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The scientific and technological progress that we see nowadays is the fruit of the work done by many scientists over many generations. We discover and invent new things based on the efforts of previous inventors. In other words, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. In this article, I will tell you about five influential scientists from the 18th century who contributed to the scientific progress that we see today.

Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday is an English scientist who was born on 22 September 1791. He contributed to many scientific fields but is famous for his contribution to the study of electromagnetism. His ideas about the electromagnetic fields helped in synthesizing the famous Maxwell equations and were behind the invention of many devices that we use today like electric motors, generators, microwaves, gold detectors… It also explains the interference that happens between electronic devices even when they are not in direct contact with each other.

He coined terms like anode, cathode, and ion. The unit of measurement of capacitance (capacitors are electronic devices that store electric energy) was named in his honor Farad.

Faraday is famous for being a great experimentalist but his mathematical abilities were limited because he didn’t have formal education. But he taught himself by reading the books he had access to when he worked for a bookseller.

Henry Cavendish

Henry Cavendish is an English scientist who was born in the French city of Nice on 10 October 1731. He attended the Newcome's School in London then the University of Cambridge, but he left after three years without taking the degree.

He worked in many areas of research but he is famous for the experiment in which he measured gravitational constant G. It is called the Cavendish experiment and some want to call it weighing the earth. This experiment is amazing because it allowed the scientists to determine the mass of the earth with nothing more than a wooden rod, a tension wire, 2 lead spheres, and two larger spheres. It also proved that Newton laws of gravitation work even at small scales. After a career full of achievements, Henry Cavendish died on 24 February 1810.

Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss

Friedrich Gauss was born in Germany on 30 April 1777. He is a famous mathematician and physicist and I consider him the greatest mathematician ever.

He mathematical abilities were discovered at a young age. When he was 21, he finished his first textbook, which contributed to making the number theory an independent discipline. Gauss died On 23 February 1855 because of a heart attack.

James Watt

James Watt is a mechanical engineer and a chemist. James was born in 1736 in Scotland. He died at the age of 83 in August 1819.

If you buy a household appliance, you will notice its power is always indicated on the box and its unit is the Watt. It was named after him because of his contributions to science, most notably his steam engine. He improved the already existing designs of steam engines, made them more efficient, more powerful and cheaper to operate. He also was able to transform the linear motion into rotary motion, which extended the use of these engines to other fields other than pumping water. His invention had a great impact on the industrial revolution.

He introduced the concept of horsepower. All car enthusiasts are familiar with this term but they don’t know its meaning. It is simply a unit to measure the power produced by engines and it equals approximately to 735 watts.

Antoine Lavoisier

Antoine Lavoisier was a French chemist. He revolutionized this scientific field and added to it the quantitative aspect in addition to the qualitative one. He is considered by many as the father of modern chemistry, he also contributed to making the metric system.

Lavoisier was born on 26 August 1743 to a rich family and he was executed on 8 May 1794 after the French revolution. He is one of the rare scientists to die this way.


Michael Faraday (1791-1867), BBC,, 27 Jun 2019

Trevor H. Levere, Henry Cavendish, ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA,, 27 Jun 2019

Karolee Weller, Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855), Wichita state university,, 27 Jun 2019

Jeremy John Gray, Carl Friedrich Gauss, ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA,, 27 Jun 2019

James Watt (1736-1819), National Library of Scotland, 27 Jun 2019

Arthur L. Donovan, Antoine Lavoisier, ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA,, 27 Jun 2019

Article written by Alex Lemaire from