Top 10 Physics Experts Who Redefined Modern-Day Physics
Several physicists have redefined modern physics as we know it today. Some had a huge impact, while others barely made a mark. However, when considering the top 10 physicists of all time, you must consider the quality over the quantity of their contributions. With physics tuition in Singapore, you too can play your part in redefining modern physics in the coming future.
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In this article, we look at the top 10 physics experts who redefined modern physics.
Isaac Newton is arguably one of the most famous physics experts of all time. He is the co-inventor of calculus, a gifted mathematician, and a significant contributor to optical science and more. Born in Lincolnshire in 1643, Newton outlined the laws of mechanics that redefined most of the classical physics principles.
His most acclaimed contribution was when he outlined the principle of gravity and explained how the planets in our solar system revolve around the sun. During his lifetime, Newton was showered with a variety of honours including the presidency of the Royal Society.
Newton gained a reputation as a supreme rationalist, despite most of his papers being about religion and alchemy. Isaac Newton is also famous for:
- The Newton’s three laws of motion which set the foundation from modern mechanics
- The mathematical principles of natural philosophy
- Optics – an inquiry into the nature of light
- Newton’s law of cooling
Newton also contributed to mathematics with the invention of Infinitesimal Calculus, which helped in the study of continuous changes, which he called the Science of Fluxions. He is also known for the Newton-Raphson method, among other inventions such as the perfect coin, the refracting telescope, and the pet door.
Galileo Galilei was an Italian astronomer, physicist, and engineer, who is also regarded as the father of observational astronomy. Born in Pisa, Italy, he was initially trained as a doctor. However, after hearing about the invention of the telescope, in 1609, he built one and started watching the stars, and this was the start of modern astronomy.
With his telescope, he discovered the existence of sunspots and a mountainous pitted surface on the moon. Furthermore, he reiterated that the heavens were incorruptible. Galileo’s studies also provided the structural support of the idea that the earth revolves around the sun, which was against the widespread belief that the sun revolved around the earth.
Unfortunately, his discoveries pitted him against the Catholic church at the time, and he was forced to abandon his studies in 1633. However, his work on falling bodies (gravity) laid the groundwork for Isaac Newton’s subsequent studies and theories.
Other than astronomy, Galileo is also renowned for a variety of discoveries including:
- A refracting telescope of a higher power that enabled him to see the mountains on the moon and the satellites on Jupiter
- The phases of Venus
- The stars of the milky way
- The first pendulum clock
- The leaning tower of Pisa
Galilei’s work and experiments were mind-blowing, and this pitted him against the popular belief and the powerful Catholic church of the time. However, other like-minded physicists and scientists continued his work long after his demise in 1642.
James Clerk Maxwell
James Clerk is virtually unknown by the general public, yet he had significant contributions to modern physics. Born in Edinburgh in 1831, Clerk is attributed with the discovery of the theory of electromagnetism. His studies showed that magnetism, electricity, and light are manifestations of the electromagnetic field.
The invention of the radio, radar, the telephone, and TV were possible due to his studies, experiments, and discoveries. He also carried out extensive work in colour vision and optics. Clerk received a God-fearing upbringing in Scotland, was in dispute with the evolution theory proposed by Charles Darwin, and went on to write many papers on why he denounced the order of natural selection.
With that said, Clerk also made significant contributions in the areas of mathematics, physics, engineering, and astronomy. Much of modern technology was developed from the basic principles outlined in Clerk’s theory of electromagnetism. His revolutionary work led to the development of quantum physics in the early 1900s, as well as providing the groundwork for Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Clerk continued his work at the Cavendish Lab until he was forced to resign due to illness in 1879. He returned to his native Scotland home and died shortly afterward.
Niels Bohr was a Danish physicist who was born in Copenhagen and made foundational contributions to understanding the atomic structure and quantum theory. He experimented and studied the atom and showed that it has a nucleus centre surrounded by electrons.
In his studies, when electrons move from one level of energy to another, they release discrete quanta of energy. For his work, Bohr received a Nobel Prize in physics in 1922. Bohr was one of Einstein’s best friends and contemporaries, and they took part in several conversations concerning physics for decades. Their most notable collaboration was in 1927 at the Solvay Conferences, which are now fondly known as the Bohr-Einstein Debates.
Based on his atomic research, Bohr was hired as a theoretical physics professor in 1916, after which he started pushing for a new institute in his field. In his vision, the institute would allow researchers from all over the world to collaborate with Danish scientists in a state-of-the-art facility.
In 1954, Bohr was part of the team that established Cern, the European particle physics facility. He had a significant influence on his son, who went on to win a Nobel Prize for his research into atomic nuclei.
While the second world war raged, the Americans learnt that Nazi Germany was attempting to build an atomic bomb. Five years later, the US government invited Bohr to work on the Manhattan Project, a top-secret program to develop plutonium- and uranium-based nuclear bombs. He worked alongside US and British scientists in New Mexico under the moniker of Nicholas Baker.
Three grand theories define the general knowledge of the universe, and the first is the work of German-born Einstein. His work revealed that space and time are not immutable but are malleable and fluid-like. He developed general and special theories of relativity and was the recipient of the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect.
He often felt out of place and victimised by the Prussian-style education system that seemed to stifle creativity and originality. After graduating in 1900, Einstein faced many challenges mainly because he studied advanced subjects on his own, and often cut classes. He could not get a job because his professor denied him a recommendation letter.
Einstein then got a job at the Swiss patent office in Bern, where he would quickly finish his analysis of the patent applications and start thinking about the nature of light. He discovered an unknown fact that the speed of light is the same irrespective of how fast you move, and this led him to formulate the principle of relativity.
