In intellectual rankings, greatest chemist ever is an epitaph given to a person, depending on ranking methodology, some rankings of which are listed below, that classify, list, or describe someone as being the greatest thinker in the field of chemistry of all time.

The following is a work-in-progress meta-analysis ranking of the greatest chemists of all time:





Lavoisier 75Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) (Partington 50:5) On the basis of Boerhaave's law formulated caloric theory; among numerous other feats, such as playing a key role in the standardization of chemical nomenclature; his 1787 textbook Elements of Chemistry is generally considered to have marked the inception of modern chemistry.

Berzelius 75Jacob Berzelius (1779-1848) (Partington 50:1) Noted for electrical affinity theory (1811), acid base theory (1831), and catalysis theory (1835), among others.

Justus Liebig 75 newJustus Liebig
(Partington 50:2) Considered one of the foremost chemists of the first half of the 19th century, doing a prodigious amount of work in the fields of organic chemistry, agricultural chemistry, and physiological chemistry.
Dumas 75Jean Dumas (1800-1884) (Partington 50:3) After 1840, Dumas and Liebig were said to have “divided the authority which formerly belonged to Berzelius”.

Boyle 75Robert Boyle (1627-1691)(Partington 50:4) In 1658, built an air pump and began to experimentally determine the gas laws, publishing Boyle’s law in his 1660 treatise Spring of the Air; his 1661 booklet The Sceptical Chymist was a stepping stone away from alchemy to modern chemist, considered by some to be the date of inception of modern chemistry; formulated the first part of the ideal gas law, i.e. Boyle's law (PV = k, at constant temperature).

Priestley 75Joseph Priestley
(Partington 50:7) In 1774, discovered oxygen, which he called "dephlogistated air", and attempted to redefine the old phlogiston theory in opposition to Lavosier's newer caloric theory.

Kekule 75August Kekule
(Partington 50:6) In 1857, conceived the idea of assigning certain atoms to certain positions within the molecule, connected via “affinity units” (Verwandtschaftseinheiten), based largely on evidence from chemical reactions; in 1865, famously initiated the study of molecular structure when he conceived of the ring structure of benzene while dreaming about a snake biting its tale.

Henry  Cavendish 75Henry Cavendish (1731-1810) (Partington 50:8) Was the first to determine the electrical conductivity of salt solutions; rejected the material theory of heat; experimentally proved the inverse square law; did work on latent heat and specific heat, etc., etc. His first publication was the 1766 On factitious Airs, on the work of Black, Boyle, and others.

image needed 75x99 headLeucippus


Carl Scheele 75Carl Scheele (1742-1786)(Partington 50:9) In 1770, made of number of chemical discoveries, e.g. oxygen (before Priestley), chlorine (before Davy), as published in his Chemical Treatise on Air and Fire.
Claude Berthollet 75Claude Berthollet (1748-1822) (Partington 50:10) Particularly noted for his 1799 theories on "split affinities".

Davy 75Humphry Davy
(Partington 50:11) In 1807, discovers that electricity transforms chemicals when he uses Alessandro Volta's newly invented electric pile (1800) to separate salts via electrolysis.

Joseph Gay-Lussac 75Joseph Gay-Lussac (1778-1850)(Partington 50:12) In 1802, formulated the second part of the ideal gas law, Gay-Lussac's law (P = kT, at constant volume)

Joseph Black (75px)Joseph Black (1728-1799) (Partington 50:13) Father of thermochemistry: In 1761, discovered “latent heat”; invented the “ice calorimeter” in 1782; student of chemical reaction diagram pioneer William Cullen.

