Top Ten Physicists

Top Ten Physicists

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       Physics, “the knowledge of nature,” is the natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force.

  1. Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955)
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    Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who discovered the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.” Near the beginning of his career, Einstein thought that Newtonian mechanics was no longer enough to reconcile the laws of classical mechanics with the laws of the electromagnetic field. This led to the development of his special theory of relativity. He realized, however, that the principle of relativity could also be extended to gravitational fields, and with his subsequent theory of gravitation in 1916, he published a paper on the general theory of relativity. He continued to deal with problems of statistical mechanics and quantum theory, which led to his explanations of particle theory and the motion of molecules. He also investigated the thermal properties of light which laid the foundation of the photon theory of light. In 1917, Einstein applied the general theory of relativity to model the structure of the universe as a whole. He was visiting the US when Hitler came to power in 1933, and did not go back to Germany, where he had been a professor at the Berlin Academy of Sciences. He settled in the US, becoming a citizen in 1940. On the eve of WWII, he helped alert President Franklin D. Roosevelt that Germany might be developing an atomic weapon, and recommended that the US begin similar research. Later, together with Bertrand Russell, Einstein signed the Russell–Einstein Manifesto, which highlighted the danger of nuclear weapons. Einstein taught physics at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey, until his death in 1955. Einstein published more than 300 scientific papers along with over 150 non-scientific works, and received honorary doctorate degrees in science, medicine and philosophy from many European and American universities; he also wrote about various philosophical and political subjects such as socialism, international relations and the existence of God. His great intelligence and originality have made the word “Einstein” synonymous with genius.
    Links: Top Ten Einstein Quotes, Top Ten Germans, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_einstein,
  2. Isaac Newton (4 January 1643 – 1727)
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    Sir Isaac Newton was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian. His Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Latin for “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy;” usually called the Principia), published in 1687, is one of the most important scientific books ever written. It lays the groundwork for most of classical mechanics. In this work, Newton described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion, which dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. Newton showed that the motions of objects on Earth and of celestial bodies are governed by the same set of natural laws, by demonstrating the consistency between Kepler’s laws of planetary motion and his theory of gravitation; thus removing the last doubts about heliocentrism and advancing the Scientific Revolution. Newton built the first practical reflecting telescope and developed a theory of color based on the observation that a prism decomposes white light into the many colors that form the visible spectrum. He also formulated an empirical law of cooling and studied the speed of sound. In mathematics, Newton shares the credit with Gottfried Leibniz for the development of differential and integral calculus. He also demonstrated the generalized binomial theorem, developed Newton’s method for approximating the roots of a function, and contributed to the study of power series. He was an unorthodox Christian, and during his lifetime actually wrote more on Biblical hermeneutics and occult studies than on science and mathematics, the subjects he is mainly associated with. Newton is considered by many scholars and members of the general public to be one of the most influential people in human history.
