6 of the Greatest Modern Physicists

Modified on by Kaitlin Goodrich

greatest modern physicists

Physics is a key science that helps us understand the world around us. It explains why the world works as it does and defines every interaction, big or small. Seemingly unconnected phenomena can be unified only using physics.

Since physics defines so much in our lives, it’s important to recognize the modern physicists who have been working to discover more about the physical world. With that, we share with you just some of the greatest modern physicists, as well as their discoveries that have changed the way we see the world.

6 of the Greatest Modern Physicists

1. Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking has been widely recognized as one of the best minds in physics today and has won many titles for his achievements, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the U.S. Of his many notable theories, Hawking is most famous for developing the theory that black holes emit radiation (known as Hawking radiation) and his work on gravitational singularity theorems in developing the framework for general relativity. Hawking also wrote the book explaining many important concepts of cosmology in layman’s terms, called A Brief History of Time, that became an international and New York Times bestseller. He was the subject of the 2014 film The Theory of Everything.

2. Steven Weinberg

A Nobel laureate in Physics, Steven Weinberg has conducted pioneering research across many fields within physics, including quantum field theory, gravitational theory, supersymmetry, superstrings, technicolor physical theories, and cosmology. Weinberg is most known for his work on creating a unified theory of the weak and electromagnetic interactions between elementary particles, which earned him a Nobel prize alongside Sheldon Lee Glashow and Abdus Salam. This work was ultimately experimentally proven and unified two of the four fundamental forces of nature. According to the American Philosophical Society, which awarded him the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievements in Sciences, Weinberg is “considered by many to be the preeminent theoretical physicist alive in the world today.”

3. Edward Witten

Known primarily for his work in string theory, Edward Witten has been named by Time and other organizations and publications as “the world’s greatest living theoretical physicist,” thanks to his insights into the fundamental mathematical mechanics of string theory. Witten discovered that various string theories could be mapped onto one another using certain rules, thus developing the most important mathematical underpinnings of string theory today. Since his work is so grounded in math, Witten has garnered a position of importance in the field of mathematics as well. He is actually currently the only physicist to have been awarded a Fields Medal (sometimes called the Nobel Prize for math).

4. Alan Guth

Alan Guth is best known as the originator of the theory of cosmic inflation. This theory explains why the universe appears flat, homogeneous, and isotropic, and if proven correct, would explain the large-scale structure of the universe that emerged after the Big Bang. So far, cosmic inflation remains a theory, but evidence may have emerged recently that would help confirm it as a reality, cementing Guth’s place among the greatest modern physicists.

5. Peter Higgs

Another Nobel laureate, Peter Higgs is most famous for his research on the Higgs mechanism, which predicted the particle named after him: the Higgs boson. According to the Standard Model of particle physics, the Higgs mechanism defines the way that fundamental particles acquire their masses, making it crucial to all theories of particle physics. When research at the CERN Large Hadron Collider ultimately demonstrated the existence of the Higgs boson, the discovery earned Higgs a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2013.

6. Freeman Dyson

Despite being semi-retired, Freeman Dyson still continues to frame scientific discussions in physics. Over the course of his career, he developed a number of groundbreaking physics concepts and theories, including the Dyson sphere, the Dyson operator, the Dyson series, the Schwinger-Dyson equation, Dyson conjecture, the Dyson tree, Project Orion, and TRIGA. As you can see, his collective work is prolific, and while it is difficult to choose just one contribution that’s made him so important, he is perhaps best known for demonstrating the equivalence of Richard Feynman’s diagrams and Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga’s operator method. Along with further developing much of Feynman’s work, Dyson also proved that the exclusion principle plays the main role in maintaining the stability of bulk matter.

Physicists Matter

These six people have changed the world’s understanding of physics dramatically in recent years, yet they are only some of the key men and women defining physics today. Let us know in the comments who you think are some of the other great modern physicists.

Studies in physics today would be nowhere without the scientists who came before and made some of the most important discoveries of all time. If your knowledge of the greatest physicists (or physics itself) is a bit rusty, it may help to brush up using Brainscape’s Knowledge Rehab subject. Everyone should know the basics of physics in order to be a productive member of society. After all, few things are as key to life itself.

Image Source: CERN

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YX 2 years ago


disqus_xEFHDaxwEP 3 years ago

Yves Couder is the greatest quantum physicist. He awakes physicists from their sopor, accompanied by mathematical and philosophical games.

Alexander Christiaan Jacob 3 years ago

I like the list, but I would trade Hawking for Nima Arkani-Hamed or Leonard Susskind (even though he’s much better known and therefor good for the field).

