovery was in the field of electricity and magnetism. Building two devices that were known as "electromagnetic rotation," he founded the basis of modern electromagnetic technology. In one of his devices, a chemical battery supplied a current of force that supplied energy to cause a wire extending into a pool of mercury to circle around a magnet (also placed in the mercury). This is known as a homopolar motor.

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"Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature." - Michael Faraday

James Clerk Maxwell

James Clerk Maxwell was a theoretical physicist and mathematician that is best known for his contributions to the field of electromagnetism. He discovered that both electric and magnetic fields move in the form of waves, and travel at the speed of light. He is known for his theory, "A dynamical theory of the electromagnetic field" as well as his model of electromagnetism.

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"The only laws of matter are those that our minds must fabricate and the only laws of mind are fabricated for it by matter." - James Clerk Maxwell

Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes, 1596-1650, had a love for mathematics and understanding concepts ever since he was young. A French Catholic, Descartes found the fundamental force of force of motion which is today called momentum. He discovered that an object's mass times its velocity was equal to the momentum of the object (p=mv). Newton later altered this idea using geometric figures and ratios. Furthermore, Descartes established analytical geometry with his knowledge and his desire to comprehend math and science. He was also a writer, finishing over 15 books including Rules for the Direction of Mind, The World, Meditations on First Philosophy, and Principles of Philosophy.

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Rene Descartes
Rene Descartes


"Each problem that I solved became a rule, which served afterwards to solve other problems." -Rene Descartes