Goethe (75px)Johann Goethe (1749-1832)
In circa 1808 made the first human affinity table and in 1809 founded the science of human chemistry with the publication of his Elective Affinities, in which he wrote out 36-human chemical reactions based on the science of affinity chemistry (Newton, Geoffroy, Cullen, Bergman, Berthollet, etc.), a publication which, in his own words, he considered his 'best book' or greatest work. [39]

Johann Helmont 75Johann Helmont (1579-1644) (Partington 50:14) Founder of pneumatic chemistry; coined the term in circa 1609 “gas”.
Wohler 75Friedrich Wohler (1800-1882)(Partington 50:15) In 1828, synthesized urea thus initiating the field of organic chemistry.

Isaac Newton (75px)Isaac Newton (1643-1727)(Partington 50:44) A life-long passionate student of alchemy, who seeded the chemical revolution with his "Query 31" appended to his 1704 Opticks.

Cullen 75William Cullen

In 1757, pioneered the idea of the "chemical equation" (AB + C → AC + B) based on Geoffroy's affinity table.

Dalton 75John Dalton
(Partington 50:18) In 1803, he assigned an atomic weight of one to hydrogen, and began determining molecular formulas, such as that the ratio of nitrous anhydride was 2 to 3, giving N2O3.
Johann Becher
(Partington 50:43)
Ostwald 75Wilhelm Ostwald
(Partington 50:45)

Mendeleyev 75 newDmitri Mendeleyev

In 1869, formulated the periodic table of elements.

Avogadro 75Amedeo Avogadro
(Partington 50:27)
Edward Frankland
(Partington 50:16)

Descartes 75Rene Descartes
(Partington 50:#) In 1625, developed the hood-and-eye model of atomic bonding, whereby a bond was said to form when the hook of one atom got caught in the eye of another atom; this chemical bond theory was taught up until 1917 (specifically to Linus Pauling).

Geoffroy 75Etienne Geoffroy (1672-1731) (Partington 50:#) In 1718, during a translation in to French of Newton's Opticks, translated Newton's verbal descriptions of affinity preferences between various chemical into the world's first affinity table, which launched the chemical revolution.

Pierre Gassendi 75Pierre Gassendi
(Partington 50:#)

Bergman 75Torbern Bergman (1735-1784) (Partington 50:31) In his 1775 A Dissertation on Elective Attractions, he pioneered the use the single letters (a, b, c, etc.,) and adjacent letters (ab, ac, etc.) to represent single and attached chemical species, respectively, and made the world's biggest affinity table (50-rows, 59 columns) ever published and contains a fold-out page of 64 affinity reaction diagrams.

Paracelsus 75Paracelsus
(Partington 50:39)
(Croll 6:6)
In 1524, combined Aristotle’s c. 350 BC four element theory with Geber’s c. 790 three principles, to derive a sulphur theory of how wood burned; coining the word gas; had theories on chemical affinity.

Boerhaave 75Herman Boerhaave
(Partington 50:37) Originator of Boerhaave's law (cited on the first page of Lavoisier's treatise); his 1724 book Elements of Chemistry, was the forerunner to Lavoisier's book of the same title.
Hermes Trismegistus
(Croll 6:1)

Robert Bunsen 75Robert Bunsen
(Partington 50:21)
Nicolas Lemery 75Nicolas Lemery
(Partington 50:#) Acid and Alkali(Faber 114:10) French chemist; noted for his 1675 Course on Chemistry, wherein, supposedly (Thorpe, 1874), he was the first to propose the division of chemistry into “organic chemistry” (animal/vegetable kingdom) and “inorganic chemistry” (mineral kingdom); noted for his so-called "geometric atomism" (Farber, 1961), wherein to explain neutralization that takes place when an acid and a base react, he conceived, based on contemporary atomism and Descartes (c.1640), a geometrically-locking acid-base model of corpuscles, according to which the barb or spike of an acid corpuscle fit into the grove of a base or alkali; was one of the earliest conceptions of “molecule” (Ѻ) or two corpuscles joined, and a remote precursor to the chemical bond (see: history of the chemical bond).

