List of people considered father or mother of a scientific field
The following is a list of people who are considered a "father" or "mother" (or "founding father" or "founding mother") of a scientific field. Such people are generally regarded to have made the first significant contributions to and/or delineation of that field; they may also be seen as "a" rather than "the" father or mother of the field. Debate over who merits the title can be perennial. As regards science itself, the title has been bestowed on the ancient Greek philosophers Thales – who attempted to explain natural phenomena without recourse to mythology – and Democritus, the atomist.
considered "father" or "mother"
|Bacteriology||Robert Koch / Ferdinand Cohn / Louis Pasteur||First to produce precise, correct descriptions of bacteria.|
|Antonie van Leeuwenhoek|
|Biogeography||Alfred Russel Wallace||"...Often described as the Father of Biogeography, Wallace shows the impact of human activity on the natural world."|
|Ecology||Carl Linnaeus / Ernst Haeckel / Eugenius Warming||Linnaeus founded an early branch of ecology that he called The Economy of Nature (1772), Haeckel coined the term "ecology" (German: Oekologie, Ökologie) (1866), Warming authored the first book on plant ecology. Plantesamfund (1895).|
|Johan Christian Fabricius||Fabricius described and published information on over 10,000 insects and refined Linnaeus's system of classification.|
Karl von Frisch
|The modern discipline of ethology is generally considered to have begun during the 1930s with the work of Nikolaas Tinbergen, Konrad Lorenz and Karl von Frisch, joint awardees of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.|
|Charles Darwin||On the Origin of Species (1859).|
|Genetics||Gregor Mendel||For his study of the inheritance of traits in pea plants, which forms the basis for Mendelian inheritance.|
|William Bateson||Proponent of Mendelism.|
|Ichthyology||Peter Artedi||"Far greater than either of these… was he who has been justly called the Father of Ichthyology, Petrus (Peter) Artedi (1705–35)."|
|Lichenology||Erik Acharius||"Erik Acharius, the father of lichenology..."|
|Microbiology||Antonie van Leeuwenhoek / Louis Pasteur||The first to microscopically observe micro-organisms in water and the first to see bacteria.|
|Molecular biology||Linus Pauling|||
|Molecular biophysics||Gopalasamudram Narayana Iyer Ramachandran||Founded the [world's first?] molecular biophysics unit (1970).|
|Paleontology||Leonardo da Vinci
|Parasitology||Francesco Redi||The founder of experimental biology and the first person to challenge the theory of spontaneous generation by demonstrating that maggots come from eggs of flies.|
|Protozoology||Antonie van Leeuwenhoek||First to produce precise, correct descriptions of protozoa.|
|Taxonomy||Carl Linnaeus||Devised the system of naming living organisms that became universally accepted in the scientific world.|
|The first men to discover viruses (1892).|
considered "father" or "mother"
|Atomic theory (early)||Democritus||Founder of atomism in cosmology.|
|Atomic theory (modern)||Father Roger Boscovich||First coherent description of atomic theory.|
|John Dalton||First scientific description of the atom as a building block for more complex structures.|
|Chemical thermodynamics (modern)||Gilbert Lewis / Willard Gibbs / Merle Randall / Edward Guggenheim||Thermodynamics and the Free Energy of Chemical Substances (1923) and Modern Thermodynamics by the Methods of Willard Gibbs (1933), which made a major contribution to the use of thermodynamics in chemistry.|
|Chemistry (early)||Jabir ("Geber") ibn Hayyan (died 815)||Introduced the experimental method to Islamic alchemy.|
|Chemistry (modern)||Antoine Lavoisier||Elements of Chemistry (1787)|
|Robert Boyle||The Sceptical Chymist (1661)|
|Jöns Berzelius||Development of chemical nomenclature (1800s)|
|John Dalton||Revival of atomic theory (1803)|
|Green chemistry||Paul Anastas||Design and manufacture of chemicals that are non-hazardous and environmentally benign.|
|Nuclear chemistry||Otto Hahn|
|Periodic table||Dmitri Mendeleev||Arranged the sixty-six elements known at the time in order of atomic weight by periodic intervals (1869).|
|Physical chemistry||Mikhail Lomonosov||The first to read lectures in physical chemistry and coin the term (1752).|
|Jacobus van 't Hoff||Jacobus van 't Hoff is considered to be one of the founders of the discipline of physical chemistry. His work helped found the discipline as it is today.|
|Svante Arrhenius||Devised much of the theoretical foundation for physical chemistry. On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances (1876), Thermodynamik chemischer Vorgange (1882).|
|Wilhelm Ostwald||"Wilhelm Ostwald is considered one of the founders of the discipline of physical chemistry..."|
|Hermann von Helmholtz|||
considered "father" or "mother"
|Geochemistry (modern)||Victor Goldschmidt||For developing the Goldschmidt classification of elements.|
|Early geodesy (mathematical geography)||Eratosthenes||Eratosthenes was first to write the word Geography (from Geo- and -graphy, literally "writing about the Earth")|
|Limnology (modern)||G. Evelyn Hutchinson|||
|Matthew Fontaine Maury|||
|Plate tectonics||Alfred Wegener|||
|Acoustical oceanography||Leonid Brekhovskikh|||
