Brief Biographies of 15 Famous Scientists
- Leonardo Da Vinci
- Sir Isaac Newton
- Michael Faraday
- Charles Darwin
- John Dalton
- Alfred Nobel
- Thomas Alva Edison
- Prof. Albert Einstein
- Sir Alexander Fleming
- Srinivasa Ramanujan
- Prof. C.V. Raman
- Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha
- Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
- Prof. Stephen Hawking
To read about the lives of great people is always motivating and inspiring. If these great people are scientists then our interest is even multiplied many times.
The lives of great people whether they are scientists, artists, writers or others… are truly venerable. They are different and set an example for posterity. Truly, these people are the source of inspiration for the generations to come.
In writing this small book, I am humbly attempting is to highlight the lives and works of the great scientists. I have deliberately chosen those scientists who succeeded in making a discernible impact on the development of modern science.
I am grateful to Mrs. Joan Winstanley who read the manuscript and made valuable corrections for the improvement of the book.
I hope the book will be able to win the hearts of the readers. All suggestions and criticisms are welcome from the readers of this book.
Dear Readers, if you like this book then you can buy it from www.amazon.com, or you can contact at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the book directly.
Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)
Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian man of unlimited talents and was often called “the ten in one” as he excelled in ten different creative skills. He was a painter, draughtsman, sculptor, architect, mathematician, philosopher and engineer. He was a leading engineer of his time and designed bridges, canals, forts, machines and buildings of the highest quality. Moreover, though he had not studied military science, he made unique designs of lethal weaponries which consolidated the strength of the army.
When Leonardo saw birds flying through the air an idea flashed into his mind that eventually led him to design flying machines. Leonardo kept notebooks in which he wrote down his innovative ideas and drew sketches. There is a large collection of Leonardo’s notebooks in the museum in Italy which provide valuable information about his works and ideas. In those notebooks Leonardo made extremely beautiful sketches which sometimes give the impression of real photographs.
As a young boy Leonardo showed an early talent for art. He started drawing pictures with pen and pencil that amazed his father who proudly showed his son’s work to his friends who praised Leonardo’s exceptional drawing skill.
Thus, Leonardo began receiving accolades for his works in his early teenage years. He continued drawing and painting a variety of subjects with such precision that everyone recognised him as a genius. The volume and quality of his pictures were extremely high and of great value, and the art critics of the day vociferously praised his extraordinary ability, Leonardo was becoming known world wide as an artist. Unlike other painters Leonardo took an interest in the drawing of machines, buildings, bridges, canals etc.
Leonardo had also invented a technique of writing which could not be read by others and it is widely believed that he did this to protect his work from being pirated or copied. He had a very fertile and innovative mind and was always thinking about designing or inventing new things which could make a difference in life. It is said that he never indulged in sports or any sort of time-wasting activities throughout his life, his greatest joy was working on his projects. Leonardo did not come from an aristocratic family, but due to perseverance and hard work he made his own way to success.
Leonardo Da Vinci was born on 15 April 1452 at Anchiano Italy. He was an illegitimate child of Mr. Ser Piero and Catarina. Mr. Ser Piero did not marry Catarina because she was from a farmer’s family. Leonardo spent his early childhood at his birthplace until he moved to Vinci. Vinci was a small town that Leonardo liked very much. Since Ser Piero did not have any children from his first wife, he included Leonardo in his family, but never legitimated.
Ser Piero admitted Leonardo at a school in Vinci. This was the school where Leonardo got elementary schooling. Leonardo began to take interest in mathematics and Latin along with other subjects. His teachers liked Leonardo for his straightforward nature. Young Leonardo would take part in all kinds of creative activities organized by the school, other than sports. He studied in Vinci until 1466.
Leonardo moved to Florence at the age of 14. By this time he had already started paintings with utmost seriousness. His father was tremendously impressed by seeing Leonardo’s unique ability of expression through outstanding combination of colors and imagination. Ser Piero showed Leonardo’s paintings to a number of people who praised the boy and also congratulated Ser Piero on having such a talented son.