Gibbs 75 newWillard Gibbs

In 1876, founded the science of chemical thermodynamics; conceiving of a number of novel applications, such as chemical potential, among others.
(Partington 50:36)
Roger Bacon 75Roger Bacon
(Croll 6:4)

Pauling 75Linus Pauling (1901-1994)
In 1937, wrote On the Nature of the Chemical Bond, called the "bible" of the modern chemist; after being taught Descartes 1625 "hook-and-eye" bonding theory, while an undergraduate chemical engineering student, in 1917, at Oregon State University.
Georg Stahl
(Partington 50:30)
Michael Sendivogius
(Partington 50:24)

FaradayMichael Faraday (1791-1867)(Partington 50:24)

Geber 75Geber
(Croll 6:2)

Fritz Haber 75Fritz Haber

An 2011 8th-ranked "greatest chemist of all time" via Twitter poll vote, by editors of Nature Chemistry.
Ramon Llull 75Ramon Llull
(Croll 6:5)

Rutherford 75Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) (Partington 50:47) Noted for conceiving of the Rutherford model of the atom, that of a tiny central nucleus surround by electons.

CurieMarie Curie (1867-1934)
Chemically extracted uranium from uranium ore, noting that the residual material is more ‘active’ than the extracted pure uranium, concluding that the ore must contain new elements, which led to the discovery of polonium and radium.

Magnus 75Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) (Partington 50:40) One of the foremost alchemists of the 13th century; one of the earliest theorists on affinity theory.

Aristotle 75Aristotle
(Partington 50:32)
Hermann Kolbe
(Partington 50:17)
Marcellin Berthelot 75Marcellin Berthelot
(Partington 50:50)
John Mayow
(Partington 50:25)
Lothar Meyer
(Partington 50:26)

Robert Hooke 75Robert Hooke
(Partington 50:23)
Alfred Werner
(Partington 50:38)
Richard Kirwan
(Partington 50:28)
Auguste Laurent
(Partington 50:19)
Thomas Thomson
(Partington 50:20)
August Hofmann
(Partington 50:22)
Adolf Baeyer
(Partington 50:29)
Antoine Fourcroy
(Partington 50:33)
Sanger 75Frederick Sanger (1918-1913)


Louis Pasteur 75Louis Pasteur

Stephen Hales
(Partington 50:34)
Leopold Gmelin
(Partington 50:35)
(Croll 6:3)
Guyton Morveau
(Partington 50:41)
Thomas Graham
(Partington 50:42)
Stanislao Cannizzaro
(Partington 50:46)
Jeremias Richter



Croll top 6
In 1608, Croll, in his Chemical Basilica, presented a title page showing images of the top six chemist of history, namely:

1. Hermes Trismegistus (c.100-175) (Ѻ) | Egyptian (see: Hermes)
2. Geber | Arabian
3. Morienus (c.640-700) | Roman [2]
4. Roger Bacon | English
5. Ramon Llull | Spanish
6. Paracelsus | German


Partington 50
See main: Partington 50
The 50 greatest chemists (by historical citation) according to English chemical thermodynamicist and renowned chemistry historian James Partington’s 1937 A Short History of Chemistry, based on "name index" page citation count, which is the shortened version of his large three-volume treatise (A History of Chemistry), are: [3]

