A scientist is a person engaging in a systematic activity to acquire
knowledge that describes and predicts the natural world. In a more
restricted sense, a scientist may refer to an individual who uses the
scientific method. The person may be an expert in one or more areas
of science. The term scientist was coined by the theologian,
philosopher, and historian of science
William Whewell in 1833. This
article focuses on the more restricted use of the word. Scientists
perform research toward a more comprehensive understanding of nature,
including physical, mathematical and social realms.
Philosophy is today typically regarded as a distinct activity from
science, though the activities were not always distinguished in this
fashion, with science considered a "branch" of philosophy rather than
opposed to it, prior to modernity. Philosophers aim to provide a
comprehensive understanding of fundamental aspects of reality and
experience, often pursuing inquiries with conceptual, rather than
empirical, methods. Natural scientific research is usually also
distinguished from inquiry in the humanities more generally, and often
with inquiry in the social sciences and mathematics on various
grounds, although these distinctions may be controversial.
When science is done with a goal toward practical utility, it is
called applied science. An applied scientist may not be designing
something in particular, but rather is conducting research with the
aim of developing new technologies and practical methods. When science
seeks to answer questions about fundamental aspects of reality it is
sometimes called natural philosophy, as it was generally known before
the 19th century.
2.1 By country
2.1.1 United States
2.2 By gender
3 Historical development and etymology of the term
3.1 Ancient and medieval science
3.2 Historical scientists
4 Types of scientists
4.1 By field
4.2 By employer
5 See also
7 External articles
Science and technology have continually modified human existence
through the engineering process. As a profession the scientist of
today is widely recognized. Scientists include theoreticians who
mainly develop new models to explain existing data and predict new
results, and experimentalists who mainly test models by making
measurements — though in practice the division between these
activities is not clear-cut, and many scientists perform both tasks.
There is a continuum from the most theoretical to the most empirical
scientists with no distinct boundaries. In terms of personality,
interests, training and professional activity, there is little
difference between applied mathematicians and theoretical physicists.
Scientists can be motivated in several ways. Many have a desire to
understand why the world is as we see it and how it came to be. They
exhibit a strong curiosity about reality. Other motivations are
recognition by their peers and prestige, or the desire to apply
scientific knowledge for the benefit of people's health, the nations,
the world, nature or industries (academic scientist and industrial
scientist). Scientists tend to be less motivated by direct financial
reward for their work than other careers. As a result, scientific
researchers often accept lower average salaries when compared with
many other professions which require a similar amount of training and
The number of scientists is vastly different from country to country.
For instance, there are only 4 full-time scientists per 10,000 workers
India while this number is 79 for the
United Kingdom and the United
Scientists per 10,000 workers for selected countries
United Arab Emirates: 15
Saudi Arabia: 15
South Africa: 20
New Zealand: 35
United Kingdom: 79
United States: 79
According to the
United States National
Science Foundation 4.7 million
people with science degrees worked in the
United States in 2015,
across all disciplines and employment sectors. The figure included
twice as many men as women. Of that total, 17% worked in academia,
that is, at universities and undergraduate institutions, and men held
53% of those positions. 5% of scientists worked for the federal
government and about 3.5% were self-employed. Of the latter two
groups, two-thirds were men. 59% of US scientists were employed in
industry or business, and another 6% worked in non-profit
See also: Women in science
Scientist and engineering statistics are usually intertwined, but they
indicate that women enter the field far less than men, though this gap
is narrowing. The number of science and engineering doctorates awarded
to women rose from a mere 7 percent in 1970 to 34 percent in 1985 and
in engineering alone the numbers of bachelor's degrees awarded to
women rose from only 385 in 1975 to more than 11000 in 1985.
This inequality follows into the professional setting in terms of both
position and income. According to Eisenhart and Finked, women's
experiences, even when they have equal qualifications, are that they
start in lower positions while men are granted tenure track positions.
