Abbe, Ernst

German researcher Ernst Abbe (1840-1905) is considered one of the first optical engineers (people who create instruments that enhance sight). Abbe's work designing microscopes and lens systems set new standards for the development of scientific optical instruments.

Barnard, Christiaan N

Robert K. Jarvik's experiments with artificial heart transplants followed Christiaan Barnard's (1922-) pioneering work in human heart transplantation.

Behring, Emil von

Emil von Behring (1854-1917) made major contributions to the understanding of the body's immune (biological defense) system, discovered the first successful treatment for tetanus (a dangerous infectious disease caused by bacteria that enters through a wound or opening in the skin), and came to be known as the "Children's Savior" for his success in conquering diphtheria. Behring was born in Hansdorf, Germany, into a family of 12 children.

Bourgeois, Louyse

Louyse Bourgeois (1563-1636) was the most famous midwife (a person, historically female, who helps other women give birth) of her time. As one of the first educated and medically trained midwives, she raised her profession to a new level of competence and promoted the spread of that competence through her widely read books recounting her observations and experiences.

Bragg, William Henry & William Lawrence

The team of William Henry (1862-1942; president of the Royal Society; knighted in 1920) and William Lawrence Bragg (1890-1971; knighted in 1941) is one of the most scientifically productive in history. The duo succeeded in constructing the first X-ray spectroscope (an optical instrument that breaks up light from any source into a spectrum for study), establishing the science of X-ray crystallography.

Chain, Ernst Boris

Ernst Boris Chain (1906-1979) was one of three men (Australian biochemist Howard Walter Florey and Scottish chemist Alexander Fleming completed the trio) who discovered and developed the first antibiotic, penicillin. Chain's parents were Russian Jews who had emigrated to Berlin, Germany.

Coolidge, William David

William Coolidge (1873-1975) was born in Hudson, Massachusetts, the son of a fanner and a dressmaker. As a youth, he worked in a shoe factory to help support his family.

Crick, Francis Harry Compton

Francis Harry Compton Crick (1916-) worked closely with James Dewey Watson (1928-) to work out the structure of the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) molecule. This research was very important because it showed that DNA was the true carrier of genetic instructions in cells.

Curie, Marie

Marie Curie's (1867-1934) amazing persistence in the face of many research obstacles is enough to commend her to historical fame. Her contribution to the field of medicine is overshadowed by her initial discovery of two radioactive elements, polonium and radium.

Davy, Humphry

Humphry Davy (1778-1829) grew up poor, helping his mother pay off debts left by his father, a woodcarver who had lost his earnings in speculative investments. Davy's education was not outstanding, since he could not afford to go to very good schools.

Ehrlich, Paul

Through his comprehensive study of the effects of chemicals in the human body, Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915) fathered the fields of chemotherapy (the treatment of disease with chemical agents) and hematology (the study of blood). He also made important contributions to the understanding of immunity and discovered Salvarsan, the first effective treatment for syphilis.

Eijkman, Christiaan

Christiaan Eijkman (1858-1930) discovered that not all diseases were caused by microorganisms like bacteria and viruses, but that some were due to dietary deficiencies, particularly deficiencies of certain vitamins. Born in the Netherlands in 1858, Eijkman received his medical degree from the University of Amsterdam in 1883, then went to Germany to study under the famous bacteriologist, Heinrich Robert Koch (1843-1910).

Enders, John Franklin

John Franklin Enders (1897-1985) was born in Connecticut and graduated from Yale University in 1920. After beginning a career as a real estate agent, Enders decided that business was not for him.

Fleming, Sir Alexander

Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) was one of three men who discovered and developed the first antibiotic, penicillin. Fleming was born on a farm in Scotland and worked in a shipping company as a youth.

Florey, Sir Howard Walter

Howard Walter Florey (1898-1968) was one of two men who developed penicillin, the first antibiotic. Florey was born in Australia and attended the University of Adelaide before winning a Rhodes Scholarship to study Florey (second from right) shared the 1945 Nobel Prize in medicine with Alexander Fleming and Ernst Boris Chain.