    Links: Top Ten Paintings by William Blake, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton,
  3. James Clerk Maxwell (13 June 1831 – 5 November 1879)
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           James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish physicist and mathematician. His most prominent achievement was formulating classical electromagnetic theory. This united all previously unrelated observations, experiments and equations of electricity, magnetism and even optics into a consistent theory. Maxwell’s equations demonstrated that electricity, magnetism and even light are all manifestations of the same phenomenon, namely the electromagnetic field. Subsequently, all other classic laws or equations of these disciplines became simplified cases of Maxwell’s equations. Maxwell’s achievements concerning electromagnetism have been called the “second great unification in physics,” after the first one realized by Isaac Newton. Maxwell demonstrated that electric and magnetic fields travel through space in the form of waves, and at the constant speed of light. In 1864 Maxwell wrote A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field. It was with this that he first proposed that light was in fact undulations in the same medium that is the cause of electric and magnetic phenomena. His work in producing a unified model of electromagnetism is one of the greatest advances in physics. Maxwell also helped develop the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution, which is a statistical means of describing aspects of the kinetic theory of gases. These two discoveries helped usher in the era of modern physics, laying the foundation for such fields as special relativity and quantum mechanics. Maxwell is also known for creating the first true color photograph in 1861 and for his foundational work on the rigidity of rod-and-joint frameworks like those in many bridges. Maxwell is considered by many physicists to be the 19th century scientist who had the greatest influence on 20th century physics. His contributions to the science are considered by many to be of the same magnitude as those of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. In the millennium poll, a survey of the 100 most prominent physicists, Maxwell was voted the third greatest physicist of all time, behind only Newton and Einstein. On the centennial of Maxwell’s birthday, Einstein himself described Maxwell’s work as the “most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton.” Einstein kept a photograph of Maxwell on his study wall, alongside pictures of Michael Faraday and Newton.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Clerk_Maxwell,
  4. Niels Bohr
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           Niels Henrik David Bohr (7 October 1885 – 18 November 1962) was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr developed the Bohr model of the atom, in which he proposed that energy levels of electrons are discrete, and that the electrons revolve in stable orbits around the atomic nucleus, but can jump from one energy level (or orbit) to another. Although the Bohr model has been supplanted by other models, its underlying principles remain valid. He conceived the principle of complementarity: that items could be separately analyzed in terms of contradictory properties, like behaving as a wave or a stream of particles. Bohr founded the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of Copenhagen, now known as the Niels Bohr Institute, which opened in 1920. Bohr mentored and collaborated with physicists including Hans Kramers, Oskar Klein, George de Hevesy and Werner Heisenberg. He predicted the existence of a new zirconium-like element, which was named hafnium, after the Latin name for Copenhagen, where it was discovered. Later, the element bohrium was named after him. During the 1930’s, Bohr helped refugees from Nazism. After Denmark was occupied by the Germans, he had a famous meeting with Heisenberg, who had become the head of the German nuclear energy project. In September 1943, word reached Bohr that he was about to be arrested by the Germans, and he fled to Sweden. From there, he was flown to Britain, where he joined the British Tube Alloys nuclear weapons project, and was part of the British mission to the Manhattan Project. After the war, Bohr called for international cooperation on nuclear energy. He was involved with the establishment of CERN and the Research Establishment Risø of the Danish Atomic Energy Commission, and became the first chairman of the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics in 1957.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niels_Bohr,
  5. Werner Heisenberg
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           Werner Karl Heisenberg (5 December 1901 – 1 February 1976) was a German theoretical physicist and one of the key creators of quantum mechanics. He published his work in 1925 in a breakthrough paper. In the subsequent series of papers with Max Born and Pascual Jordan, during the same year, this matrix formulation of quantum mechanics was substantially elaborated. In 1927 he published his uncertainty principle, upon which he built his philosophy and for which he is best known. Heisenberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1932 “for the creation of quantum mechanics.” He also made important contributions to the theories of the hydrodynamics of turbulent flows, the atomic nucleus, ferromagnetism, cosmic rays, and subatomic particles, and he was instrumental in planning the first West German nuclear reactor at Karlsruhe, together with a research reactor in Munich, in 1957. Considerable controversy surrounds his work on atomic research during WWII. Following the war, he was appointed director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics, which soon thereafter was renamed the Max Planck Institute for Physics. He was director of the institute until it was moved to Munich in 1958, when it was expanded and renamed the Max Planck Institute for Physics and Astrophysics. Heisenberg was also president of the German Research Council, chairman of the Commission for Atomic Physics, chairman of the Nuclear Physics Working Group, and president of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncertainty_principle,   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_Heisenberg,
  6. Nikola Tesla