In Florence Leonardo took paintings quite seriously. There lived Andrea del Verrocchio, who was then a noted painter of Italy. He was a very popular name in Florence. When Verrocchio saw Leonardo’s paintings, he immediately liked his paintings. Leonardo was extremely delighted when Verrocchio appreciated his paintings. Later, Verrocchio appointed Leonardo as an apprentice in his workshop. It is said that it was Verrocchio whose multidimensional life inspired Leonardo to switch on other subjects. Verrocchio was not only a distinguished painter; he was a sculptor, goldsmith, and bronze caster.
Leonardo was inadequately paid, but he liked to work at Verrocchio’s workshop. Leonardo saw Verrocchio a man of extraordinary talent. He could learn lots of things working with Verrocchio. While still painting in the workshop, Leonardo made himself free from conventional style of paintings. He worked on applying new tricks and techniques for paintings. Leonardo made a composition of paint with oils and soon became well-versed in this art. We can see in most of early paintings of Leonardo he had used oil which reflected his genius. All in all his paintings were the excellent combination of color, brush and imagination. The early paintings of Leonardo are dated back 5th of August 1473. A painting of this time can be seen in which Leonardo had used pen and ink for drawing a valley from which a river is meandering through.
When Leonardo was still working at Verrocchio’s workshop, a special order came from the monks of san Salvi. It was to paint the ‘Baptism of Christ’. This was a major order therefore Verrocchio painted most part of the work with utmost care. He left little work to be done by Leonardo. Leonardo had to draw an angel who was holding some garments. When the whole paining was done, the part of the painting Leonardo had done looked much better and well-finished than his master Verrocchio’s.
Like a true master Verrocchio always encouraged and helped his pupils and had already foreseen the great artist within Leonardo, due to which Verrocchio was receiving more orders and his workshop becoming more famous in Florence. During this time with Verrocchio Leonardo had already carved a niche for himself as a hugely gifted artist and in 1476, at the age of 24, he opened his own workshop and began painting in earnest. Over the years Leonardo had developed his own technique of using colours which he later named “chiaroscuro”. This was a daring technique of bold contrast between light and dark. His hard work was worthwhile as he became famous as a great artist and also there was monetary gain.
Leonardo was not content to be confined within the periphery of paint and brush. He was also taking a serious interest in the field of machines and various equipments used for a variety of purposes. Around this time, to his great dismay, he was accused of having a homosexual relationship with Jacopo Saltarelli. An anonymous accuser lodged a complaint on 8th April 1476. This caused alarm and consternation among Leonardo’s friends and well-wishers. Leonardo strongly refuted the allegation. People tended to believe the allegation against Leonardo because Jacopo Saltarelli was already notorious in society as a homosexual. But, as it could not be proved whether Leonardo was a homosexual or not, the charge was dropped.
Leonardo went on to join the service of Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander V1, in Florence. He was acting as a military architect and engineer and traveled with Cesare Borgia throughout Italy and became familiar with war machines and construction. In 1506 Leonardo lived in Rome for about 3 years where he came into close contact with artists such as Raphael, Michaelangelo and others. Leonardo was always very generous and helpful to any who sought his help and those who knew him well boasted of his generosity. He was a thorough gentleman with a very friendly nature and a great sense of humour and a popular character.
Apart from painting Leonardo took a great interest in making several designs of machines which could be used for different purposes in peace or war. His designs of buildings, bridges, canals and machines were matchless, and sometimes it is hard to believe that a man trained as a painter could make or even imagine such mechanical things which required a different mind set.
Leonardo lived in Milan for about 17 years and worked in the service of Duke Ludovico, It was always a great advantage to have rich sponsors such as Duke Ludovico supporting you. During this time he painted pictures of the highest quality, made some famous drawings, worked as a sculptor and also worked on mechanical engineering. While working in Milan from 1482 – 1499 Leonardo made several famous paintings and sculptures, two of the world famous paintings were “The Last Supper” (1498) and “Virgin of the Rocks” (1494). Apart from painting and sculpture he continued to write in his notebooks about his mechanical inventions and described how they functioned in the minutest detail..