|Stratigraphy||Father Nicholas Steno|||
|Speleology||Édouard-Alfred Martel||Began the first systematic exploration of cave systems and promoted speleology as a field separate from geology.|
Medicine and physiology
considered "father" or "mother"
|Anatomy (modern)||Marcello Malpighi|
|Biophysics||Hermann von Helmholtz|
|Biomechanics||Christian Wilhelm Braune||First to describe the methodology of human gait walking.|
|Bioelectromagnetics||Luigi Galvani||First to discover animal electricity through a series of experiments.|
|Cognitive therapy||Aaron T. Beck||
|Dentistry (modern)||Pierre Fauchard|||
|Electrophysiology||Emil du Bois-Reymond||The discoverer of nerve action potential.|
|Epidemiology (modern)||John Snow|
|Gynaecology||J. Marion Sims|||
|Human anatomy (modern)||Vesalius||De humani corporis fabrica (1543)|
|Medical genetics||Victor McKusick||Mendelian Inheritance in Man|
|Neurosurgery||Harvey Cushing||Developed techniques that considerably reduced the risks involved with brain surgery in the early 20th Century.|
|Neuroscience||Santiago Ramón y Cajal||Comprehensive work on structure of the brain.|
|Nursing (modern)||Florence Nightingale||See Nursing#History.|
|Organ transplantation||Thomas Starzl||Performed the first human liver transplant and established the clinical utility of anti-rejection drugs including ciclosporin. Developed major advances in organ preservation, procurement and transplantation.|
|Orthopedic surgery (modern)||Hugh Owen Thomas||He stressed the importance of rest in treatment and was responsible for many landmark contributions to orthopaedic surgery. He was especially celebrated for his design and use of splints; the famous Thomas knee splint was still in wide use at the end of World War II.|
|Pathology (modern)||Rudolf Virchow||Founded modern Pathology and Social Medicine and published Die Cellularpathologie in ihrer Begründung auf physiologische und pathologische Gewebelehre which is regarded as the basis of modern medical science.|
|Psychology (experimental)||Wilhelm Wundt||Founded the first laboratory for psychological research.|
|Pediatrics||Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi ("Rhazes")||Wrote The Diseases of Children, the first book to deal with pediatrics as an independent field.|
|Physiology||Claude Bernard||An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865)|
|Physical culture||Bernarr Macfadden||"It delighted the heart of our old friend Bernarr Macfadden, 'the Father of Physical Culture,' when we told him how much athletic activity and good sportsmanship had to do with the rehabilitation of boys."|
|Plastic surgery||Wrote the Sushruta Samhita.|
|Psychophysics||Gustav Fechner||Elements of Psychophysics (1860)|
|Space medicine||Hubertus Strughold||"After Wernher von Braun, he was the top Nazi scientist employed by the American government, and he was subsequently hailed by NASA as the 'father of space medicine'"|
|Surgery (early)||Sushruta||Wrote the Sushruta Samhita.|
Physics and astronomy
considered "father" or "mother"
|Acoustics||Ernst Chladni||For important research in vibrating plates|
|Atomic bomb||Enrico Fermi
J. Robert Oppenheimer
|For their role in the Manhattan Project|
|Zhukovsky was the first to undertake the study of airflow, was the first engineer scientist to explain mathematically the origin of aerodynamic lift. Cayley Investigated theoretical aspects of flight and experimented with flight a century before the first airplane was built|
|Physical cosmology||Albert Einstein (founder)
||Leavitt discovered Cepheid variables, the "Standard Candle" by which Hubble later determined galactic distances. Einstein's general theory of relativity is usually recognized as the theoretic foundation of modern cosmology.|
|Classical mechanics||Isaac Newton (founder)||Described laws of motion and law of gravity in Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687)|
|Book: De Magnete (1600)
Discovered electromagnetic induction (1831)
|Electrodynamics||André-Marie Ampère||Book: Memoir on the Mathematical Theory of Electrodynamic Phenomena, Uniquely Deduced from Experience (1827)|
|Energetics||Willard Gibbs||Publication: On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances (1876)|
|Experimental physics (founder)||Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen)||For introducing experimental method into physics with his Book of Optics (1021)|
|Modern astronomy||Nicolaus Copernicus||Developed the first explicit heliocentric model in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543)|
|Nuclear physics||Ernest Rutherford||Developed the Rutherford atom model (1909)|
|Nuclear science||Marie Curie
|Optics||Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen)||Correctly explained vision and carried out the first experiments on light and optics in the Book of Optics (1021).|
|Physics (early)||Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen)
|Alhazen developed rigorous experimental methods of controlled scientific testing to verify theoretical hypotheses and substantiate inductive conjectures.|
|Physics (modern)||Galileo Galilei||His development and extensive use of experimental physics, e.g. the telescope|
|Plasma physics||Irving Langmuir
|Langmuir first described ionised gas as plasma and observed fundamental plasma vibrations, Langmuir waves.