This later predicts a gender inequality of tenured positions as
scientists in universities, "as of 1989, 65 percent of men and only 40
percent of women held tenured positions." Income conflicts occur when
median annual salaries for full-time employed civilian scientists are
compared, "salary for men is $48,000, and that for women is
Historical development and etymology of the term
Timeline of the history of scientific method and Scientific
Until the late 19th or early 20th century, scientists were called
"natural philosophers" or "men of science".
English philosopher and historian of science
William Whewell coined
the term scientist in 1833, and it first appeared in print in
Whewell's anonymous 1834 review of Mary Somerville's On the Connexion
of the Physical Sciences published in the Quarterly Review.
Whewell's suggestion of the term was partly satirical, a response to
changing conceptions of science itself in which natural knowledge was
increasingly seen as distinct from other forms of knowledge. Whewell
wrote of "an increasing proclivity of separation and dismemberment" in
the sciences; while highly specific terms proliferated—chemist,
mathematician, naturalist—the broad term "philosopher" was no longer
satisfactory to group together those who pursued science, without the
caveats of "natural" or "experimental" philosopher. Members of the
British Association for the Advancement of
Science had been
complaining about the lack of a good term at recent meetings, Whewell
reported in his review; alluding to himself, he noted that "some
ingenious gentleman proposed that, by analogy with artist, they might
form [the word] scientist, and added that there could be no scruple in
making free with this term since we already have such words as
economist, and atheist—but this was not generally palatable".
Whewell proposed the word again more seriously (and not anonymously)
in his 1840 "The
Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences:
As we cannot use physician for a cultivator of physics, I have called
him a physicist. We need very much a name to describe a cultivator of
science in general. I should incline to call him a Scientist. Thus we
might say, that as an Artist is a Musician, Painter, or Poet, a
Scientist is a Mathematician, Physicist, or Naturalist.
He also proposed the term physicist at the same time, as a counterpart
to the French word physicien. Neither term gained wide acceptance
until decades later; scientist became a common term in the late 19th
century in the
United States and around the turn of the 20th century
in Great Britain. By the twentieth century, the modern
notion of science as a special brand of information about the world,
practiced by a distinct group and pursued through a unique method, was
essentially in place.
"No one in the history of civilization has shaped our understanding of
science and natural philosophy more than the great Greek philosopher
Aristotle (384-322 BC), who exerted a profound and
pervasive influence for more than two thousand years" —Gary B.
Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the electrical battery and
discoverer of methane, is widely regarded as one of the greatest
scientists in history.
Francesco Redi, referred as the Father of modern parasitology, is the
founder of experimental biology.
Albert Einstein developed the general theory of relativity
and made many substantial contributions to physics
Enrico Fermi is credited with the creation of the world's
first atomic bomb and nuclear reactor.
Atomic physicist Niels Bohr, made fundamental contributions to
understanding atomic structure and quantum theory
Rachel Carson launched the 20th century environmental
The social roles of "scientists", and their predecessors before the
emergence of modern scientific disciplines, have evolved considerably
over time. Scientists of different eras (and before them, natural
philosophers, mathematicians, natural historians, natural theologians,
engineers, and others who contributed to the development of science)
have had widely different places in society, and the social norms,
ethical values, and epistemic virtues associated with scientists—and
expected of them—have changed over time as well. Accordingly, many
different historical figures can be identified as early scientists,
depending on which elements of modern science are taken to be
Some historians point to the 17th century as the period when science
in a recognizably modern form developed (what is popularly called the
Scientific Revolution). It wasn't until the 19th century that
sufficient socioeconomic changes occurred for scientists to emerge as
a major profession.
Ancient and medieval science
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Knowledge about nature in Classical Antiquity was pursued by many
kinds of scholars. Greek contributions to science—including works of
geometry and mathematical astronomy, early accounts of biological
processes and catalogs of plants and animals, and theories of
knowledge and learning—were produced by philosophers and physicians,
as well as practitioners of various trades. These roles, and their
associations with scientific knowledge, spread with the Roman Empire
and, with the spread of Christianity, became closely linked to
religious institutions in most of European countries.
astronomy became an important area of knowledge, and the role of
astronomer/astrologer developed with the support of political and
religious patronage. By the time of the medieval university system,
knowledge was divided into the trivium—philosophy, including natural
philosophy—and the quadrivium—mathematics, including astronomy.