It so happened with Leonardo that many times he would leave projects unfinished. In 1499 for example he was in Milan and began a very ambitious project, a 24 foot tall bronze statue of a horse called “Gran Cavallo”. The French invaded Milan in 1499 and left Leonardo high and dry.
Leonardo left Milan and began travelling across the country doing a variety of work on commission. After a great deal of travelling he went to France in 1516. In 1503 Leonardo had started working on the world famous painting of Mona Lisa, for some unknown reason he didn’t finish the painting but carried it with him for years wherever he went. Eventually he finished the painting over a period of about 3 years. It is widely believed that Leonardo had reached the pinnacle of his talent as an artist in the portrait of the Mona Lisa.
When Leonardo began working on the Mona Lisa portrait it was called at that time “La Gioconda”, it was much later that it was named “Mona Lisa”. When it was eventually completed it drew the attention of many people including art connoisseurs. Leonardo had used a unique technique of colour combination that lifted the painting above the everyday description “art work “, it was truly a masterpiece. The most enigmatic part of the painting is the Mona Lisa’s smile which still fascinates the thousands of people today who go to see the painting .Also her eyes seem to follow you wherever you stand. Somehow Leonardo has created an air of mystery about her and everyone would like to know what she is thinking .It is believed that Mona Lisa’s painting was Leonardo’s dearest work of art.
At a time when Leonardo was producing breath-taking paintings he was still studying science and engineering. He wrote some 13,000 pages in his notebooks where he explained the complexities of scientific methods, and the supremely skilled drawings in those notebooks are incomparable. He took science and engineering as seriously as his art and would study scientific theories with the utmost seriousness. Leonardo would make many exact drawings in his notebooks to make things easier to visualize, and therefore easier, to understand .In fact Leonardo’s contribution to science and engineering is immense, and yet many of his contemporary scholars and scientists dismissed him out of hand; the chief reasons being that Leonardo was not highly educated and his knowledge of Latin and mathematics was weak. Both these subjects were considered essential if you wished to work in the fields of science or engineering in those days, and also in the present…
Leonardo is acknowledged as the first artist to produce detailed anatomical drawings. It was around 1490 that he produced a study in his sketchbook of the “rule of proportions” as described in recently rediscovered writings. Leonardo’s study “The Vitruvian Man” is one of his most famous works.
Leonardo was allowed to dissect corpses at the hospital of Santa Maria Nuovo in Florence; he worked with Doctor Marcantonio della Torre and dissected many male and female corpses of different ages. Body dissection enabled Leonardo to see and understand the various hidden parts of the body such as bones, muscles, ligaments etc., and how they worked. Leonardo worked with Doctor della Torre and published a theoretical work on anatomy, he made more than 200 drawings including of the human skeleton and backbone for this book. Due to whatever reasons this book could only be published in 1580, long after Leonardo’s death.
Leonardo made further studies of the inclination of the pelvis and sacrum and declared that the sacrum was not a single bone but composed of five vertabrae. He is also credited for presenting the beautiful drawing of a human skull and the cross-sections of the brain (transversal, sagittal and frontal ). He took extreme care when drawing the images of lungs, mesentery, urinary tract, sexual organs and coitus. Leonardo is also credited to have drawn for the first time the images of the foetus in the womb. Moreover he was also studying in detail about pregnancy and childbirth. All in all Leonardo was the master of human anatomy.
Leonardo did not only study the structure of the human body but also how it functioned, so he was not only an anatomist but also a physiologist .He drew a clear picture of the heart and how its valves controlled the flow of blood, it is said that by looking at the image of the heart drawn by Leonardo a British heart surgeon found a new way to repair damaged hearts in 2005. His study of human anatomy later inspired Leonardo to design a robot and he drew its picture in 1495.
In the latter half of his life Leonardo took an interest in making flying machines, this idea was instigated by him watching birds flying; he made a serious study of them and made detailed notes and many diagrams. He also made a comprehensive study in order to build a helicopter, but when the helicopter was built it could not fly as due to its heavy body weight it was unable to lift off the ground. But later experiments helped Leonardo to build a glider which flew in the sky like a bird. Leonardo was a man ahead of his time, and although others may have thought him crazy to build such machines, his unique ideas were feasible, and he was the forerunner of the modern aeroplanes and helicopters we have today.
