Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Coolest Scientist Ever: Sweet Sixteen

Update: Clickable poll now available in the sidebar!

New Voices
Coolest Scientist Ever Tournament

Here at New Voices, we can find something cool about all science. Sadly, scientists around the world fight against stereotypes that cast them as the anti-cool. So, for the next month, we'll be highlighting the coolest scientists (thanks for your suggestions!) and pitting them against each other in a March Madness style competition for the title of Coolest Scientist Ever.

Here are the two divisions:

(Full bracket with biographical links)

Each week, we'll narrow it down until we reach an ultimate champion. Of course, we all have our own definitions of cool, which is why your votes are really going to help move each of these fabulous scientists along in the competition.

Each week, vote in the comments and tell us who SHOULD be the Coolest Scientist Ever! You can vote for the winners of any/all match-ups; and if you're feeling especially passionate, tell us why these scientists should win.

Since this is about science, we do have some objective means to weight the competitors:

1. This is, in fact, a popularity contest. If you look at polling data, 74% of Americans can’t name a living scientist (slide 19). That’s a completely unacceptable number. Which is why it’s so important to have science advocates in the public eye showing people the importance of scientific research to their lives. There are any number of incredible scientific discoveries, but what separates the Coolest Scientist from the others is that they’re out there making sure that the public is aware of discovery and of science in general. *Bonus points awarded for appearing on a TV show that people watch in large numbers.

2. Ok, so it’s not ONLY a popularity contest. We also have to evaluate these scientists on the quality of their work and its importance to the world. A record of significant accomplishment is an absolute necessity to being the ideal science advocate.

3. Other random bits of coolness that strike our fancy. Do they have a Facebook page? Have they appeared on The Simpsons (posthumously counts!)? Do they have outstanding hair? Are they the person who made you want to be scientist? Did they stand up to the Catholic Church in 17th century? All of these things contribute to a scientist’s relative coolness.

In addition to these factors each round will have a specific extra weight given to it.
  • The Sweet 16 will be weighted based on which scientist was named most often by Americans.
  • The Elite 8 will be weighted based on the impact of their particular research.
  • The Final 4 will be weighted based on external popularity factors (Google search data/Facebook fans/Time Magazine 100s/etc.) and
  • The Championship Match-up will be decided based on all of the above factors, with your votes carrying the most weight.
Vote today and encourage your friends and family to do the same. May the Coolest Scientist win!


  1. I have to vote for Marie Curie. To be a female scholar and scientist in the part of the world she was in, at that point in history, no doubt, took a woman of great determination and intelligence. To then be not only the first female, but the first person, to win two Nobel Peace Prizes is remarkable. It is impossible to count the number of cancer victims lives that have been saved over the years as a direct result of her research.

  2. I wish Dr Tiffany Fields was on your list as well, she has done some amazing research over the last 30 years or so in the health care fields and the importance of human touch in our healing processes. However, I know you can't include everyone.

  3. I think having half of the entries be currently living is inneficient. My nominees would be:
    Albert Einstein
    Nikola Tesla
    Carl Sagan
    Stephen Hawking
    Galileo Galilei
    Nicolas Copernicus
    Johannes Kepler
    Christian Huygens
    Charles Darwin
    Louis Pasteur
    James D. Watson/ Francis Crick
    Isaac Newton
    Edwin Hubble
    John Locke
    Leonardo da Vinci

  4. Rosalind Franklin deserves a mention.