Can You Guess the First Names of These Famous Scientists?

Olivia Cantor

Image: Wiki Commons by Photograph by Oren Jack Turner, Princeton, N.J.

About This Quiz

Can you name different scientists who excel in various subfields? We'll give you a few in this quiz.

People who conduct experiments are curious about how things work. They may not strictly be people of science, but they pursue it just the same. They're the ones who ask difficult questions about the universe. They can come from various walks of life. They can be as young as teenagers and already think ahead of their age and time. 

A great example of that kind of scientist is Philo Farnsworth. Inspired by the new invention of his time called commercial radio, this American teenager thought of transmitting an image via airwaves. Do you know what he invented? The idea for television. He presented this idea to his high school science teacher who encouraged him to develop it. But while he successfully invented and patented his creations, big corporate entities and legal battles bogged him down. This is partly the reason why his name doesn't ring a bell sometimes in discussing inventors. 

But not all scientists, inventors and innovators encountered that kind of bad luck. A lot of them got credit where it was due. Even if they had to overcome obstacles regarding their race, gender or sexual orientation, they all persisted. Many were happy to have the spotlight on them. There were also those who didn't mind being in the background. Eventually, we also learned of their achievements and honored them with their rightful place in history. 

So, can you name many of these great people? Take the quiz and test yourself!

We know you're an Einstein, genius! And his first name is what?

Did you know of a condition called "Einstein Syndrome"? It refers to children who learn how to talk later than others, a condition they said Albert Einstein had. But even though this "fact" is questionable, Thomas Sowell published the term in his book "Late-Talking Children" published in 1997.

Radiation suited Madam Curie, in a manner of speaking. Do you know her first name?

Marie Curie won not only one Nobel Prize in her lifetime, but two. As the first female scientist to get this award, that first win was a shared prize in the physics field. Her second win was for her solo effort in the chemistry field.

Tesla cars won't be the same without his surname. What's his given name?

Croatia-born Nikola Tesla immigrated to the U.S. after a few years of graduating from the University of Prague. One of his earliest bosses, and perhaps the most famous, was fellow inventor Edison. They had a fallout which later led to the so-called "Battle of the Currents."

Fossey fussed about "Gorillas in the Mist." What's her given name?

If you think Sigourney Weaver's 1988 film "Gorillas in the Mist" was fictional, it's not! She played real-life primatologist Dian Fossey who made extensive studies of mountain gorillas and advocated for their conservation. Sources say her advocacy efforts may have led to her brutal murder in 1985.

Mendel was at peace with peas; it's genetic. Can you splice out his first name?

Gregor Mendel is a perfect example of a man of science who also belonged to another field. As a man of God, he belonged to the Augustinian Order. But it was his time in the monastery when he made many scientific breakthroughs while studying plant genetics.

Ms. Johnson was a "Hidden Figure" before in NASA. What do her friends call her?

Imagine doing mathematical calculations by longhand which made it possible to send Americans in space. That talent belongs to Katherine Johnson who worked with that directive in NASA. She helped to send Alan Shepard Jr., John Glenn, and the Apollo 11 astronauts into space.

His first name rings a bell — a Graham Bell. Know what it is?

It's interesting to note that the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, was a teacher for the deaf. He took on this path because his father and grandfather took the same. Bell grew up in a household with a hearing-impaired mother.

Frankly, my dears, we should give this dame Franklin our DNA thanks. Her first name is what?

Controversies also pepper and mar the scientific community, as Rosalind Franklin's life showed. There are disputes that Franklin's DNA photograph reached Watson and Crick illegally. Because of her work, the two expanded their DNA research and won acclaim for it without crediting Franklin at all.

I think, therefore Descartes. And he was?

Thank René Descartes if you're familiar with the line "Cogito ergo sum" or "I think, therefore I am." This simply means that if one possesses a mind that can think, then he also has the body carrying that mind. That body then proves his physical existence.