Encouraged by his success with the flying glider Leonardo designed an armoured tank in 1502. Leonardo’s notebooks contain several well-depicted designs for different warfare machines and weapons such as the machine gun, the armoured tank, submarines, cluster bombs etc. Moreover he designed a 200 metre long bridge for Sultan Beyazil the Second of Constantinople. Though this bridge wasn’t built at this time, about 500 years later in 2001 a small bridge based on Leonardo’s design was constructed in Norway. He also planned to create solar power for use in industry by using concave mirrors. There is no doubt that if all Leonardo’s designs had been made successfully the world would have an entirely different appearance today.
Leonardo’s notebooks can be divided into four main themes: architecture, machines, human anatomy and art. His study of these subjects was enormous but it is a mystery why Leonardo kept his notebooks secret. He never sought to publish them in his lifetime. His major works contained in several notebooks remained a secret until his death. Interestingly Leonardo used mirror writing throughout his life as a secret sort of code that no-one else could decipher.
In 2005 researchers discovered a private laboratory in Florence that was regularly used by Leonardo, and it is thought that Leonardo studied flight and other scientific subjects here. A glider made using Leonardo’s design was actually tested in this laboratory before he made his final glider design.
Many people think that Leonardo moved from painting to the scientific study of the human anatomy and machines, but the truth is that Leonardo had always been very fascinated by machines and how they performed there different functions since he was a young boy.It was in his nature that after he had made a proper study of various machines he would either improve them, or make a drastic change in their shape, size and function.
Leonardo da Vinci, a man of ingenious qualities, died at Clos Luce, France on 2nd May 1519, at the age of 67. It was his wish that his casket should be followed on the journey to its burial place by 60 beggars. He was buried in the chapel of Saint Hubert in the castle of Amboise.
It has been more than five hundred years since Leonardo died and we have never seen another person who possessed such genius.
GALILEO GALILEI (1564 –1642)
GALILEO is regarded as one of the most ingenious and creative scientists ever born. Galileo holds a distinct place in science. He is renowned for his extraordinary contribution to astronomy, mathematics, and physiology. In brief, Galileo was a born scientist and an inquisitive explorer of science.
At the age of only 19, he discovered the principle of isochronisms. He found that each oscillation of a pendulum takes the same time despite changes in amplitude. This principle of isochronisms firmly established his name as a budding scientist in Italy.
He later developed the idea of hydrostatic balance. He continued his experiments in all sorts of odd conditions and achieved a stellar position in the field of science.
Many times Galileo faced bitter opposition from his fellow scientists and government officials. The clergies and government officials were never ready to accept anything, which went against the familiar established concepts.
Due to constant experiments of the gravity of falling bodies, Galileo discovered that bodies do not fall with velocities proportional to their weights. This discovery put Galileo in the pool of controversy, because his law of falling bodies directly contradicted the teachings of Aristotle! He was ostracized for propagating his law of falling bodies, even though he was right. Galileo was asked to renounce his belief, but he refused to give in as he was convinced of the truth of his theory. As a scientist, Galileo was in a league of his own.
Galileo’s new experiments of stars and planets had revealed astonishing facts. Galileo found that earth is not the epicentre of the universe as had been believed before. He said that the sun does not move around the earth, but it is the earth that moves around the sun. This explanation of Galileo was against the religious convictions of that time. According to the prevailing belief the earth was the epicentre of the universe and all planets, including the sun, move around the earth.
Galileo was forcefully asked to renounce his principle outright. When Galileo refused to change his stand, it was ordered that he be imprisoned.
In his old days, Galileo became virtually blind, in spite of his blindness he did not give up his quest for science and truth. Dejected and lonely, Galileo was largely assisted by one of his dear students. Galileo and his scientific thoughts were far ahead of his time—this was the reason why he was largely misunderstood.
Galileo lived a hard life. In spite of much hardship in his life and strenuous opposition and conflict from the clergy, he managed to write many outstanding books of great value. His last book was “Dialogue Concerning the Two chief World systems” published in 1632. This book made an immense contribution in opening up new avenues in the field of science. In a nutshell Galileo was the first scientist whose works truly brought revolution in the study of modern science.