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    Nikola Tesla was an inventor and a mechanical and electrical engineer. He was one of the most important contributors to the birth of commercial electricity and is best known for his many revolutionary developments in the field of electromagnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tesla’s patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current (AC) electric power systems, including the polyphase system of electrical distribution and the AC motor, with which he helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution. Born an ethnic Serb in the village of Smiljan, Croatian Military Frontier in Austrian Empire (today’s Croatia), he was a subject of the Austrian Empire by birth and later became an American citizen. After his demonstration of wireless communication through radio in 1894 and after being the victor in the “War of Currents,” he was widely respected as one of the greatest electrical engineers who worked in America. Much of his early work pioneered modern electrical engineering and many of his discoveries were of groundbreaking importance. During this period, in the United States, Tesla’s fame rivaled that of any other inventor or scientist in history or popular culture, but because of his eccentric personality and his seemingly unbelievable and sometimes bizarre claims about possible scientific and technological developments, Tesla was ultimately ostracized and regarded as a mad scientist. Tesla never put much focus on his finances and died impoverished at the age of 86. The International System of Units unit measuring magnetic field B (also referred to as the magnetic flux density and magnetic induction), the tesla, was named in his honor (at the Conférence Générale des Poids et Mesures, Paris, 1960), as well as the Tesla effect of wireless energy transfer to wireless powered electronic devices (which Tesla demonstrated on a low scale with incandescent light bulbs as early as 1893 and aspired to use for the intercontinental transmission of industrial power levels in his unfinished Wardenclyffe Tower project). Aside from his work on electromagnetism and electromechanical engineering, Tesla contributed in varying degrees to the establishment of robotics, remote control, radar, and computer science, and to the expansion of ballistics, nuclear physics and theoretical physics. A few of his achievements have been used, with some controversy, to support various pseudosciences, UFO theories and early New Age occultism.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikola_tesla,
  7. Edward Teller
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    Edward Teller (January 15, 1908 – September 9, 2003) was a Hungarian-born American theoretical physicist who, although he claimed he did not care for the title, is known as “the father of the hydrogen bomb.” He made numerous contributions to nuclear and molecular physics, spectroscopy (in particular, the Jahn–Teller and Renner–Teller effects) and surface physics. His extension of Enrico Fermi’s theory of beta decay, in the form of the so-called Gamow–Teller transitions, provided an important stepping stone in its application, while the Jahn–Teller effect and the Brunauer–Emmett–Teller (BET) theory have retained their original formulation and are still mainstays in physics and chemistry. Teller also made contributions to Thomas–Fermi theory, the precursor of density functional theory, a standard modern tool in the quantum mechanical treatment of complex molecules. In 1953, along with Nicholas Metropolis and Marshall Rosenbluth, Teller co-authored a paper which is a standard starting point for the applications of the Monte Carlo method to statistical mechanics. Teller emigrated to the US in the 1930’s, and was an early member of the Manhattan Project charged with developing the first atomic bombs. During this time he made a serious push to develop the first fusion-based weapons as well, but these were deferred until after WWII. After his controversial testimony in the security clearance hearing of his former Los Alamos colleague J. Robert Oppenheimer, Teller was ostracized by much of the scientific community. He continued to find support from the US government and military research establishment, particularly for his advocacy for nuclear energy development, a strong nuclear arsenal, and a vigorous nuclear testing program. He was a co-founder of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and was both its director and associate director for many years. In his later years, Teller became especially known for his advocacy of controversial technological solutions to both military and civilian problems, including a plan to excavate an artificial harbor in Alaska using thermonuclear explosive in what was called Project Chariot. He was a vigorous advocate of Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative and some maintain that he had one of the highest levels of security clearance in regards to the reverse engineering of extraterrestrial technologies. Throughout his life, Teller was known both for his scientific ability and his difficult interpersonal relations and volatile personality, and is considered one of the inspirations for the character Dr. Strangelove in the 1964 movie of the same name.
    Links: Top 100 Films, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Teller,
  8. Richard Feynman
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           Richard Phillips Feynman (May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988) was an American theoretical physicist known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics, and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as in particle physics (he proposed the parton model). For his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman, jointly with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. He developed a widely used pictorial representation scheme for the mathematical expressions governing the behavior of subatomic particles, which later became known as Feynman diagrams. During his lifetime, Feynman became one of the best-known scientists in the world. In a 1999 poll of 130 leading physicists worldwide by the British journal Physics World he was ranked as one of the ten greatest physicists of all time. He assisted in the development of the atomic bomb during WWII and became known to a wide public in the 1980’s as a member of the Rogers Commission, the panel that investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. In addition to his work in theoretical physics, Feynman has been credited with pioneering the field of quantum computing and introducing the concept of nanotechnology. He held the Richard Chace Tolman professorship in theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology. Feynman was a keen popularizer of physics through both books and lectures, notably a 1959 talk on top-down nanotechnology called There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, and the three-volume publication of his undergraduate lectures, The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Feynman also became known through his semi-autobiographical books “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” and “What Do You Care What Other People Think?” and books written about him, such as “Tuva or Bust!.”
