Originally posted by Swlabr
I saw an advert for a TV program the other day. In this advert it claimed that Dawkins was the "most influential scientist of all time". I immediately started to wonder. Personally, I think this is completely wrong. Probably Newton should takethis crown. But then, he was interested in alchemy...
So, does anyone else have any opinions?
Isaac Newton would certainly be very high on the list of "most influential scientists of all time". He was the forerunner of theoretical physics, and his laws of motion were used as the basis for a very, very, large proportion of physics that we still use today! For example, the classical kinetic theory of gases is entirely based on considering particles as solid object that obey Newton's laws.
Newton was largely responsible for developing the scientific method, in an age when superstition and tradition ruled he did very well.
As for his views on Alchemy, we must consider them in context. He lived in the 1600 - 1700 hundreds, over 300 years ago! At this time there was no formal science at all, no chemistry, no understanding of how particles interact or even that particles were made of atoms. So viewed in context of the almost total lack of understanding, Alchemy did not seem silly or illogical at all, infact it would have seemed very interesting to someone of Newton's vast intelligence.
Another point is that it wasn't until the mid 1900's that any amendments were made to his laws of motion - thats 300 years! Plus he had to practically "invent" calculus to get his laws.
HOWEVER, I dont think there can be any single person deemed the most influential scientist. As all science is based on what has come before it. Even Newton's laws were based on the work of Kepler.
I think it would be better to have a "group of scientists responsible for increasing our understanding of the universe".
Saying that, Newton is a very good candidate for "best scientist" simply because he was so much ahead of his time. The other "great scientists" most people can think of (Einstein, Lorentz, Plank, Boltzman,Maxwell,Heisenberg, Pauli, Dirac, Fermi to name just a few) all lived HUNDREDS of years after Newton. Newton really was a blazing light in the deep ignorance of the distant past (distant in terms of scientific understanding that is).