GALILEO, the eldest son of Vincenzo Galilei, was born on February 15, 1564 in Pisa, a great city of Italy. He was born into a middle class family. His father was a respected musician and his earnings were modest. Galileo was clever, and a much loved child of his parents. His father desperately wanted to see his son become a doctor. Mr. Galileo himself had wanted to be a doctor but his parents could not afford to send him to a medical college, so Mr. Galileo had to give gave up the idea of becoming a doctor once and for all. So what if he could not become a doctor! Now Mr. Galileo wanted to fulfill his unfulfilled desire by making his son a doctor.
Galileo’s father began to instill the idea of becoming a doctor into impressionable the tiny brain of Galileo, when he was merely 3-year-old. His father was very delighted when young Galileo would nod his head in approval about becoming a doctor in the future. But as time flew by, the antithesis of his father’s ambition happened became Galileo began to take an interest in math and science and that annoyed his father very much.
Galileo’s early education began at the Monastery School, Vallombrosa, near Florence. After some years, he was sent to University of Pisa, where he matriculated in 1581 and began to study medicine. From the beginning Galileo was a brilliant student. His friends always admired Galileo for his in-depth knowledge of maths and science. But his father was very worried as his son was not showing much interest in the study of medicine.
Eventually, young Galileo decided to give up the study of medicine and took up science and mathematics as his major subjects in the university. Galileo’s decision not to study medicine was great disappointment to his father, and Vincenzo showed his resentment by stopping sending money to Galileo. Galileo did not argue, instead he endured the hardships silently. He knew he had offended his father by dropping the idea of studying medicine. But Galileo was prepared to endure anything, even the anger of his father, to follow his love of maths.
Galileo took a profound interest in math and science. His strong liking for maths and science made him an ambitious young man with a mission. He involved himself in intense study; most of his time would be spent in reading and analyzing various scientific theories popular in those days. It was Galileo’s nature that he would never accept any theory or principle unless he himself tested their authenticity. Due to his utmost dedication to math and science, Galileo began to attract his teachers’ attention, but at the same time he was lagging behind in other subjects. About this time Galileo decided to leave the university without sitting for a degree. This decision of Galileo’s took everyone by surprise. Later Galileo said that he only took that decision because he wanted to give more time to physics, maths, and experiments. Galileo left the university in 1585 and kept himself busy in the study of maths, science, and making some serious experiments.
Around this time, he took up Aristotelian philosophy and began a serious study. Galileo spent several years in Florence and Siena where he made several scientific experiments. During a series of experiments he designed a kind of hydrostatic balance for weighing small quantities. At this time he also wrote a small book ‘La Bilancetta’ (The Little Balance).
Galileo got into a serious study of ‘Motion’ and conducted several experiments for over two decades. Although Galileo’s first attempt to get the chair of mathematics at the University of Bologna was harshly turned down, his reputation as a serious mathematician of high standard was continuously rising. Due to a special recommendation from a renowned academy Galileo was invited by the Florentine Academy (FA) to present two lectures. The Florentine Academy was famous at that time in Italy for its literary and scientific activities. By delivering powerful and convincing lectures, Galileo left a profound impression on the mind of many scientists and scholars. As a result, Galileo received many accolades from all quarter.
Galileo carried out a series of experiments and finally developed some brilliant theorems about the study of the Center of Gravity (CoG). This was then judged to be the ground-breaking work of Galileo. He was lavishly praised by the large community of scientists and mathematicians around the world. Due to the rising popularity of Galileo, he was offered the chair of mathematics at the University of Pisa in 1589. After joining Pisa University he demonstrated the very controversial experiment of falling objects. He carried two objects of different weight on to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and dropped them at the same time and proved that the gravitational force does not work in proportion to weight. He proved that heavy objects do not fall faster than the lighter objects. This explanation was contradictory to the previously accepted idea that heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects.
