5. Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton was an English scientist, mathematician, and physicist, who is widely considered to be one of the most influential scientist in the history of the world. He developed much of what we consider to be calculus, and set the pace for many of the engineering feats that we produce today. He wrote Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, which is highly regarded as one of the most influential works of science ever created. In fact, many people believe that Newton, alone, helped to usher in the Age of Enlightenment, where philosophy, politics, communications, and science were radically changed.
Newton had a typical childhood, as far as 1600 standards go, and was on a path to become a farmer. However, after the master of the school he attended noticed his intelligence, he convinced Newton’s mother to send him for further education. He eventually enrolled at Cambridge, and he studied the work of Aristotle, Descartes, and Galileo. He discovered a binomial theorem while still in school, which served as the basis of what we now know of as calculus. Even as a young student, Newton’s skills in mathematics were well known, and he was considered a mathematic genius before leaving college.
In addition to mathematics, Newton was interested in optics, and often worked with lenses and light, and he produced several theories about color, including Newton’s theory of color, which created the color wheel that we still use today.
Isaac Newton is best known for his law of universal gravitation, or what many of us know of as the theory of gravity.
4. Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was a polymath, a person who is an expert in several subject areas. Some of the areas of expertise that da Vinci had included painting, invention, sculpting, architecture, music, engineering, writing, history, literature, and astronomy, among others. Called a “universal genius,” da Vinci has been called the father of architecture, paleontology, and ichnology, and is one of the greatest artists of all time. He has been credited with a number of inventions, too, including the helicopter, parachute, and tank.
When you ask people what Leonardo da Vinci is best known for, you will likely get one of several answers. His art is beyond compare, and some of his works include The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, which is the most reproduced religious works of art in history. His drawing, the Vitruvian Man, is still seen as a cultural icon, today.
Art, however, was only part of the story when it came to da Vinci. He also created flying machines, fighting vehicles for war, solar power, an adding machine, and he studied plate tectonics. Da Vinci also made a number of substantial breakthroughs in optics, anatomy, hydrodynamics, and civil engineering, but since he did not publish these, they did not have a big impact on the world at the time.
Near the end of his life, da Vinci spent his time in Rome, and crossed paths with other artistic greats, including Michelangelo and Raphael.
Leonardo da Vinci’s personal life was just as fascinating as his professional life, and he was a known vegetarian and to this day, there is still speculation that he was gay and in long term relationships with two of his students during his life.
3. Nikola Tesla
Today, when most of us hear the word “Tesla,” we think of the electric car, but there is a good reason for this…and that reason is Nikola Tesla. Tesla was an inventor, physicist, and futurist, who is best known for his contribution to electricity, as he helped to create the AC electricity system that we still use today.
Tesla was born in modern-day Croatia, and he moved to the United States to work under Thomas Edison. He gained a lot of experience while working with Edison, and he eventually struck out on his own thanks to some financial backers who believed in what he wants to do. He set up a number of companies and laboratories to develop his ideas, and he eventually patented an AC transformer and induction motor, that was eventually licensed by George Westinghouse.
At the peak of Tesla’s career, he was known as a ‘mad scientist,’ with several inventions and patents. These patents earned Tesla a lot of money for the time, and he used the proceeds to invent even more. While living in the US, Tesla lived in a number of hotels in New York City, until he retired. He died in 1943 and the work that he did feel into obscurity.
It wasn’t until 1960 that Tesla’s name came back into public knowledge thanks to the General Conference on Weights and Measures chose to name the magnetic flux density unit, the tesla. Today, we know the name thanks to Tesla Motors, the car company founded by Elon Musk, which makes electric cars.