Alexander Christiaan Jacob 3 years ago

…or Juan Martín Maldacena. Ack, so many good ones! :)

antonio carlos motta 3 years ago

..michael fisher,michaelngreen,schwarz,

bookerful . 2 years ago

I'm from England I made a freedom of information request which if you read will explain why I'm messaging you.it explains all we saw,
as you read you will understand the importance of such a sighting, the area is saturated with all types of instrument's which have left data in archives never investigated, due possibly because the people in charge of the nuclear research station cant be associated with spending time and money on a UFO sighting. This happened 13 years ago and I have tried every person in this country to call for an investigation into this sighting, without so much as a reply.
not sure whose going to read this email and its contents? but I do hope it gets passed on until it reaches the serious attention it needs, My wife and I do not know why this all happened to us, may never know, not interested in the results of investigation only that the answers to how it was possible to get caught in some kind of tunnel time warp for over 8 minutes our time, but only a few seconds at their speed? cant come up with much more than that as an assumption. All instruments readings that morning will show all we saw, nobody has ever looked? I have asked many places for an audience with staff high up in many government institutions without a reply? this email I'm hoping will get a response from a scientist or physicists that would know what type of readings that mornings instrument's would show a time bubble,
I know this may seem all far fetched and hard to believe, but its harder for me, because there has to be a reason for us to witness this? why us? what am I supposed to do with this information, this belongs to mankind's future? were they the future? thousands of questions?
Willing to answer any questions take any tests, not interested in what they find, only want the best for the future of man, that's the only reason I can think of why us, history will show I tried? history will show someone looked, when? well I will never stop asking for an investigation into archives that morning, and nor would any other person who witnessed the same, this has the importance of life itself, PLEASE HELP if you can.
Michael lewendon

Randall Hamlet 2 months ago

What do you think is more likely, that you misunderstood what you saw or that aliens visited?

bookerful . 1 year ago

Michael Lewendon how about this? Dear michael lewendon,
We rejected the petition you created – “Investigate UFO sighting 11th September 2004 RG30 3TG”.
;It’s not clear what the petition is asking the UK Government or Parliament to do. ; lol that answer takes the biscuit,
I have got 20,000 signatures and more that want an investigation into this UFO sighting and I'm told---- not clear what the petitions about,---- can you believe that?
Who in government has the power to command an investigation into this UFO sighting? The Queen? Michael Fallon, Teresa May? All the evidence is held in archives, time travel, time tunnel, video evidence, spectrometer evidence, gravitational distortions, nuclear energy loss-gain all in archives, all we are asking is somebody to look? slow down camera evidence, many instruments surround the area, National Security a must?
C' ant change what my wife and I saw that day, its importance to mankind will be huge, all they need to do is look?
Michael Lewendon

bookerful . 1 year ago

Dear Iain Coucher, My wife and I witnessed a UFO sighting of which you were made aware of recently by an MP from Reading. Your reply to him prompts me to ask for an audience with you and possibly a scientist and physics professor. You failed to mention my Freedom of Information request? Your responsible for security around this Nuclear Establishment yet you dismiss this threat with a smile? you never looked, you just signed your secretary's report? Your opinion about UFOs should have nothing to do with this security threat? Where with your permission I will give you a full detail of what happened that morning and why this has a massive change for mankind. All I'm asking is a chance to explain our sighting and how it all occurred. I feel sure that after meeting with us you will understand this sighting has many complications that could arise. I recently spoke to an employee regarding reporting the sighting but he refused, saying he was afraid of losing his job? I have tried many avenues to get an investigation into that mornings archives, where distortions and irregular readings will show all we saw. Your scientist-professor would know where to look? Radar, Info Red readings, heat cameras, lasers, gravitational waves-pulls, spectrometer's, radiation charts, changes, gamma ray readings all looked at with a possibility of the reading only showing up for a few seconds, all this information in archives and much more instrument readings I cant even dream about. We have the time within a 2 hour period, exact place, all archive evidence, something that size so close has to have left a trail-mark? My wife and I are prepared to take lie detector tests, truth drug if need be, we only want to report it so it gets investigated. we are not interested in the outcome. hoping for a reply, Michael lewendon ps have you not a duty to investigate a threat of this kind? This type of travel belongs to mankind, and your attitude is denying the world its future.

Selena Kahlert 1 year ago

Rest in peace Stephen hawking march 14, pi day

Ankan halder 3 years ago

No,actually Hawking is a whole new level...........not because i love him.because he knowns the core and can explain time to someone who doesn't know 'A for Apple'.

'If u can't explain it simply u haven't really understood it'
- Albert Einstein

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