Famous Chemists And Their Discoveries

If not for these famous chemists we wouldn’t have been able to reap the benefits of their discoveries, from medicines to household products to clothing to food. Here are the famous chemists and their discoveries that changed the people’s lives.

Frederick Gowland Hopkins

During the time Frederick Gowland Hopkins was working on a research on nutrients, animals used to receive their nutrients solely for their energy requirements. The English chemist contended the notion that animals could not survive alone on such nutrients as protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Mice, as well as other animals, needed something else to grow healthy and strong, and that “something” would become known as vitamins. For his work, Gowland was awarded with the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1929.

Following his graduation from Cambridge University, the British biochemist opted to stay at the university to carry on his studies about amino acid metabolism. At the time of his research, he found the ways for amino acid sequencing, which led to the structure of insulin. Sanger eventually earned a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1948 for his work.

Giacomo Luigi Ciamician

Giacomo Luigi Ciamician was an Italian photo chemist and senator who is considered the father of the solar panel. In his home, Ciamician installed a solar panel on the roof that helped illuminate one of the light bulbs of his laboratory. He forwarded a document to Congress about the use of solar power in 1912.

In 1878 Ira Remsen synthesized the first artificial sweetener while working with his colleague Constantine Fahlberg. While Remsen showed no interest in capitalizing on the saccharin’s commercial usage, Fahlberg thought otherwise and rushed to claim the patent on saccharin, a move that upset Remsen

You must give credit to Joseph Priestley for the bubbly, effervescent effect you enjoy when drinking carbonated water. When the English chemist started his research on the properties of gases during the mid-18th century, he lived next door to a brewery which allowed him to obtain an abundant supply of carbon dioxide.

Dr. Leo Hendrik Baekeland

In 1907 Belgium-born American immigrant Dr. Leo Hendrik Baekeland combined carbolic acid and formaldehyde. This experiment led to his invention of Bakelite, considered the world’s first plastic material.

During the 19th century, Louis Pasteur’s research in germ theory brought him to invent vaccinations for certain diseases like rabies. In 1885 he did the world’s first-ever vaccination on a 9-year-old boy named Joseph Meister, who had been badly bitten by a rabid dog. It was a success — the boy did not develop rabies and soon was on his way to recovery. Pasteur became widely recognized for his work. You can thank him for the vaccine shots which have saved millions of lives all over the world.

Polish-French chemist Marie Curie is famous for her pioneering work in radioactivity, including her discovery of radium and polonium, for which she earned the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1911. Curie is the only person to have won Nobel Prizes in both physics and chemistry.

Pierre Jean Robiquet

Pierre Jean Robiquet should be thanked by the night owls for his discovery of caffeine in 1821. Apart from caffeine, the French scientist also identified codeine, which is used widely in cough medicines and analgesic drugs. He made significant other discoveries of various substances found in natural products such as paregoric (in opium) and narcotine (from poppy, from which opium is also derived).

We have been taught in schools about the Bunsen burner, and it is used in many laboratories. This common lab equipment which helps heat your Erlenmeyer flasks is named after its inventor, German chemist Robert Bunsen. Well actually, burners had already been in use during his time, but Bunsen’s improvements on them became the most recognized.

British chemist Rosalind Franklin is credited with the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure. Although she made other well-publicized works on the structure of viruses, coal and graphite, Franklin’s work on the DNA is the most celebrated.

Prior to Wallace Carothers’ discovery, US’s trade relations with Japan were rocky. The US had more difficulty importing silk, which lead to higher prices. Then the American chemist collaborated with DuPont to produce a synthetic alternative to silk, which came to be known as nylon. Carothers obtained a patent for his invention in 1935, and he also became the first industrial organic chemist to be voted to the National Academy of Sciences the following year.

Denim jeans wouldn’t have their signature blue color if not for the German chemist Adolf von Baeyer. A science prodigy, von Baeyer developed indigo as a natural blue dye in 1865. Indigo dye, as an organic material, was quite rare then. But several years after his discovery, Baeyer synthesized the dye with much success, which eventually led to the indigo’s commercial availability.

It’s rather ironic that someone who established the famous humanitarian awards body (especially the Nobel Peace Prize) is the inventor of something that can cause destruction — dynamite. Alfred Nobel originally invented dynamite for constructive uses like blasting tunnels and bridge footings. However, the Swedish chemist also had no qualms in it being used to produce armaments such as canons. Nobel’s invention of dynamite was patented in 1867, which eventually brought him great fortune.


Mendeleev may not be the original inventor of the periodic table, as there are other scientists before him such as the French geologist Alexandre-Emile Béguyer de Chancourtois and English chemist John Newlands who laid the periodic table’s foundations. However, in 1869 the Russian chemist is credited for creating the first widely-accepted periodic table which is similar to the periodic tables we have in schools and laboratories today.