Galen (circa A.D. 130-200), the last and most influential of the great ancient medical practitioners, was born in Pergamum in Asia Minor.

Haller, (Victor) Albrecht von

Albrecht von Haller (1708-1777) was one of the great heroic figures of early biology. He is considered the father of neurology, the study of the nervous system.

Harvey, William

William Harvey (1578-1657), the father of modern physiology, was the first researcher to discovery the circulation of blood through the body. Although we take this knowledge for granted, until Harvey's time, people were not aware that the blood travels through the body and is pumped through its course by the heart.


Greek physician Hippocrates of Cos (circa 460-377 B.C.) is often called the "father of medicine". His contributions to medicine include detailed observations of disease and its effects, and an understanding of how health is often influenced by diet, breakdowns in bodily processes, and the environment.

Hopkins, Frederick Gowland

Frederick Gowland Hopkins (1861-1947) is credited with the discovery of vitamins and their function in the diet. Thanks to his research, we now understand the importance of these substances in promoting health and preventing disease.

Jenner, Edward

Edward Jenner (1749-1823) was a pioneer in the study of viruses and immunization against diseases. His work has been built upon by many successors who have discovered new vaccinations to reduce suffering and death, particularly for children.

Kitasato, Shibasaburo

Bacteriologist Shibasaburo Kitasato (1852-1931) made several important contributions to the understanding of human disease and how the body fights off infection. He also discovered the bacterium that causes bubonic plague.

Koch, Heinrich Hermann Robert

Heinrich Hermann Robert Koch's (1843-1910) research helped prove French researcher Louis Pasteur's (1822-1895) theory that germs, or small microorganisms, caused diseases. Koch also worked diligently to find the causes of diseases such as cholera (a severe intestinal disease) and tuberculosis (an infectious disease of the lungs).

Larrey, Dominique-Jean

Dominique-Jean Larrey (1766-1842) was instrumental in improving conditions for wounded soldiers during wartime. He perfected better amputation techniques and invented the ambulance as a way to reduce casualties by swiftly removing wounded men from the battlefield.

Leeuwenhoek, Antoni van

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) is best remembered as the first person to study bacteria and one-celled animals now known as protozoa. Unlike his contemporaries, Leeuwenhoek did not use the more advanced compound microscope.

Lister, Joseph

Joseph Lister (1827-1912) developed antiseptic surgery, saving innumerable patients from the dreadful pain and death of post-surgical infection by ensuring that surgical wounds were sterile. Lister was born in Upton, Essex, the son of a London wine merchant.

Paré, Ambroise

Ambroise Paré (1510-1590) is widely considered the greatest surgeon of the sixteenth century.

Pasteur, Louis

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) is probably one of the best known nineteenth-century scientists. He is considered the founder of microbiology.

Pincus, Gregory

Endrocrinologist Gregory Pincus (1903-1967) is best known for developing the oral contraceptive, or birth control pill. He also investigated the biochemistry of aging, arthritis, cancer, and the adrenal system's response to stress.

Sabin, Albert Bruce

Albert Sabin (1906-1993) developed the "live" polio vaccine, beating rival Jonas Salk's "killed" virus vaccine. Sabin's vaccine is widely used and has saved many from the paralysis associated with polio.

Salk, Jonas E

Jonas Salk (1914-1995) developed the first safe and effective vaccine for polio, a disease that killed or paralyzed many victims, particularly children.

Sanger, Margaret

Margaret Sanger (1883-1966) was the founder of the birth-control movement in America. She fought long-established attitudes about birth control and provided information to women, both rich and poor, about birth control methods.

Vesalius, Andreas

Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) is widely credited with developing modern anatomical studies. Vesalius was born in Brussels, Belgium, to a family established in medicine for several generations.

Watson, James Dewey

James Watson (1928-) is one of the most famous scientists of the twentieth century. He is recognized as a co-discoverer of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and was a co-recipient of the 1962 Nobel Prize in medicine for his work in genetics.

Zeiss, Carl

Carl Zeiss (1816-1888) was both an inventor and industrialist. Zeiss was born in Germany and educated in medicine, but he soon showed an interest in microscopes.