List of people considered father or mother of a scientific field

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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[1][2] – who attempted to explain natural phenomena without recourse to mythology – and Democritus, the seminal atomist.[3]

Natural sciences[edit]


Field Person/s
considered "father" or "mother"
Bacteriology Robert Koch / Ferdinand Cohn[4] / Louis Pasteur First to produce precise, correct descriptions of bacteria.
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek[5]
Biogeography Alfred Russel Wallace "...Often described as the Father of Biogeography, Wallace shows the impact of human activity on the natural world."[6]
Biology[n 1] Aristotle [7]
Entomology Jan Swammerdam [8]
Johan Christian Fabricius[9] Fabricius described and published information on over 10,000 insects and refined Linnaeus's system of classification.
William Kirby [10]
Charles Darwin[11][12][13] 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.[14]
William Bateson Proponent of Mendelism.[15]
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)."[16]
Lichenology Erik Acharius "Erik Acharius, the father of lichenology..."[17]
Microbiology Antonie van Leeuwenhoek[18] The first to microscopically observe micro-organisms in water and the first to see bacteria.
Molecular biology Linus Pauling [19]
Molecular biophysics Gopalasamudram Narayana Iyer Ramachandran[20] Founded the [world's first?] molecular biophysics unit (1970).
Paleontology Leonardo da Vinci
George Cuvier
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.[22]
Protozoology Antonie van Leeuwenhoek[5] First to produce precise, correct descriptions of protozoa.
Taxonomy Carolus Linnaeus[23] Devised the system of naming living organisms that became universally accepted in the scientific world.
Virology Dmitry Ivanovsky
Martinus Beijerinck
The first men to discover viruses (1892).


Field Person/s
considered "father" or "mother"
Atomic theory (early) Democritus[24] Founder of atomism in cosmology.
Atomic theory (modern) Father Roger Boscovich[25] First coherent description of atomic theory.
John Dalton[26] 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[27] 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)[28][29][30][31] Introduced the experimental method to Islamic alchemy.
Chemistry (modern) Antoine Lavoisier[32] Elements of Chemistry (1787)
Robert Boyle[32] The Sceptical Chymist (1661)
Jöns Berzelius[33][34] Development of chemical nomenclature (1800s)
John Dalton[32] Revival of atomic theory (1803)
Green chemistry Paul Anastas[35] Design and manufacture of chemicals that are non-hazardous and environmentally benign.
Nuclear chemistry Otto Hahn[36]
Periodic table Dmitri Mendeleev[37] 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).
Svante Arrhenius[38] 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..."[39]
Hermann von Helmholtz [citation needed]

Earth sciences[edit]

Field Person/s
considered "father" or "mother"
Geochemistry (modern) Victor Goldschmidt For developing the Goldschmidt classification of elements.
Geodesy (mathematical geography) Eratosthenes [40][41]
Geology (modern)
Limnology (modern) G. Evelyn Hutchinson [44]
Mineralogy Georgius Agricola [45]
Matthew Fontaine Maury [46]
Plate tectonics Alfred Wegener [citation needed]
Acoustical oceanography Leonid Brekhovskikh [47]
Stratigraphy Father Nicholas Steno [42]
Speleology Édouard-Alfred Martel Began the first systematic exploration of cave systems and promoted speleology as a field separate from geology.

Medicine and physiology[edit]

Field Person/s
considered "father" or "mother"
Anatomy (modern) Marcello Malpighi
Audiology Raymond Carhart
  • "…the Father of Audiology himself, Raymond Carhart at Northwestern University…"[48]
  • "Carhart notch: A decrease in the bone-conduction hearing at the 2000 Hz region of patients with otosclerosis first reported by and therefore named after the father of audiology, Raymond Carhart."[49]
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
  • "In developing ways to do this, Beck became the father of cognitive therapy, one of the most important developments in psychotherapy in the last 50 years."[50]
  • The Prospect of Immortality (1962)
Cryonics Robert Ettinger [51]
Dentistry (modern) Pierre Fauchard [52]
Electrophysiology Emil du Bois-Reymond The discoverer of nerve action potential.
Emergency medicine
Fitness Jack LaLanne [56]
Gynaecology J. Marion Sims [57][58]
Histology Marcello Malpighi
Human anatomy (modern) Vesalius[59] De humani corporis fabrica (1543)
Medical genetics Victor McKusick[60] Mendelian Inheritance in Man
Medicine (early)
Medicine (modern) Hippocrates[7][64][65][66] Prescribed professional practices for physicians through the Hippocratic Oath.
Neurosurgery Harvey Cushing[67] Developed techniques that considerably reduced the risks involved with brain surgery in the early 20th Century.[67]
Neuroscience Santiago Ramón y Cajal Comprehensive work on structure of the brain.
Nursing (modern) Florence Nightingale See Nursing#History.
Nutrition (modern)
  • "Justus Von Liebig, the 'father of modern nutrition', developed the perfect infant food. It consisted of [...]"[68]
  • "In addition to being known as the Father of Modern Chemistry, Lavoisier is also considered the Father of Modern Nutrition, as the first to discover the metabolism that occurs inside the human body..."[69]
Organ transplantation Thomas Starzl[70] 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[71] 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.
Orthomolecular Medicine Linus Pauling
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[72] Founded the first laboratory for psychological research.
Pediatrics Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi ("Rhazes")[73] Wrote The Diseases of Children, the first book to deal with pediatrics as an independent field.
Physiology Claude Bernard[74] 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."[75]
Plastic surgery Wrote the Sushruta Samhita.
Psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud [78]
Psychophysics Gustav Fechner[79] 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'"[80]
Surgery (early) Sushruta[76][77] Wrote the Sushruta Samhita.
Surgery (modern)
Toxicology Paracelsus [89]