He published four papers in 1905, which would alter the course of modern physics. In 1940, Einstein took US citizenship and gave the world the most famous equation today, E=mc2, which demonstrates the equivalence of energy and mass. To date, he is the modern equivalent of a genius, and he died a celebrity, despite being told that he would never amount to anything.
Faraday is arguably one of the greatest self-taught physicists of his time thanks to Humphry Davy, who took him on as an assistant in 1813. He established the electromagnetic field and the discovery of electromagnetic induction and the law of electrolysis.
Faraday’s electromagnetic devices are the foundation of modern electric motor technology. He rejected two offers of knighthood and refused to advise on chemical weapons for the Crimean war effort on ethical grounds.
Faraday is attributed to several discoveries and inventions that changed the course of modern life, including:
- The electric motor in 1822
- He discovered Benzene in 1825, which is a crucial element in modern chemistry, and it formed the basis of organic chemistry
- The electromagnetic generator is known as the Faraday disc that converted mechanical energy into electricity
For electrolysis, where he combined his knowledge of electrical science and chemistry. He then devised two laws:
Faraday’s First Law of Electrolysis
The law states that during electrolysis, the amount of deposited substance on the electrode of an electrolytic cell is directly proportional to the quantity of electricity passed through the cell.
Faraday’s Second Law of Electrolysis
Faraday’s second law of electrolysis states that the amount of different elements deposited by a given amount of electricity is in ratio of their chemical equivalent weight.
These laws provided the foundational knowledge of electrolysis and have been taught for hundreds of years. Students today still need to learn them, and Mr. Tan, the best physics tutor in Singapore, will help you understand and how to apply them.
Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Noble Prize and the first person to win two separate Nobel prizes. Curie was born into a working-class home in 1867 and won her first Nobel with her husband, Pierre, in 1903 for discovering radioactivity.
Unfortunately, she was not allowed to participate in the keynote lectures that the winners give because she was a woman. She won her second Noble after the death of Pierre, in a road accident in 1906 for discovering radium, but it was almost rescinded for her alleged affair with a married colleague.
Curie and her sister were denied entry into Polish universities, and she travelled to France and enrolled at Sorbonne in France. She graduated with a degree in Physics in 1894, and a degree in mathematics in 1894.
Curie added to Henri Becquerel’s work, who had earlier on discovered that uranium emits rays. Curie’s experiments showed that the uranium rays were constant irrespective of the uranium’s condition. This was a new area of study, and Curie had to invent a term for it – Radioactivity. Curie’s husband halted his work to help her explore radioactive materials.
She became the first woman lecturer at Sorbonne after taking over her husband’s classes. Her second Nobel Prize was for chemistry for discovering and proving that polonium and radium existed.
Rutherford was born in New Zealand in 1871 and is considered one of the greatest experimental physicists of all time. He discovered the principle of radioactive half-life and proved that radioactivity involved the transformational mutation of one chemical to another.
Rutherford won the 1918 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his investigation into how radioactive elements disintegrate. He later became the director of the Cavendish Lab at Cambridge University. Under his leadership, James Chadwick discovered the neutron in 1932 and the splitting of the nucleus by John Cockroft and Ernst Walton. Rutherfordium was named after him.
Rutherford is a central figure in the history of radioactivity studies for leading the exploration of nuclear physics. In 1895, he was the first research student at the Cavendish Laboratory. Here, he discovered a simpler and more commercial method of detecting radio waves, improving on Heinrich Hertz’s work.
He also worked on the study of the effects of x-rays on the conductivity of gases alongside Professor J.J. Thompson. After this, Rutherford concentrated on ion-producing radiation. Rutherford left Cambridge and became a professor at McGill University. Together with Fredrick Soddy, they introduced the disintegration of radioactivity.
Feynman was born in 1918 and is heralded as one of the most colourful and influential physicists of the 20th century. He played a vital role in the development of quantum electrodynamics, a theory that describes how matter and light interact. This earned him a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965.
He also made significant contributions to the fields of nanotechnology and quantum computing. He was one of the members of the Rogers Commission that criticised Nasa for the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986.
He was a professor in several institutions and was a member of:
- The American Physical Society
- The National Academy of Science
- The American Association for Advancement of Science
- A foreign member of the Royal Society
Other than the Nobel prize, Feynman was awarded the Albert Einstein Award in 1954 from Princeton, the Einstein Award from the Albert Einstein Award College of Medicine, as well as the Lawrence Award in 1962.
Dirac is one of the most revered and strangest physicists in the world. Born in 1902 in Bristol, Dirac predicted the existence of antimatter, and he created some quantum mechanics core equations. He is also attributed with establishing the foundations of modern micro-electronics industry.
He was the recipient of the 1933 Nobel Prize in physics with Erwin Schrödinger for discovering the new productive forms of atomic theory. The importance of his life’s work is centred around his infamous wave equation. It introduced special relativity into Erwin Schrödinger’s equation.
Dirac was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1930 and was awarded the Copley Medal and the Society’s Royal Medal. He was also elected a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1961. He was offered a chance to be a knight but turned it down because he did not want people using his first name.
According to Albert Einstein, Dirac achieved a dizzying balance between genius and madness. It is reported that his daughter never saw him laughing.
This is a list of the top ten experts who refined modern physics. Some are more famous than others, but they all had to commit copious amounts of study and work to improve modern physics. For this reason, ordinary physics lessons at school will barely be enough to get you to their level.
Contact Kungfu Physics today for insight about our physics tuition services in Singapore. Mr. Tan has experience teaching O-Level physics, IP physics, and A-Level physics for ten years. Join us and learn how you can improve your mastery of physics principles and grade with physics tuition in Singapore.