Hence, the medieval analogs of scientists were often either
philosophers or mathematicians.
Knowledge of plants and animals was
broadly the province of physicians.
Science in medieval Islam generated some new modes of developing
natural knowledge, although still within the bounds of existing social
roles such as philosopher and mathematician. Many proto-scientists
Islamic Golden Age
Islamic Golden Age are considered polymaths, in part because
of the lack of anything corresponding to modern scientific
disciplines. Many of these early polymaths were also religious priests
and theologians: for example,
Alhazen and al-Biruni were
mutakallimiin; the physician
Avicenna was a hafiz; the physician Ibn
al-Nafis was a hafiz, muhaddith and ulema; the botanist Otto Brunfels
was a theologian and historian of Protestantism; the astronomer and
Nicolaus Copernicus was a priest. During the Italian
Renaissance scientists like Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo
Gerolamo Cardano have been considered as the most
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During the Renaissance,
Italians made substantial contributions in
Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo Da Vinci made significant discoveries in
paleontology and anatomy. The Father of modern Science,
Galileo Galilei, made key improvements on the thermometer and
telescope which allowed him to observe and clearly describe the solar
system. Descartes was not only a pioneer of analytic geometry but
formulated a theory of mechanics and advanced ideas about the
origins of animal movement and perception. Vision interested the
physicists Young and Helmholtz, who also studied optics, hearing and
music. Newton extended Descartes' mathematics by inventing calculus
(contemporaneously with Leibniz). He provided a comprehensive
formulation of classical mechanics and investigated light and optics.
Fourier founded a new branch of mathematics — infinite, periodic
series — studied heat flow and infrared radiation, and discovered
the greenhouse effect. Girolamo Cardano,
Blaise Pascal Pierre de
Fermat, Von Neumann, Turing, Khinchin, Markov and Wiener, all
mathematicians, made major contributions to science and probability
theory, including the ideas behind computers, and some of the
foundations of statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics. Many
mathematically inclined scientists, including Galileo, were also
Luigi Galvani, the pioneer of the bioelectromagnetics, discovered the
animal electricity. He discovered that a charge applied to the spinal
cord of a frog could generate muscular spasms throughout its body.
Charges could make frog legs jump even if the legs were no longer
attached to a frog. While cutting a frog leg, Galvani's steel scalpel
touched a brass hook that was holding the leg in place. The leg
twitched. Further experiments confirmed this effect, and Galvani was
convinced that he was seeing the effects of what he called animal
electricity, the life force within the muscles of the frog. At the
University of Pavia, Galvani's colleague
Alessandro Volta was able to
reproduce the results, but was sceptical of Galvani's explanation.
During the age of Enlightenment, Francesco Redi, discovered that
microorganisms can cause disease. This was later explained by Louis
Pasteur. There are many compelling stories in medicine and biology,
such as the development of ideas about the circulation of blood from
Galen to Harvey. The flowering of genetics and molecular biology in
the 20th century is replete with famous names. Ramón y Cajal won the
Nobel Prize in 1906 for his remarkable observations in neuroanatomy.
Marie Curie became the first female to win the
Nobel Prize and the
first person to win it twice. Her efforts led to the development of
nuclear energy and Radio therapy for the treatment of cancer. In 1922,
she was appointed a member of the International Commission on
Intellectual Co-operation by the Council of the League of Nations. She
campaigned for scientist's right to patent their discoveries and
inventions. She also campaigned for free access to international
scientific literature and for internationally recognized scientific
Lazzaro Spallanzani is one of the most influential figures in
experimental physiology and the natural sciences. His investigations
have exerted a lasting influence on the medical sciences. He made
important contributions to the experimental study of bodily functions
and animal reproduction.
Some see a dichotomy between experimental sciences and purely
"observational" sciences such as astronomy, meteorology, oceanography
and seismology. But astronomers have done basic research in optics,
developed charge-coupled devices, and in recent decades have sent
space probes to study other planets in addition to using the Hubble
Telescope to probe the origins of the
Universe some 14 billion years
ago. Microwave spectroscopy has now identified dozens of organic
molecules in interstellar space, requiring laboratory experimentation
and computer simulation to confirm the observational data and starting
a new branch of chemistry.