Physics and astronomy[edit]

Field Person/s
considered "father" or "mother"
Acoustics Ernst Chladni[90] For important research in vibrating plates
Atomic bomb Enrico Fermi
J. Robert Oppenheimer
Leslie Groves
Edward Teller
For their role in the Manhattan Project
Aerodynamics Nikolai Zhukovsky
George Cayley[91]
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)

Henrietta Leavitt (mother)[92]
Edwin Hubble (father)[92]

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)[93] Described laws of motion and law of gravity in Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687)
Electricity William Gilbert[94]
Michael Faraday[95]
Book: De Magnete (1600)
Discovered electromagnetic induction (1831)
Electrodynamics André-Marie Ampère[96] Book: Memoir on the Mathematical Theory of Electrodynamic Phenomena, Uniquely Deduced from Experience (1827)
Energetics Willard Gibbs[97] Publication: On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances (1876)
Experimental physics (founder) Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen)[98][99] For introducing experimental method into physics with his Book of Optics (1021)
Modern astronomy Nicolaus Copernicus[100] Developed the first explicit heliocentric model in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543)
Modern physics Galileo Galilei[101] His development and extensive use of experimental physics, e.g. the telescope
Nuclear physics Ernest Rutherford[102] Developed the Rutherford atom model (1909)
Nuclear science Marie Curie
Pierre Curie[103]
Optics Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen)[104] Correctly explained vision and carried out the first experiments on light and optics in the Book of Optics (1021).
Plasma Physics Irving Langmuir
Hannes Alfvén[105]
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)[106] Stated that electromagnetic energy could be emitted only in quantized form
Relativity Albert Einstein (founder)[107] Pioneered special relativity (1905) and general relativity (1915)
Spaceflight (rocketry) Robert Hutchings Goddard
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Hermann Oberth
Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket.
Tsiolkovsky created the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation.
Thermodynamics Sadi Carnot (founder)[108] Publication: On the Motive Power of Fire and Machines Fitted to Develop that Power (1824)

Formal sciences[edit]


Field Person/s
considered "father" or "mother"
(see also The father of algebra)
Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi (Algorismi)[109] Brahmagupta[110]
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[113] Published Analysis Situs in 1895,[114] introducing the concepts of homotopy and homology, which are now considered part of algebraic topology.
Analysis Augustin-Louis Cauchy[115]
Karl Weierstrass[116]
Analytic geometry René Descartes
Pierre de Fermat[117](founders)
For their independent invention of the Cartesian Coordinate System
Calculus Isaac Newton[118]
Gottfried Leibniz
See Leibniz and Newton calculus controversy.
Classical analysis Madhava of Sangamagrama[119] Developed Taylor series expansions of trigonometric functions
Computer science George Boole
Alan Turing
Invented Boolean logic, which is the basis of modern digital computer logic
Provided an influential formalisation of the concept of the algorithm and computation with the Turing machine.
Descriptive geometry Gaspard Monge[120]
Developed a graphical protocol that creates three-dimensional virtual space on a two-dimensional plane
Fractal geometry Benoît B. Mandelbrot
Geometry Euclid[121] Euclid's Elements deduced the principles of Euclidean geometry from a set of axioms.
Graph Theory Leonhard Euler[122] See Seven Bridges of Königsberg
Italian school of algebraic geometry Corrado Segre[123] Publications and students developing algebraic geometry
Non-Euclidean geometry János Bolyai,
Nikolai Lobachevsky[124](founders)
Independent development of hyperbolic geometry in which Euclid's fifth postulate is not true
Number theory Pythagoras[125]
Probability Gerolamo Cardano, Pierre de Fermat, Blaise Pascal, Christiaan Huygens[126] (founders) Fermat and Pascal co-founded probability theory, about which Huygens wrote the first book
Projective geometry Girard Desargues[127](founder) By generalizing the use of vanishing points to include the case when these are infinitely far away
Tensor calculus Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro[128]
Book: The Absolute Differential Calculus
Trigonometry Aryabhata Hipparchus[129][130] Constructed the first trigonometric table.
Vector algebra,
vector calculus
Willard Gibbs[131]
Oliver Heaviside[132]
For their development and use of vectors in algebra and calculus

Systems theory[edit]

