One Great Reply to Our "Favorite Scientist" Query

Yesterday we invited you to tell us your favorite scientists.

The replies make for great reading. I would think that for anyone working in the field (science education, publishing, etc.) the answers could also be very useful.

One of my favorite lists comes from a reader named Hale McMichael, a University of Texas senior who is “about to graduate with a degree in Plan II (a somewhat obscure interdisciplinary honors program) and start medical school in the fall.”

You could argue with his choices endlessly of course. (No women!?) You could also accuse him of a bias toward scientists who write well (psst: I share this bias) or who employ him. But as this was an exercise in personal preference, I find Hale’s list to be just great.

1. Atul Gawande. Incredible surgeon, voracious researcher, and gripping writer.

2. Grant Willson. University of Texas chemist who has changed the semiconductor time and again; also gave me a job once.

3. Neil deGrasse Tyson. Hilarious, and has the most athletic background of any scientist I’ve ever seen.

4. Richard Dawkins. Excellent explainer of evolution, though I wish he would go back to writing about his passion and stop just arguing against other people’s beliefs.

5. Oliver Sacks. Most human medical writer alive.

6. Brian Greene. Not quite sure how I feel about string theory, but another great communicator.

7. Ken Miller. Biologist from Brown. Man of science, man of faith.

8. Grigori Perelman. They say an introverted mathematician looks at his shoes, and an extroverted mathematician looks at your shoes, but crazy mathematicians come from Russia, live with their mothers, publish genius yet scatterbrained proofs, and reject the Fields Medal. Classic.

9. Paul Offit. Vigilant crusader against the anti-vaccine nut cases.

10. Vladimir Mironov. Shmeat!!! “If it’s look like cat, O.K., it’s behave like cat and it’s make meow, then it’s cat.” So true.


What's with the "No women!?" bit? Must we pass our preferences through an affirmative action filter?

C. Larity

No love for my suggestion of Winnie Cooper?

How about this late entry of my 10 favorite scientists:
1. MacGuyver
2. Sheldon from Big Bang Theory
3. Q from James Bond movies
4. Professor Frink from The Simpsons
5. The Nutty Professor
6. Peter Parker (sometimes known as Spider Man)
7. The guys from the movie Weird Science
8. Dr. Frankenstein
9. Dr. Cliff Huxtable
10. Dr. Soresh from Heroes

Note that I've defined the term "scientist" quite loosely here. Still, you have to admit I've assembled an impressive team.


Dr. Doogie Howser, MD? Anyone?

tbh, House is bringing the scientific method into households in a very clever way


Now, who are your favorite SUPER scientists?

Dr. Venture? Prof. Impossible? Dr. Quymn?



Just out of curiosity, because Steven mentioned Richard Feynman, and I happened to be looking for some funny video about social science on Youtube, and I saw Richard Feynman's comment on social science, which turned out to be not a very good one.

Does anyone know it? Thanks.

From Japan



I am sorry. It's Stephen, not Steven.


Garrett Lisi
John Von Neumann


So, Freakonomics should start something - start voting a scientist of the month. Promote more science (and economics). Maybe a spin-off of Freak as sort of a "Science of the Weird" and promote scientits there.


Johnny Quest's Dad.
Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four
Dr. Doom
Doc Ock
Richard Feynman
The Guy Who Invented Post-It notes, the Kind That Unfold Like an Accordion from the Little Dispenser
The Shamwow Guy, pre-assault
Bill Nye
Jacques Cousteau



Thank you for mentioning three Venture Bros. characters. That made my night.

Would Dr. Henry Killinger also count, then? Or was he more of a political scientist?


what about bill nye the science guy...after all, he just came and spoke at UT?


Good choice on Vladimir Mironov, even though I was laughing so hard I had to pull over my car when I heard him say that quote on NPR.


"though I wish he would go back to writing about his passion and stop just arguing against other people's beliefs"

As far as I'm aware, that *is* his passion.


Dr. Smith, "Lost in Space"

David Heigham

And some (real) scientists' favourite living economists are.....?

If scientific bumbling had just set off an accidental mass epidemic, would we have ANY favourite scientists? Our record of macro-economic bumbling is pretty clear right now.

steve long

"4. Richard Dawkins. Excellent explainer of evolution, though I wish he would go back to writing about his passion and stop just arguing against other people's beliefs."

Actually, Dawkins has consistently mis-explained evolution. His advocacy of genetics as the core message of evolution is just bad science and the newest version of "the ghost in the machine" myth. Dawkins has always just been about other people's beliefs -- even when it comes to evolution.

Science minded woman

Look here- women are the brains- men just do public works- and right now this brain is busy primarily taking care of other family business and mourning....the death of a parent- will be away for my desk--thinking about how to finish off this research project to which freakonomics belongs asap-

calmly --


Bunson Honeydew and his assistant Beaker?


I should have included women:

Sculley, from the X-Files
Marie Curie, duh.

Maybe Lawrence Summers was right.

Bill Nye, The Science Guy

Thanks for the support. Visiting UT was an eye opening experience. Too many hippies.

I wish that I could have earned a spot in your top 10, but I know that my doubts about global warming has prevented this from being possible. Good luck at Hopkins.