Most of the leading scientists of all time were Christians. Amazingly enough, few people know that. In the universities I visit to deliver talks and lectures, It’s very common for me to get questions like: “Is it possible for someone to be a scientist and a Christian at the same time?” Or even more troubling, some students ask questions like: “If Christianity is true, why are scientists atheists?”
Because of the atheistic ideology in schools and universities in nowadays, it is understandable that many young people do not know that being a Christian was and is the norm when it comes to the greatest scientists in the history of mankind.
To clarify this, our goal in today’s chat will be to list Christian scientists in key areas of natural sciences, remembering that I will only select those I believe were central to the development of these areas of knowledge.
As it would be too boring to describe here in detail what each of these scientist did for his field of expertise, I’ll write just the basics and put the link on each name to the corresponding entry in Wikipedia.
If you do not consider Wikipedia a good source of information, remember that you can always go deeper into further research, visiting other sites or reading books. I’m putting the link to Wikipedia for you to have a starting point for your research. Moreover, never forget that we’re always on hand in the comments at the end of the text if you still have any specific questions about these scientists and their Christian faith.
It is also important that you know that the list will not be exhaustive; there are still many other Christian scholars who will not be listed here. My goal is to make it clear that it is indeed possible to be a scientist and a Christian. For that purpose, I think the list will suffice.
So, let’s list the scientists, according to their areas of expertise, organized in each area by the year of their birth. Let’s see
- Physics & Mathematics
- Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519): was one of the most creative minds in the history of mankind. Among other things, he helped to lay the foundations of experimental science.
- Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626): contributed decisively to the establishment of the Scientific Method.
- Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642): among many other contributions, can be considered a precursor of observational astronomy thanks to his work including the improvement of telescopes.
- René Descartes (1596-1650): developed a central role in philosophy, physics, and mathematics. He is considered by some as one of the fathers of modern mathematics.
- Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630): by his understanding of planetary motion, laid the foundations for Isaac Newton to establish an understanding of universal gravitation.
- Isaac Newton (1642 – 1726): perhaps the greatest scientist of all time, having published both in science (with his masterpiece “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy“) as in theology.
- Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716): was a very important thinker in philosophy and mathematics.
- William Derham (1657 – 1735): among other areas, studied the speed of sound.
- Michael Faraday (1791 – 1867): was central to the development of electromagnetism and electrochemistry.
- Samuel F. B. Morse (1791 – 1872): created the telegraph and, as the title implies, Morse code.
- Joseph Henry (1797 – 1878): created the motor, among other inventions.
- James Joule (1818 – 1889): worked in the area of energy conservation and thermodynamics. His name would later serve as the unit for work.
- William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin (1824 – 1907): Among other things, had a decisive contribution to the formulation of the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics.
- James Clerk Maxwell (1831 – 1879): joined magnetism with electricity through his theory of electromagnetic radiation. His equations were central to the theory of relativity, built a few decades later by Albert Einstein.
- Georg Cantor (1845-1918): worked in pure mathematics, especially in the development of modern set theory.
- Max Planck (1858-1947): is among many considered the father of Quantum Physics (To better understand quantum physics, read our post: “Is Christianity incompatible with Quantum Physics?“);
- Kurt Gödel (1906-1978): was a skilled mathematician and logician that revolutionized the understanding of mathematics with his theorem of incompleteness.
- Robert Boyle (1627 – 1691): can be considered one of the fathers of modern chemistry.
- John Dalton (1766 – 1844): one of the first to advocate the idea that indivisible particles (atoms) formed all matter;
- William Ramsay (1852 – 1916): among his great contributions, perhaps the largest was having discovered the noble gases.
- John Ray (1627 – 1705): was one of the most important men in the establishment of Natural History.
- Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778): among other things, was considered the father of modern taxonomy.
- Gregor Mendel (1822 – 1884): created what became known as Mendel’s Law, which deals with how hereditary characteristics are transmitted.
- Louis Pasteur (1822 – 1895): worked in various fields of chemistry and medicine.
- Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre (1823 – 1915): played a central role in the development of the etymology of live insects.
- Some Christian Noble Prize Winners (Different Areas)
The two main objections atheists bring against the fact that the majority of top scientists in the world are Christians are the following:
- Only scientists in the past were Christian. They didn’t know modern science. If they did, they would be
- Today, only bad scientists are Christians. No credible scientist would believe in the Bible.
In order to address these issues, I decided to add a list of some Christian Nobel Prize Winners, mainly in Science. We know there many other outstandin g christian scientists that haven’t received the Nobel Prize; these are merely a few . Note that, near the end of the list, there are some that are still alive.
Here’s the list:
- Lord Rayleigh (1842–1919): Nobel Prize for Physics in 1904
- Ronald Ross (1857–1932): Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1902 for his work on malaria.
- J. Thomson (1856–1940): Nobel Prize for Physics in 1906.
- William Henry Bragg (1862–1942): shared a Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915, shared with his son William Lawrence.
- Max Planck (1858–1947): He won the 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics and is considered the founder of Quantum mechanics.
- Philipp Lenard (1862–1947): Nobel Prize in Physics in 1905.
- Robert Millikan (1868–1953): Nobel Prize in Physics in 1923.
- Alexis Carrel (1873–1944): Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1912.
- Johannes Stark (1874–1957): Nobel Prize in Physics in 1919.
- Guglielmo Marconi (1874–1937): considered the inventor of radio, shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics.
- Charles Glover Barkla (1877–1944): Nobel Prize in Physics in 1917.
- Max von Laue (1879–1960): Nobel Prize in Physics in 1914.
- John Boyd Orr (1880–1971): Nobel Peace Prize in 1949 for his scientific research into nutrition and his work as the first Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
- Arthur Compton (1892–1962): Nobel Prize in Physics 1n 1927.
- Victor Francis Hess (1883–1964): Nobel Prize in physics 1936.
- Ernest Walton (1903–1995): Nobel Prize in Physics in 1951.
- John Eccles (1903–1997): A Nobel laureate and neurophysiologist in 1963.
- Nevill Francis Mott (1905–1996): Nobel Prize in Physics in 1977.
- Charles Hard Townes (born 1915): Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964.
- Clyde Cowan (1919–1974): Nobel Prize in Physics in 1995.
- Joseph Murray (1919–2012): Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1990.
- Arthur Leonard Schawlow (1921–1999): Nobel Prize in Physics in 1981.
- Antony Hewish (born 1924): Nobel Prize for Physics in 1974.
- Werner Arber (born 1929): obel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1978.
- John Gurdon (born 1933): Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2012.
- Gerhard Ertl (born 1936): Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry in 2007.
- Joseph H. Taylor, Jr. (born 1941): Nobel Prize in Physics in 1993.
- Richard Smalley (1943–2005): A Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996.
- William Daniel Phillips (born 1948): Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997.
- Brian Kobilka (born 1955): Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2012.
As I said, this list is not exhaustive. Wikipedia itself has an entry with a list of Christian thinkers in science. There are hundreds of them.
Apart from these scientists, I would like to clarify something about Albert Einstein since many students ask me if he was an atheist . Einstein is not listed above because there is not enough information on his life and work for us to conclude that he was a Christian . However, it is undisputed that he was not an atheist, and that he even believed in a God who arranged the world so that we could study and have the expectation of understanding it.
Regarding ourselves , the important thing is to fight the atheistic paradigm in the universities and know that the majority of the greatest minds believed in the Bible and in Christianity.
Incidentally, the idea that the world is rationally organized by a rational God and that we are beings made in the image of God (hence rational) is an eminently Christian idea. Only with that in mind does it make sense to practice science or seek to understand how God organized the world.
The relationship between Christianity and the principles that enabled the development of science, however, will be discussed in a future post. For now, I hope you enjoyed today’s post and that you may already be convinced that it is indeed more than possible for someone to be a scientist and a Christian at the same time.