Many adults cannot name a scientist

Dimitri-IvanovskyUSA Today’s Snapshot for 29 June was a survey in which 1000 adults were asked to name a famous scientist. Here are the results:

47% named Albert Einstein
23% could not name anyone
6% named Marie Curie
4% named Louis Pasteur
4% named Thomas Edison

The survey was conducted by L’Oreal, but the methods were not revealed. Therefore it is not possible to determine if the results can be extended to the adult population in general. Nevertheless, the poor showing on naming a famous scientist┬áis an indictment of the science education of those who participated in the survey.

I’m interested in how the readers of virology blog would respond to the question, ‘Name a scientist’ – it doesn’t have to be a famous scientist, and it should not be a relative, or the author of virology blog. Don’t look up someone in a book or online – I’m interested in who you would think of spontaneously. Post your answer – just one scientist – in the comments section, or send it to I’ll reveal the results here in a few weeks.

In attempting to determine how the L’Oreal survey was conducted, I learned about the L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Program, an effort to celebrate women who have dedicated their careers to scientific research, and to encourage emerging talent to pursue scientific discoveries. It’s a commendable program, and I do hope they impress upon the recipients of these awards the need to educate the public about their work.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ET

    Who was the astronomer that the “Chandra x ray' observatory is named for?

    Subrhaman Chandrasker or something like that? Seems like he found a way to determine mass of stars.

    Any other Indians? Im coming up short…

  • ET

    Any Far East that anyone can think of? I know Shigella is named for someone in Japan. Any others?

    China? Anyone?

  • Linus Pauling.

  • lyric

    Stephen Hawking

  • Jack W.

    Stephen Hawking.

  • steve

    Nikola Tesla

  • Alex

    Richard Feyman

  • Sean

    Benjamin Banneker?
    The first one I came up with actually was Gregor Mendel. Damn you freshman biology!

  • zzing

    Paul Dirac

  • Orlando

    Here's a list of some with stupid nicknames I've given them, just for some variety. Some of the nicknames pretty much only make sense to me.

    Neils “Nelly” Bohr, Richard “Slickback” Feynman, Erwin “Kitty” Schroedinger, Nikola “I'll Show You All!!!!” Tesla, Thomas “Thanks Nikola” Edison, Guglielmo “Radiohead” Marconi, Jonas “Crazylegs” Salk, Albert “The MC” Einstein, Nicolaus “Universal Soldier” Copernicus, Carl Sagan, Isaac “The Force” Newton, Charles “Chuck” Darwin, and of course, Stephen “Wheels” Hawking.

  • f

    nikolai tesla

  • Jason

    Doc Octopus

  • thenonimous

    Isaac Newton

  • max

    stephen hawking came to mind first

  • Michael

    Why no love for Tesla?

  • Michael

    Why no love for Tesla?

  • Michael


  • DT

    Michio Kaku, Richard Feynman, Nikola Tesla, and Buckminster Fuller popped into my head simultaneously, so I'd say they all qualify as the “first.”

  • DT

    You messed up one; it should be Guglielmo “Radiohead-Thanks Nikola” Marconi.

  • James L

    Richard Feynman. Physics, yay!

  • Guest

    Richard Feynman

  • James L

    That's scientists, not scientologists. ­čÖé Beware of volcanic eruptions Xenu.

  • gonzalo Urrutia

    i thought of tesla
    fits the crazy scientist type

  • AndyB62

    I love his constant!

  • AndyB62

    Dian Fossey

  • AndyB62

    Dr. Emmett Brown

  • schadenfreudian

    Nikola Tesla. (Edison can suck it)

  • ET


  • tom

    J. Robert Oppenheimer

  • hershey and chase…name that phage

  • Nubisor


  • Dan

    Gregor Mendel was the first name in my head

  • Knapalm

    Sir Isaac Newton

  • Joe Bloggs

    Linus Pauling

  • Dee

    George Washington Carver

  • Dan

    I came up with 3 off the cuff

  • Moneil

    Amy Mainzer

  • Sapik

    Josiah Willard Gibbs

  • ijostl

    Nina Hartley.

    …wait, she's a slut, wait no a scientist, wait…

    …you know, those two professions seem to have some commonalities…

  • Scott

    Dr. Percy Julian is the one i thought of that i haven't seen listed. PBS had a wonderful show about his life and his work a few months back.
    Ask if the average american can name a sports star or celebrity. . . our priorities in this country are skewed at best.

  • M

    Rachel Carson, Richard Feynman, Rosalind Franklin

  • dave

    Vincent Racaniello

  • David Loria

    Clodomiro Picado Twight, a Costa Rican scientist. He was pioneer in the researching snakes and serpent venoms; his internationally recognized achievement was the development of various anti-venom serums. He was one of the precursors of the discovery of penicillin, which he used to treat patients a couple of years before the formal discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming.[1] He wrote over 115 works, mainly books and monographs.

  • Melkarion

    Nikola Tesla. The classic mad scientist.

  • Kate

    Linus Pauling

  • C Day

    Barbara McClintock.

  • Janice Numtwabe

    Stephen Hawking

  • Janice Numtwabe

    Or Einstein

    – Janice,
    Stroller Travel System

  • Wilijon

    Isn't 23% about the same percentage that thought G W hung the moon?

  • dottholliday

    Enrico Fermi
    Richard Feyman