1. Jacob Berzelius (52)
2. Justus Liebig (39)
3. Jean Dumas (38)
4. Robert Boyle (30)
5. Antoine Lavoisier (26)
6. Friedrich Kekule (22)
7. Joseph Priestley (23)
8. Henry Cavendish (21)
9. Carl Scheele (20)
10. Claude Berthollet (19)
11. Humphry Davy (17)
12. Joseph Gay-Lussac
13. Joseph Black (16)
14. Johann Helmont
15. Friedrich Wohler (16)
16. Edward Frankland (15)
17. Hermann Kolbe (15)
18. John Dalton (14)
19. August Laurent (13)
20. Thomas Thomson (13)
21. Robert Bunsen (12)
22. August Hofmann (12)
23. Robert Hooke (12)
24. Michael Faraday (11)
25. John Mayow (11)
26. Lothar Meyer (10)
27. Amedeo Avogadro (10)
28. Richard Kirwan (10)
29. Adolf Baeyer (10)
30. Georg Stahl (9)
31. Torbern Bergman (9)
32. Aristotle (9)
33. Fourcroy (9)
34. Hales (8)
35. Gmelin (8)
36. Avicenna (7)
37. Herman Boerhaave (7)
38. Werner (7)
39. Paracelsus (7)
40. Albertus Magnus (6)
41. Guyton Morveau (6)
42. Graham (6)
43. Johann Becher (6)
44. Isaac Newton (6)
45. Wilhelm Ostwald (6)
46. Cannizzaro (6)
47. Ernest Rutherford (6)
48. J.B. Richter (6)
49. Louis Pasteur (6)
50. Marcellin Berthelot (5)

These are followed by others, including: Willard Gibbs (3), Geber (2), Johann Goethe (1), among others in the near 1-4 page range.

Farber | Great chemists
In 1961, Eduard Farber, in his 1,600+ page Great Chemists, listed 114 “great chemists” in chronological order, some discussion of selection methods of which he discusses in his preface; the first selection of which are listed below: [7]

1. Babylonian chemists
2. Interlude I, philosophers and practitioners
3. Arabic chemists
4. Interlude II, philosophers and alchemists and practical metallurgists
5. Paracelsus
6. Libavius and Jean Beguin
7. Joan van Helmont
8. Rudolf Glauber
9. Robert Boyle
10. Nicolas Lemery
11. Herman Boerhaave
12. Duhamel du Monceau
13. Guillaume-Francois Rouelle
14. Andreas Sigismun Marggraf
15. Mikhail Lomonosov
16. Joseph Black
17. Henry Cavandish
18. Joseph Priestley
19. Carl Scheele
20. Antoine Lavoisier


Nature Chemistry’s 2011 Twitter poll
In 2011, the editors of Nature Chemistry conducted a Twitter poll on the query “Who is the greatest chemist of all-time?”, the results of which (86 votes) are shown below (those receiving two or more votes):

1. Linus Pauling (16)
2. Dmitri Mendeleyev (11)
3. Antoine Lavoisier (7)
4. Marie Curie (6)
5. R.B. Woodward (4)
6. Michael Faraday (4)
7. Gilbert Lewis (3)
8. Amedeo Avogadro (2)
9. Fritz Haber (2)
10. Jābir ibn Hayyān (2)
11. August Kekulé (2)
12. Niels Bohr (2)
13. E. J. Corey (2)

Everyone else received one vote (in no particular order): Friedrich Wöhler (1), Alfred Werner (1), Henry Moseley (1), Paul Walden (1), Robert Robinson (1), Ludwig Boltzmann (1), Jacobus Henricus van ’t Hoff (1), Robert Boyle (1), Walther Nernst (1), Svante Arrhenius (1), Shigeru Terabe (1), James Joule (1), Victor Grignard (1), William Perkin (1), Stanislao Cannizzaro (1), Wallace Carothers (1), Emil Fischer (1), Wilhelm Ostwald (1), Ryōji Noyori (1), Paracelsus (1), Louis Pasteur (1), Humphry Davy (1).