Alfvén pioneered the theoretical description of plasma by developing magnetohydrodynamics.
|Quantum mechanics||Max Planck (founder)
|Stated that electromagnetic energy could be emitted only in quantized form|
|Relativity||Albert Einstein (founder)||Pioneered special relativity (1905) and general relativity (1915)|
|Spaceflight (rocketry)||Robert Hutchings Goddard
|Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket.
Tsiolkovsky created the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation.
|Thermodynamics||Sadi Carnot (founder)||Publication: On the Motive Power of Fire and Machines Fitted to Develop that Power (1824)|
considered "father" or "mother"
(see also The father of algebra)
|Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi (Algorismi) Brahmagupta
|Full exposition of solving quadratic equations in his Al-Jabr and recognized algebra as an independent discipline.
First use of symbolism (syncopation) in his Arithmetica.
|Algebraic topology||Henri Poincaré||Published Analysis Situs in 1895, introducing the concepts of homotopy and homology, which are now considered part of algebraic topology.|
|Analytic geometry||René Descartes
Pierre de Fermat (founders)
|For their independent invention of the Cartesian Coordinate System|
|See Leibniz and Newton calculus controversy.|
|Classical analysis||Madhava of Sangamagrama||Developed Taylor series expansions of trigonometric functions|
|Computer science||Charles Babbage
|In the history of computer science Babbage is often regarded as one of the first pioneers of computing and Turing invented the principle of the modern computer and the stored program concept that almost all modern day computers use.|
|Cryptanalysis||Al-Kindi||Developed the first code breaking algorithm based on frequency analysis. He wrote a book entitled "Manuscript on Deciphering Cryptographic Messages", containing detailed discussions on statistics.|
|Descriptive geometry||Gaspard Monge
|Developed a graphical protocol that creates three-dimensional virtual space on a two-dimensional plane|
|Fractal geometry||Benoît B. Mandelbrot|
|Geometry||Euclid||Euclid's Elements deduced the principles of Euclidean geometry from a set of axioms.|
|Graph theory||Leonhard Euler||See Seven Bridges of Königsberg|
|Italian school of algebraic geometry||Corrado Segre||Publications and students developing algebraic geometry|
|Modern algebra||Emmy Noether||Provided the first general definitions of a commutative ring, and suggested that topology be studied algebraically. Combined the structure theory of associative algebras and the representation theory of groups into a single arithmetic theory of modules and ideals in rings satisfying ascending chain conditions.|
|Non-Euclidean geometry||János Bolyai,
|Independent development of hyperbolic geometry in which Euclid's fifth postulate is not true|
|Probability||Gerolamo Cardano, Pierre de Fermat, Blaise Pascal, Christiaan Huygens (founders)||Fermat and Pascal co-founded probability theory, about which Huygens wrote the first book|
|Projective geometry||Girard Desargues(founder)||By generalizing the use of vanishing points to include the case when these are infinitely far away|
|Tensor calculus||Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro
|Book: The Absolute Differential Calculus|
|Trigonometry||Hipparchus||Constructed the first trigonometric table.|
|For their development and use of vectors in algebra and calculus|
considered "father" or "mother"
|Chaos theory||Henri Poincaré
|Poincaré's work on the three-body problem was the first discovered example of a chaotic dynamical system. Cartwright made the first mathematical analysis of dynamical systems with chaos. Lorenz introduced strange attractor notation.|
|Cybernetics||Norbert Wiener||Book Cybernetics: Or the Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. 1948.|
|Dynamic programming||Richard E. Bellman|
|Fuzzy logic||Lotfi Asker Zadeh|
|Information theory||Claude Shannon||Article: A Mathematical Theory of Communication (1948)|
|Optimal control||Arthur E. Bryson||Book: Applied Optimal Control|
|Robust control||George Zames||Small gain theorem and H infinity control.|
|Stability theory||Alexander Lyapunov||Lyapunov function|
|System dynamics||Jay Wright Forrester||Book: Industrial dynamics (1961)|
considered "father" or "mother"
Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī
|Bibliometrics||Paul Otlet||The term bibliométrie was first used by Paul Otlet in 1934 and defined as "the measurement of all aspects related to the publication and reading of books and documents."|
|Demography||Ibn Khaldun||Muqaddimah (Prolegomena) (1377)|
|Egyptology||Father Athanasius Kircher||First to identify the phoenetic importance of the hieroglyph, and he demonstrated Coptic as a vestige of early Egyptian, before the Rosetta stone's discovery.
