Attached is an array of pictures taken from a physics class website that I taught nearly a decade ago. Most of the scientists pictured are my personal heroes. My two most favorite are: 1. Albert Michelson – the first American to win the Nobel for physics. He was one of the first to measure the speed of light and who demonstrated that light beams do not require “the ether.” (This was a crucial piece of evidence that led to Einstein’s Special Relativity.) 2. Ludwig Boltzmann was the father of the atomic theory of gases. The first volume (book) of his treatment came under widespread attack and he committed suicide shortly after completing the second volume. Boltzmann wrote in the forward to Part II: “I am conscious of being only an individual struggling weakly against the stream of time. But it still remains in my power to contribute in such a way that, when the theory of gases is again revived, not too much will have to be rediscovered….”
Two women who did not (and do not) receive sufficient recognition are Émilie du Châtelet and Rosalind Franklin. Du Châtelet made the standard French translation of Issac Newton’s book Principia, containing his basic laws of physics. She then went on to show that Newtonian force and momentum alone were not adequate to describe the motion of objects, postulating total energy must also be conserved. Franklin was an English X-ray crystallographer and chemist who made contributions to the understanding of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal, and graphite. Her work was instrumental in understanding the structure of DNA – for which Crick and Watson won the Nobel Prize in 1962, but her contributions were largely recognized posthumously even though she was hired by Crick to make the necessary measurements.