Lovelace loved math so much that she computed the first algorithm, ever! What's her given name?

Her father was poet Lord Byron but Ada Lovelace grew up interested in mathematics. She was the one who saw the potential of a calculating machine outside of mathematics. Her own analysis of Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine was a precursor to how the binary system works in computers today.

Edison had a light bulb moment, literally speaking, when he invented that thing. Plug his first name here!

Thomas Edison's name always gets mentioned in discussions of the light bulb invention. But he was also active in inventing cinematic devices, namely the kinetograph and kinetoscope. He was also a filmmaker and had his own film studio he named the Black Maria where he shot and developed his films.

Galilei invented the telescope. Up close, what's his more popular name?

Even great scientific minds got persecuted by religious entities. This happened to Galileo Galilei when the Catholic Church put him on trial and convicted him of heresy when he was 70 years old. Presenting scientific views that contradicted the church's religious views was a crime during his time.

Ride explored science by riding a rocket to space. Her first name is what?

The distinction of being "the first American woman in space" goes to Sally Ride. Not only was she an important astronaut but she worked as an engineer and a physicist in NASA. It was only upon her death in 2012 that the world learned of her lesbianism following the publication of her obituary.

Can you decode da Vinci's dandy first name?

We associate Leonardo da Vinci with his artistic works but he had scientific inventions and ideas that became part of our reality today. For example, he invented a revolving bridge and his own scuba gear, improved upon the anemometer and the clock, and sketched ideas of the parachute and helicopter.

Darwin dutifully drafted "On the Origin of Species." What other name did he sign it with?

To declare that species of living beings evolved and not created by God was controversial during Charles Darwin's time. But he did just that and published a book detailing these observations. His findings resulted from his expeditions in the Galápagos Islands and the South American coasts.

Jumping genes, Batman! Let's all thank McClintock for that click. What's her first name, though?

Nobel Prize winner Barbara McClintock worked extensively on corn until she discovered something different about their genomes. She discovered that it had certain elements that seemed to transfer or move locations. That's why they call her discovery the "jumping genes."

A chemist went out to Pasteur and got milk. Get it? Got his first name?

Let's all thank Louis Pasteur for discovering the pasteurization process that makes milk and wine last for a longer time. This innovative chemist and microbiologist invented various vaccines, too. He was the first to develop an anti-rabies vaccine which helped save lives.

Ampère is up there in the electromagnetism echelon. What's his first name again, s'il vous plait?

An ampere is a unit of measurement used for electric current; its shortened form of "amp" might be more familiar to us as users of everyday electronic devices. We have to thank André-Marie Ampère for this namesake unit of his. He also made electrodynamics possible and plausible.

Marine life lovers coasted with Cousteau on TV. Can you dive for his first name?

Jacques Cousteau invented the Aqua-Lung with fellow Frenchman Émile Gagnan which made it possible for us to breathe underwater. This scuba invention, along with underwater camera innovations, gave him the freedom to film underwater explorations. This scientist also won Oscars for his documentaries.

We love Lamarr for our Wi-Fi today. What was her Hollywood screen name?

Hollywood femme fatale Hedy Lamarr also had a scientific mind; she was an inventor on the side. She did frequent scientific collaborations with another artist: musical composer George Antheil. The two invented the system called "frequency hopping" which made GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi possible.

Don't tell Doc Brown that 1.21 gigawatts came from Watt. Watt—er, we mean, what's his given name?

We use the term "watt" today to check the power of electrical things like a light bulb. Naming this unit after inventor James Watt took place in the 1800s. But Watt himself was as an engineer-inventor in the 1700s, even formulating another power-related unit of measurement called the horsepower.

Newton's laws put the world in motion, so to speak. His first name is what?

Isaac Newton was both an active physicist and a mathematician during his lifetime. This intersected fields produced specific breakthroughs that helped us understand the world we live in. In particular, he theorized about gravity, laws of motion, and calculus.

