Several places in the Bible, there’s long lists of genealogies. The first chapter of Matthew, for instance, looks pretty much like this: …and Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; and Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias… and so on. There’s a point to it. Ancestry and tribal lineage were a big deal to ancient peoples, and lists of genealogy were how people kept track of ancestry.
Extreme talent in the sciences is rarely hereditary. Great physicists tend to be extreme outliers and regression to the mean tends to reduce the possibility of Nobel-winning talent levels being inherited. There are exceptions such as J.J. Thomson’s son winning a Nobel prize, but it’s unusual.
There is another way you might keep track of physics genealogies. How about instead of “son/daughter of” we say “graduate student of”? There’s all kinds of cool lineages there. For instance:
Lord Rayleigh begat J.J. Thomson, Thomson begat J. Robert Oppenhemer; Oppenhemier begat Willis Lamb, Lamb begat Marlan Scully.
Marlan Scully is one of the fathers of quantum optics, and an active professor at Texas A&M university. I see him in group meetings all the time. He’s unbelievably good at physics, which is no surprise. It’s a little amazing to think that in some sense he’s a direct connection to so many legendary names of the physics past.
Or how about this one:
Ralph Fowler begat Paul Dirac, Dirac begat Dennis Sciama, Sciama begat Stephen Hawking, Hawking begat Christopher Pope.
Dr. Pope is also a professor at Texas A&M, a high-energy theorist. I’m actually in one of his classes right now. Brilliant man, and one of the best teachers in the department. I hope he doesn’t read this or he’ll think I’m just trying to ingratiate myself, but he really is excellent.
You find these cool chains of science everywhere. If you have a copy of Landau and Lifshitz’ book on quantum mechanics, you’ll find thanked in the acknowledgments a student of Lifshitz named V. L. Pokrovskii. Would you like to know if his Quantum II class is difficult? It is. But that’s the way it should be, and he personally is a good teacher with a great sense of humor. When discussing the quantum behavior of atomic electrons, he told us about a great contribution of Dimitri Mendeleev to science: his calculation of the perfect vodka strength.
And that’s just a few lineages from the faculty at one public university in Texas with a pretty good physics department. Do a little digging about where your own professors studied. I’ll bet you’re closer to the legends of physics history than you think.