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman,
  9. Paul Dirac
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    Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac (8 August 1902 – 20 October 1984) was an English theoretical physicist who made fundamental contributions to the early development of both quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics. He was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a member of the Center for Theoretical Studies, University of Miami, and spent the last decade of his life at Florida State University. Among other discoveries, he formulated the Dirac equation, which describes the behavior of fermions and predicted the existence of antimatter. Dirac shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1933 with Erwin Schrödinger, “for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory.” He also did work that forms the basis of modern attempts to reconcile general relativity with quantum mechanics. He was regarded by his friends and colleagues as unusual in character. Albert Einstein said of him, “This balancing on the dizzying path between genius and madness is awful,” referring to his autistic traits. His mathematical brilliance, however, means he is regarded as one of the most significant physicists of the 20th century.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_dirac,
  10. Erwin Schrödinger
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    Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger (12 August 1887 – 4 January 1961) was an Austrian physicist who developed a number of fundamental results in the field of quantum theory, which formed the basis of wave mechanics: he formulated the wave equation (stationary and time-dependent Schrödinger equation) and revealed the identity of his development of the formalism and matrix mechanics. Schrödinger proposed an original interpretation of the physical meaning of the wave function and in subsequent years repeatedly criticized the conventional Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics (using e.g. the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat). In addition, he was the author of many works in various fields of physics: statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, physics of dielectrics, color theory, electrodynamics, general relativity, and cosmology, and he made several attempts to construct a unified field theory. In his book “What Is Life?” Schrödinger addressed the problems of genetics, looking at the phenomenon of life from the point of view of physics. He paid great attention to the philosophical aspects of science, ancient and oriental philosophical concepts, ethics and religion. He also wrote on philosophy and theoretical biology.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erwin_Schr%C3%B6dinger,
  11. Ernest Rutherford
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    Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson (30 August 1871 – 19 October 1937) was a New Zealand-born physicist who became known as the father of nuclear physics. In early work he discovered the concept of radioactive half-life, proved that radioactivity involved the transmutation of one chemical element to another, and also differentiated and named alpha and beta radiation. It is the basis for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry he was awarded in 1908 “for his investigations into the disintegration of the elements, and the chemistry of radioactive substances.” Rutherford moved in 1907 to the Victoria University of Manchester (today University of Manchester) in the UK, where he and Thomas Royds proved that alpha radiation was helium ions. Rutherford performed his most famous work after he became a Nobel laureate. In 1911, although he could not prove that it was positive or negative, he theorized that atoms have their charge concentrated in a very small nucleus, and thereby pioneered the Rutherford model of the atom, through his discovery and interpretation of Rutherford scattering in his gold foil experiment. He is widely credited with first “splitting the atom” in 1917 in a nuclear reaction between nitrogen and alpha particles, in which he also discovered (and named) the proton. Rutherford became Director of the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University in 1919. Under his leadership the neutron was discovered by James Chadwick in 1932 and in the same year the first experiment to split the nucleus in a fully controlled manner, performed by students working under his direction, John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton. After his death in 1937, he was honored by being interred with the greatest scientists of the United Kingdom, near Sir Isaac Newton’s tomb in Westminster Abbey. The chemical element rutherfordium (element 104) was named after him in 1997.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Rutherford,
  12. Max Planck
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    Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck (April 23, 1858 – October 4, 1947) was a German theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory, which won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918. Planck made many contributions to theoretical physics, but his fame rests primarily on his role as originator of the quantum theory. This theory revolutionized human understanding of atomic and subatomic processes, just as Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity revolutionized the understanding of space and time. Together they constitute the fundamental theories of 20th-century physics.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Planck,
  13. Nassim Haramein
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    Videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zc0ICPoqlM,
    Links:
  14. MT Keshe
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    Mehran Tavakoli Keshe is an Iranian-born (in 1958) nuclear engineer who currently works in Belgium. He is best known for his research on plasma reactors and interests in the evolution of energy applications. He is an author of three books which explain his view on the principles and fundamentals of matter. He is also the founder of the Keshe foundation, which hopes to continue to develop his energy research and projects, and among other things help clean up the Fukishima nuclear meltdown in Japan using his newly developed technologies.