Faraday made our day when he got the electric motor running! Do you know his first name?

Michael Faraday worked as a chemist and a physicist during his lifetime. He was the one who figured out how to convert electrical energy to become a form of mechanical energy that can make things function and move. This is the concept behind the electric motor which we use today.

Hopper was at home with computer programming. What did her colleagues call her?

Computer programming history won't be complete without mentioning Grace Hopper's important contributions. This New York native's work led to the development of COBOL. She also coined the term "computer bug" when a literal bug, namely a moth, entered and disturbed the machine she was working on.

Planets revolved around the sun but Copernicus kept that fact to himself at first. Reveal his first name, will you?

Heliocentrism is an astronomical explanation that puts the sun at the solar system's center; this is the opposite of geocentrism which prioritizes the earth as the center. Nicolaus Copernicus created a model for this explanation which earned the ire of the Catholic Church.

Goodall was good with chimpanzees. Swing out her first name here!

The term that pertains to studying primates scientifically is primatology. There's also a term given to three brave scientific women pioneers of primatology: Trimates. They are Dian Fossey who focused on gorillas, Birute Galdikas who studied orangutans and Jane Goodall who studied chimpanzees.

To have the Hubble Space Telescope named after you is an astronomical achievement. Can you zoom in on his first name?

If you're wondering where the Hubble Space Telescope, one of the Great Observatories put out by NASA, got its name, it's from Edwin Hubble. He was the one who theorized that the universe is still expanding. He also discovered that there are other galaxies out there, not just our own Milky Way.

Meitner and her team's popularity exploded with their discovery of nuclear fission. What's her first name?

Physicist Lise Meitner performed joint research work with Fritz Strassman and Otto Hahn which resulted in nuclear fission. It's the process that releases energy; it led to the production of the atomic bomb. But Meitner disapproved the use of her discovery for war and wanted to use it for peace.

How many volts does it take for you to guess Volta's first name? Power up and pick from the list!

The terms "volt" and "voltage" came from Alessandro Volta, the physicist who successfully made the first electrical battery. This important invention of his made our portable devices possible today.

Anning forever fussed over fossils. What's her first name?

One of the recognized mothers of paleontology is Mary Anning from Southwest England. She grew up in a town near the English Channel that was full of marine fossil beds. This was where her hobby of "collecting curiosities" started until she became deeply knowledgeable about Jurassic period fossils.

Pascal was such a pal for inventing the prototype for today's calculator. Can you punch out his first name?

Tired of doing extensive calculations by longhand? Then thank Blaise Pascal for coming up with the first calculator. His invention called the Pascaline was strictly an adding machine since it can only calculate additions and also subtractions to help his dad in his tax collector job.

Carson did more than hug a tree; she hugged our planet. What's her first name?

The modern efforts in environmental awareness advocacy owe much to the pioneering work of Rachel Carson. A marine biologist turned conservationist, she was one of the first who voiced the ecological dangers of human industry and activity in her 1962 book called "Silent Spring."

For Rubin, dark matter mattered a lot! Discover her first name.

It was Vera Rubin who closely observed galaxies and told us that "what you see in a spiral galaxy is not what you get." She studied enough galaxies to conclude that we really don't see much of what's out there in the universe because of the existence of dark matter.

Awardees take home a Nobel Prize each year. What's the name of the guy who pioneered it?

Inventor and philanthropist Alfred Nobel is the name behind the Nobel Prize. They give these to people who do groundbreaking work in the fields of chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. Incidentally, Nobel also invented explosive devices such as the dynamite.

Kwolek didn't cave in while developing Kevlar. Know her first name? Shoot for it!

We might be more familiar with Kevlar being used for bulletproof vests but this synthetic fiber has other industrial uses. The chemist Stephanie Kwolek invented this important fiber during her work duties for the DuPont company. DuPont scientists also created Lycra (or spandex), neoprene and nylon.

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