Galileo’s new discovery of the law of falling bodies came under heated discussion and, as a result, he had to leave the University of Pisa in 1592. But soon Galileo was able to find a post at the University of Padua, where he taught from 1592 until 1610.
Most of Galileo’s discoveries and inventions instantly caused direct controversy. On several occasions Galileo had to defend his discoveries and principles with the help of scientific and philosophical explanations, but Galileo found himself at a dead end when even the scientists and top scholars of his country could not grasp his explanations. To the credit of Galileo he always endured bitter challenges and criticism patiently, but never ceased his experiments no matter how much he had been opposed.
After joining Padua University, he took keen interest in the study of the stars and their movement. Until that time it was strongly believed that earth is the epicenter of the universe, and the moon, stars, sun, etc. moved around the earth. But in the absence of powerful lenses, no observation of the stars was possible. Galileo wanted to observe the movement of stars, the sun, and the earth but he was unable to make his study possible without magnifying lenses.
One early morning when Galileo was having his breakfast, one of his senior students informed him that someone had made magnifying lenses in Holland, which could make the object many times larger than its original size. This was extremely good news for Galileo. He decided at once to get down to making some powerful lenses so that he could use them to meet his purposes. After months of strenuous experiments, Galileo succeeded in developing powerful lenses. He placed those lenses at different distances and experimented a number of times, after several attempts he learnt to adjust the lenses to magnify the objects. Galileo then placed the lenses in a proper order and made the first telescope in the world.
But Galileo’s first telescope was not powerful enough to have a clear view of the stars and planets. Galileo continued his experiments until he developed a highly sophisticated model of a telescope. The new telescope was better equipped and more powerful than previous one. It could magnify objects by twenty times larger than their original size. The latest discovery of the telescope made Galileo immensely popular all over the world. Now he could have a clear picture of the moon and several other stars in the sky. It had never been possible before the telescope to have a clear view of the stars and planets. Thanks to Galileo, his invention of the telescope made the seemingly impossible thing possible. Galileo invited several scientists and high-ranking officials to have a look at the stars and the moon and their movements. The invention of the telescope made Galileo one of the most reputable scientists in the world.
With the help of the telescope Galileo began to observe every small movement of the stars and planets. While observing the movement of Jupiter Galileo found that Jupiter was surrounded by four tiny points of light. He also found that each day every light moved to a different position, but those lights were always around Jupiter. This opened up new ideas in the study of the planets and the stars.
Early scientists had observed some black spots on the sun. Different scientists had different opinions about these black spots, but none of them were sure about them. The majority of scientists believed that they could be some small planets traveling between the earth and the sun. Now Galileo was curious to observe these black spots on the sun. One fine morning Galileo aimed his telescope pointing upward and looked at the sun with his naked eyes. Alas, the strong rays of sunlight struck Galileo’s eyes severely and damaged them badly, so bad was its effect that Galileo had lost his eyesight by the time he reached old age.
This accident made Galileo find a new way to study the sun by projecting its image on to a white piece of paper, now Galileo able to keep a record of these black spots on the sun. After many days of constant observation, Galileo found out that those black spots on the sun were moving each day. On the basis of this observation Galileo summarized that the sun actually spins on an axis! He further noted that the sun turns a full circle once every 27 days!
The religious group in Italy called “The Inquisition” summoned Galileo and forced him to renounce his discovery that professed earth is not the epicenter of the universe and that it moves around the sun.
Now we know how correct Galileo was even 400 years ago! It would not be an exaggeration to we say that Galileo was hundred of years ahead of the people of his time. With the help of black spots on the sun he discovered the movement of the sun on its axis.
It was in Galileo’s nature never to believe in anything without testing the facts. Because of this habit he proved several laws and principles were merely based on hypothetical grounds.
Galileo passed away at the age of 78 in 1642 and left behind a scientific legacy which still enriches the world of science.
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ABOUT THE BLOGGER
LB Thapa is a travel blogger. He is also the author of six books. His books have been published by Nirala Publications, New Delhi, India and Himalayan Maphouse, Kathmandu, Nepal. His book, POKHARA AND ANNAPURNAS has been translated into seven foreign languages. LB Thapa’s books are also available on www.amazon.com
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