    Videos:
    Links: http://keshefoundation.org/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keshe
  15. Galileo Galilei
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           Galileo Galilei was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations, and support for Copernicanism. Galileo has been called the “father of modern observational astronomy,” the “father of modern physics,” the “father of science,” and “the Father of Modern Science.” Stephen Hawking says, “Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science.” The motion of uniformly accelerated objects, taught in nearly all high school and introductory college physics courses, was studied by Galileo as the subject of kinematics. His contributions to observational astronomy include the telescopic confirmation of the phases of Venus, the discovery of the four largest satellites of Jupiter (named the Galilean moons in his honor), and the observation and analysis of sunspots. Galileo also worked in applied science and technology, inventing an improved military compass and other instruments. Galileo’s championing of Copernicanism was controversial within his lifetime, when a large majority of philosophers and astronomers still subscribed (at least outwardly) to the geocentric view that the Earth is at the centre of the universe. After 1610, when he began publicly supporting the heliocentric view, which placed the Sun at the centre of the universe, he met with bitter opposition from some philosophers and clerics, and two of the latter eventually denounced him to the Roman Inquisition early in 1615. In February 1616, although he had been cleared of any offence, the Catholic Church nevertheless condemned heliocentrism as “false and contrary to Scripture,” and Galileo was warned to abandon his support for it, which he promised to do. When he later defended his views in his most famous work, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, published in 1632, he was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo,
  16. Enrico Fermi
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           A giant in the field of physics, he helped develop quantum theory and was instrumental in the Manhatten Project, which developed the atomic bomb.
    Links: Top Ten Bombs
  17. George Lemaitre
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           George Lemaitre proposed what later became known as the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe, which he called his ‘hypothesis of the primeval atom.’
    Links:
  18. William Shockley
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    William Bradford Shockley Jr. (February 13, 1910 – August 12, 1989) was an American physicist and inventor. Along with John Bardeen and Walter Houser Brattain, Shockley co-invented the transistor, for which all three were awarded the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics. Shockley’s attempts to commercialize a new transistor design in the 1950’s and 1960’s led to California’s “Silicon Valley” becoming a hotbed of electronics innovation.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shockley,
  19. Steven Hawking
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           Stephen William Hawking is a British theoretical physicist, whose world-renowned scientific career spans over 40 years. His books and public appearances have made him an academic celebrity and he is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and in 2009 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the US. Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for 30 years, taking up the post in 1979 and retiring on 1 October 2009. He is also a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and a Distinguished Research Chair at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario. He is known for his contributions to the fields of cosmology and quantum gravity, especially in the context of black holes. He has also achieved success with works of popular science in which he discusses his own theories and cosmology in general; these include the runaway best seller A Brief History of Time, which stayed on the British Sunday Times bestsellers list for a record-breaking 237 weeks. Hawking’s key scientific works to date have included providing, with Roger Penrose, theorems regarding singularities in the framework of general relativity, and the theoretical prediction that black holes should emit radiation, (a theory which MT Keshe is believed to have proposed to Hawking), which is today known as Hawking radiation (or sometimes as Bekenstein-Hawking radiation). Hawking has a neuro-muscular dystrophy that is related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a condition that has progressed over the years and has left him almost completely paralyzed.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Hawkins,
  20. Links: Profound People, Top Ten Theories in Physics, Top Ten Scientific Theories,