Top 10 lists are silly. But they’re fun, which is why there’s so many of them. In a week or two, I’m going to start a brief biographical series with a little bit of information on the lives and works of the great physicists.
The top 3 are obvious (Well, to me anyway). The top 5 – I think I have a decent idea what my opinions are. The top 10? Things start to get kind of fuzzy. There’s a few dozen people who could make a pretty good case for being considered among the truly great physicists. But these lists are as much about who’s not in them as who is. And heck, maybe we’ll even make it a top 20 list for the educational/entertainment value of having a few more cool guys and gals of physics to talk about.
I’m not ranking according to raw intelligence, but mainly by the importance of their ideas and discoveries to the advancement of our understanding of the universe. And while this won’t make much difference, I’m disqualifying those people who are better known as pure mathematicians – so someone like Gauss won’t be on the list even though he was one of the smartest people of all time and made several notable contributions to physics. Mathematical physicists are fine.
So, time for your suggestions! Let’s have your top 10 physicists, or even just unordered suggestions for who should be on my list.