Bracher’s top 5
In followup to Nature Chemistry’s poll, ChemBark blogger, Harvard-trained organic chemist Paul Bracher listed opinion on the top 5 chemists ever: [1]

1. Linus Pauling
2. Gilbert Lewis
3. Willard Gibbs
4. Antoine Lavoisier
5. R.B. Woodward


Building on this core ranked Partington group the table (under-construction) is an updated ranked "greatest chemists of all-time" listing using chemists found in the American psychologist Catherine Cox (CC) 300 genius list (years: 1450-1850), the English accelerated learning expert Tony Buzan (TB) 100 geniuses (years: prior to 1994), Agnes Gottlieb (AG) top 1,000 most influential people (years: 1,000 to 2,000), integrated together with South African born Canadian chemical engineer and science historian Gavin Kanowitz’s (GK) 2009 ranked list of the top 40 chemists of all time, along with the Science Channel's [SC] ranking of the top 13 greatest discoveries in chemistry, grouped by discoverer. [4]

Goethe, of significance, will intentionally be placed first on this list, in spite of the fact that he has only one page mention in Partington's History, who comments that German chemist Johann Dobereiner. Goethe is specifically placed first in ranking owing to the fact that he has recently emerged as the founder of human chemistry, a relatively new, albeit very advanced, branch of chemistry, extremely likely to be the dominant branch of chemistry in the years to come. Only a few are aware of the density of Goethe’s work in chemistry, a fact barricaded by the extreme difficulty involved in the pure understanding of the subject of chemical thermodynamics, which forms the basis of Goethe’s work. One who seemed to have caught glimpse of what Goethe’s chemistry mindset was Belgian chemical thermodynamicist Ilya Prigogine, Nobel Laureate in thermodynamics (1871), who commented, in his discussion of the method by which Newton derived celestial mechanics from the universal theory of chemical affinity between all atomic bodies of the universe, “we may recall the importance of the mediator in Goethe’s Elective Affinities, and gives his opinion that “for what concerns chemistry, Goethe was not far from Newton”. [5] Similar to the view of Prigogine, American chemical engineer Libb Thims, author of the first-ever textbook on Human Chemistry (2007), considers Goethe to be, by far, the highest ranked chemist of all-time. [6]

We specifically place Lavoisier second (first in the Partington ordering scheme, versus fifth) owing to the fact that his caloric theory is largely responsible for the inception of the science of thermodynamics, and hence chemical thermodynamics (the grandest branch of chemistry); in addition to the fact that he accomplished so much in chemistry in such a short time (he was guillotined at the age of 51 over tax conspiracy accusations).

See also
Greatest physicist ever
Greatest philosopher ever
Greatest mathematician ever
Greatest thermodynamicist ever
Greatest engineer ever
Last person to know everything
Universal genius
Last universal genius
Genius IQs (top 1000 geniuses)
● IQ: 200+ | Smartest person ever
● IQ: 150+ | Smartest woman ever

1. Cantrill, Stuart. (2011). “The greatest chemist of all time?”, The Sceptical Chymist, Jan 07.
2. Greatest Chemists of All-Time (2011) –
3. Partington, James R. (1938). A Short History of Chemistry. MacMillan and Co, 1960.
4. (a) Cox, Catharine, M. (1926). Early Mental Traits of Three Hundred Geniuses (Genetic Studies of Genius Series). Stanford Univ Press.
(b) Buzan, Tony and Keene, Raymond. (1994). Book of Genius. Stanley Paul.
(c) Gottlieb, Agnes, Gottlieb, Henry, Bowers, Barbara and Bowers, Brent. (1998). 1,000 Years, 1,000 People: Ranking the Men and Women Who Shaped the Millennium. Kodansha America, Inc.
(d) Kanowitz, Gavin. (2009). “40 Greatest Chemists of All-Time”, Mar 02.
(e) 13 Greatest Discoveries in Chemistry – Science Channel.
5. Prigogine, Ilya. (1984). Order Out of Chaos (pgs. 64, 319). Bantam Books.
6. (a) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume One), (preview). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
(b) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume Two), (preview), (Quote: "The founder of this new science [human chemistry] is the German writer, scientist, and polymath Johann von Goethe", pg. 371; ch. 10: "Goethe's Affinities", pgs. 371-422). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
7. Farber, Eduard. (1961). Great Chemists. Interscience Publishers.

External links
40 Greatest Chemists of All-Time (2009) – WorldOfReason,

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