Translated parts of the Rosetta Stone.
|Historiography||Ibn Khaldun||Wrote several essential books|
|History||Herodotus (who also coined the term)|
|Indology||Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī||Wrote the Indica|
|International law||Alberico Gentili
Francisco de Vitoria
|Influential contributions to the theory of international law, war and human rights|
|Linguistics (early)||Panini||Wrote the first descriptive grammar (of Sanskrit)|
|Linguistics (modern)||Ferdinand de Saussure|
Auguste Comte (who also coined the term)
Marquis de Condorcet (founder)
|Wrote the first sociological book, the Muqaddimah (Prolegomena).
"Father of modern sociology"
Introduced the scientific method into sociology.
considered "father" or "mother"
|Accounting and bookkeeping||Luca Pacioli||Establisher of accounting and the first person to publish a work on bookkeeping.|
|Economics (early)||Ibn Khaldun
Chanakya / Kautilya
|Publication: Muqaddimah (1370)
Publication: Arthashastra (400 BCE - 200 CE)
|Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen||The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (1971)|
|Macroeconomics||John Maynard Keynes||Author of The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money and groundbreaking economist, Keynes spearheaded a revolution in economic thinking. Prior to Keynes, the general consensus among economists was that the economy was self-fixing. During the Great Depression, when people began to realize that the economy would not fix itself, Keynes proposed that the government needed to intervene to combat excessive boom and bust. This idea was the largest influence in U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.|
|Mathematical economics||Daniel Bernoulli||Forerunner of the Tableau économique.|
|Microcredit||Muhammad Yunus||Founded Grameen Bank|
|Personnel economics||Edward Lazear||Published the first paper in the field.|
Schools of thought
considered "father" or "mother"
|Austrian School||Carl Menger|
|School of Salamanca||Francisco de Vitoria||Highly influential teacher and lecturer on commercial morality|
considered "father" or "mother"
|Expectations theory||Thomas Cardinal Cajetan||Recognised the effect of market expectations on the value of money|
|Modern portfolio theory||Harry Markowitz|
|Social choice theory||Kenneth Arrow||Created the field with his 1951 book Social Choice and Individual Values.|
considered "father" or "mother"
|Science (modern)||Galileo Galilei
|For systemic use of experimentation in science and contributions to scientific method, physics and observational astronomy|
|Family and consumer science||Ellen Swallow Richards||Founded the American Association of Home Economics, currently the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences. "Bringing science into the home, Richards hoped to "...attain the best physical, mental, and moral development" for the family, which she believed was the basic unit of civilization."|
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Diophantus sometimes is called "the father of algebra," but this title more appropriately belongs to al-Khwarizmi. It is true that in two respects the work of al-Khwarizmi represented a retrogression from that of Diophantus. First, it is on a far more elementary level than that found in the Diophantine problems and, second, the algebra of al-naren is thoroughly rhetorical, with none of the syncopation found in the Greek Arithmetica or in Brahmagupta's work. Even numbers were written out in words rather than symbols! It is quite unlikely that al-Khwarizmi knew of the work of Diophantus, but he must have been familiar with at least the astronomical and computational portions of Brahmagupta; yet neither al-Khwarizmi nor other Arabic scholars made use of syncopation or of negative numbers.
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Diophantus, the father of algebra, in whose honor I have named this chapter, lived in Alexandria, in Roman Egypt, in either the 1st, the 2nd, or the 3rd century CE.
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The tablet, catalogued as Plimpton 322, is composed in Old Babylonian script so that it must fall in the period from 1900 B.C. and 1600 B.C., at least a millennium before the Pythagoreans… It is evident, however, that at this early date the Babylonians not only had completely mastered the Pythagorean problem, but also had used it as the basis for the construction of trigonometric tables.)
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The honour of being called the 'father of modern economics' belongs, then, not to its usual recipient, Adam Smith, but to a gallicized Irish merchant, banker, and adventurer who wrote the first treatise on economics more than four decades before the publication of the Wealth of Nations. Richard Cantillon (c. early 1680s-1734)…
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"Mr. Ricardo's system is one of discords …its whole tends to the production of hostility among classes and nations… His hook is the true manual of the demagogue, who seeks power by means of agrarianism, war, and plunder." (H. C. Carey, The Past, the Present, and the Future, Philadelphia, 1848, pp. 74–75.)
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