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The game changers
David Attenborough (1926):
Long before we got used to watching exotic life forms on Discovery or Nat Geo, Attenborough had been there and done that. His brilliant BBC series such as ‘Life on Earth’ and ‘The Living Planet’ spanning five decades make him a pioneering natural history filmmaker, setting a benchmark for quality. In recent years he has been vocal about environmental issues.
Michael Faraday (1791-1861):
This self-educated British scientist may be known for discoveries like the electric motor but he was wildly popular in England for explaining everyday science through public lectures between 1827 and 1860. One of the earliest series was on 'The Chemical History of a Candle'.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882):
One of the most influential scientists of all time, this British naturalist didn't really set out to popularise science. But his On the Origin of Speciesbecame a rage, for it spelt out the theory of evolution of life through natural selection, upending theories of supernatural creation.
Richard Feynman (1918-1988):
One of the pioneers of quantum electrodynamics , he got the physics Nobel in 1965. For most lay folk, Feynman (right) was the man who delivered the brilliant lectures at Caltech, later published as The Feynman Lectures on Physics. His semi-autobiographical books like Surely You are Joking, Mr Feynman!were huge hits.
Isaac Asimov (1920-1992):
A master of SF and popular science literature, Asimov (right) wrote over 500 books. Credited with coining the word ‘robotics’ and laying down the three laws robots always obey, his classics included I Robotand The Foundation Trilogy. He was also a humanist.
Carl Sagan (1934-1996):
One of the best-known cosmologists of all times, Sagan was an integral part of the American space programme. But to an entire generation, he was the man who explained the mysteries of the universe on their home TV sets. His ‘Cosmos: A Personal Voyage’ was seen by a billion viewers. He wrote over 600 papers and articles and 20 books. Sagan also backed the search for extra-terrestrial life.
Richard Dawkins (1941):
An evolutionary biologist and staunch atheist, Dawkins authored The Selfish Gene, a landmark work explaining evolution. Since then, he has written a series of immensely popular books. He has campaigned against religions, advocating scientific education and secular humanism. He also runs a foundation for reason and science that backs rational thinking.
Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002):
Paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Gould wrote several hugely popular and witty books on science such as Wonderful Life, Ever Since Darwin, The Panda's Thumband The Mismeasure of Man. A lifetime campaigner against creationism, he fought against attempts to ban the teaching of evolution in the US.
Stephen Hawking (1942):
'There is no god' , There is no afterlife' — it is a measure of his reputation as the voice of science that every time cosmologist Hawking makes a statement about life and the universe, it ends up on newspaper front pages. The debilitating motor-neuron disease he suffers from has not affected his role as champion science populariser through books like A Brief History of Time. He is also known for his children's books, TV shows and films.
—Compiled by Malini Nair
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