Computer modeling and numerical methods are
techniques required of students in every field of quantitative
Types of scientists
Those considering science as a career often look to the frontiers.
These include cosmology and biology, especially molecular biology and
the human genome project. Other areas of active research include the
exploration of matter at the scale of elementary particles as
described by high-energy physics, and materials science, which seeks
to discover and design new materials. Although there have been
remarkable discoveries with regard to brain function and
neurotransmitters, the nature of the mind and human thought still
Human behavioral ecologists
Industrial and organizational psychologists
Operations research & Management analysts
Lay people scientists/Citizen scientists
Hippocratic Oath for Scientists
History of science
List of engineers
List of mathematicians
List of Nobel laureates in Physics
List of Nobel laureates in Chemistry
List of Nobel laureates in
Physiology or Medicine
List of Russian scientists
List of Roman Catholic cleric-scientists
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Cohen and Anne Whitman's 1999 translation, University of California
Press ISBN 0-520-08817-4, 974 pages.
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India by the numbers.
142-143 (14 May 2015).
^ "Employment: Male majority". Nature. 542 (7642): 509–509.
^ Margaret A. Eisenhart, Elizabeth Finkel (1998). Women's Science:
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^ Eisenhart and Finkel, Ch 1 in The Gender and
Science Reader ed.
Muriel Lederman and Ingrid Bartsch. New York, Routledge, 2001. (16-17)
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^ Steve Fuller, Kuhn VS. Popper: The Struggle For The Soul Of Science.
Columbia University Press 2004. Page 43. ISBN 0-231-13428-2
Science by American Association for the Advancement of Science,
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Retrieved 2011-03-08. To be exact, the person coined the term
scientist was referred to in Whewell 1834 only as "some ingenious
gentleman." Ross added a comment that this "some ingenious gentleman"
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Ross 1962, p.72.
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Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences
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predecessors, see: Steven Shapin (2008). The Scientific Life: A Moral
History of a Late Modern Vocation. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
^ Einstein (1954, p. 271). "Propositions arrived at by purely logical
means are completely empty as regards reality. Because Galileo
realised this, and particularly because he drummed it into the
scientific world, he is the father of modern physics—indeed, of
modern science altogether."
^ Stephen Hawking, Galileo and the Birth of Modern
2012-03-24 at the Wayback Machine., American Heritage's Invention
& Technology, Spring 2009, Vol. 24, No. 1, p. 36
^ Peter Damerow (2004). "Introduction". Exploring the Limits of
Preclassical Mechanics: A Study of Conceptual Development in Early
Modern Science: Free Fall and Compounded Motion in the Work of
Descartes, Galileo and Beeckman. Springer
Science & Business
Media. p. 6.
^ Robert Routledge (1881). A popular history of science (2nd ed.). G.
Routledge and Sons. p. 553. ISBN 0-415-38381-1.
^ "Spallanzani - Uomo e scienziato" (in Italian). Il museo di Lazzaro
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Alison Gopnik, "Finding Our Inner Scientist", Daedalus, Winter 2004.
Charles George Herbermann, The Catholic Encyclopedia.
Science and the
Church. The Encyclopedia press, 1913. v.13. Page 598.
Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962.
Arthur Jack Meadows. The Victorian Scientist: The Growth of a
Profession, 2004. ISBN 0-7123-0894-6.
Science, The Relation of Pure
Science to Industrial Research. American
Association for the Advancement of Science. Page 511 onwards.
For best results, add a little inspiration - The Telegraph about What
Inspired You?, a survey of key thinkers in science, technology and
Peer Review Journal
Science on amateur scientists
The philosophy of the inductive sciences, founded upon their history
(1847) - Complete Text
"The Scientist", BBC Radio 4 discussion with John Gribbin, Patricia
Fara and Hugh Pennington (In Our Time, Oct. 24, 2002)