Field Person/s
considered "father" or "mother"
Chaos theory Henri Poincaré[133]
Edward Lorenz[134]
Lorenz attractor
Cybernetics Norbert Wiener[135] 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[136] Article: A Mathematical Theory of Communication (1948)
Optimal control Arthur E. Bryson[137] Book: Applied Optimal Control[138]
Robust control George Zames[citation needed] Small gain theorem and H infinity control.
Stability theory Alexander Lyapunov[citation needed] Lyapunov function
System dynamics Jay Wright Forrester[139] Book: Industrial dynamics (1961)

Social sciences[edit]

Field Person/s
considered "father" or "mother"
Anthropology Herodotus[140]
Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī[141][142]
Demography Ibn Khaldun[143] Muqaddimah (Prolegomena) (1377)
Egyptology Father Athanasius Kircher[144]

Jean-François Champollion[citation needed]

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[142] Wrote the Indica
International law Alberico Gentili
Francisco de Vitoria
Hugo Grotius
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

Noam Chomsky

Sociology Ibn Khaldun[143][145]
Adam Ferguson[146]
Auguste Comte (who also coined the term)[147]
Marquis de Condorcet (founder)[148]
Wrote the first sociological book, the Muqaddimah (Prolegomena).
"Father of modern sociology"
Introduced the scientific method into sociology.


Field Person/s
considered "father" or "mother"
Accounting and Bookkeeping Luca Pacioli[149] Establisher of accounting and the first person to publish a work on bookkeeping.[149]
Economics (early) Ibn Khaldun[150]
Chanakya / Kautilya[151]
Publication: Muqaddimah (1370)
Publication: Arthashastra (400 BCE - 200 CE)
Economics (modern)
Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen[156][157][158][159][160] The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (1971)
Macroeconomics John Maynard Keynes[161] 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.[162][163]
Mathematical economics Daniel Bernoulli Forerunner of the Tableau économique.[164]
Monetary economics
  • Oresme's De Moneta.
  • "Irving Fisher [...] spent his career studying questions about money and the economy - how money affects interest rates, how money affects inflation, and the impact of money on overall economic activity. For this work, he is regarded as the father of monetary economics."[166]
  • "[...] no less an authority than the University of Chicago's Milton Friedman, the father of monetary economics, [...]"[167]
Microcredit Muhammad Yunus[168] Founded Grameen Bank
Personnel economics Edward Lazear Published the first paper in the field.

Schools of thought[edit]

Field Person/s
considered "father" or "mother"
Austrian School Carl Menger[169]
Communism Karl Marx
Friedrich Engels
David Ricardo[170]
School of Salamanca Francisco de Vitoria[171] Highly influential teacher and lecturer on commercial morality


Field Person/s
considered "father" or "mother"
Expectations theory Thomas Cardinal Cajetan[172] Recognised the effect of market expectations on the value of money
Modern portfolio theory Harry Markowitz[173]
Social choice theory Kenneth Arrow Created the field with his 1951 book, Social Choice and Individual Values

Other fields[edit]

Field Person/s
considered "father" or "mother"
science (modern) Galileo Galilei[174]
For systemic use of experimentation in science and contributions to scientific method, physics and observational astronomy
physics (early) Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen)[177][178] Alhazen developed rigorous experimental methods of controlled scientific testing to verify theoretical hypotheses and substantiate inductive conjectures.

Developed Baconian method in his Novum Organum (1620).

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."[179]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A name suggested in 1802 by the German naturalist Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus and introduced as a scientific term later that year by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.


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  14. ^ The Father of Genetics
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  128. ^ Boyer (1991). "Greek Trigonometry and Mensuration". A History of Mathematics (Second ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 162. ISBN 0-471-54397-7. For some two and a half centuries, from Hippocrates to Eratosthenes, Greek mathematicians had studied relationships between lines and circles and had applied these in a variety of astronomical problems, but no systematic trigonometry had resulted. Then, presumably during the second half of the second century B.C., the first trigonometric table apparently was compiled by the astronomer Hipparchus of Nicaea (ca. 180-ca. 125 B.C.), who thus earned the right to be known as the father of trigonometry. Aristarchus had known that in a given circle the ratio of arc to chord decreases from 180° to 0°, tending toward a limit of 1. However, it appears that not until Hipparchus undertook the task had anyone tabulated corresponding values of arc and chord for a whole series of angles. 
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  145. ^ Willcox, William Bradford; Arnstein, Walter L. (1966). The Age of Aristocracy, 1688 to 1830. Volume III of A History of England, edited by Lacey Baldwin Smith (Sixth Edition, 1992 ed.). Lexington, MA. p. 133. ISBN 0-669-24459-7. Adam Ferguson of Edinburgh became "the father of modern sociology." 
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  167. ^ Expanding Microcredit in India: A Great Opportunity for Poverty Alleviation, Grameen Dialogue.
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  169. ^ Karl Marx (1863): Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 10:

    Carey (the passage to be looked up later) therefore denounces him as the father of communism.

    "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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  172. ^ Harry Markowitz, "the father of Modern Portfolio Theory," To Highlight Investment Consultants Conference
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