Creative Genius: The World's Greatest Minds
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News of the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs on Oct. 5, 2011, has been received with sadness, admiration and gratefulness for a man considered a "creative genius" who "changed the world" in many ways. In addition to Jobs, plenty of great minds have challenged paradigms, opened windows into worlds we didn't even know existed, and produced innovations that have persisted through time. Here's a look at the world's titanic thinkers, from Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking.
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1879-1955: Being labeled a "slow learner" in grade school didn't stop Einstein from making some of the greatest-ever achievements in science. He proposed the general theory of relativity, helped develop quantum theory, and received a Nobel Prize in physics for his description of the photoelectric effect. [Nobel Prize in Physics: 1901-Present]
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Alexander Graham Bell
1847-1922: Determined to find a way for his deaf mother to hear, Alexander Graham Bell was one of the most prolific inventors of his time. Although best known for inventing the telephone, in 2002 it was determined that Antonio Meucci invented it several years prior. Bell is, however, credited with the metal detector, photophone and hydrofoil.
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1867-1934: A pioneer in radiology, Curie won Nobel Prizes in chemistry and physics and had a unit of radioactivity, the curie, named for her and her husband Pierre's work. She isolated two radioactive elements, polonium and radium, to study their properties and potential uses. Although she was particularly interested in their therapeutic potential, she eventually died from long-term radiation exposure.
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Sir Isaac Newton
1643-1727: Everybody knows his "what goes up, must come down" universal theory of gravity, but Sir Isaac Newton also showed that color is inherent in white light, studied the speed of sound, advanced the heliocentric view of the solar system, and postulated on the origin of the stars. He's also known for his three laws of motion, including inertia and "for every action there is an equal, but opposite, reaction."
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1847-1931: Generally considered the most productive inventor of all time, Edison holds nearly 1,100 patents. He improved the typewriter and helped develop motion pictures and many of his inventions, such as the incandescent light bulb, phonograph, and tattoo guns are still used today.
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1809-1882: From his observations on the Galapagos Islands, Charles Darwin developed the theory of evolution whereby changes in species are driven, over time, by natural and sexual selection. He struggled internally with this idea, finally publishing "The Origin of Species" 20 years after returning from his voyage. [Charles Darwin: Family Man, Scientist and Skeptic]
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
1756-1791: This musical prodigy was composing by age 5 and wrote his first symphony by age 10. As an adult, Mozart's music was extraordinarily complex, drawing influence from many different styles, and considered radical at the time. He composed more than 600 pieces, including concertos, operas and symphonies, in his short life and is considered the most significant European classical composer. [Mozart's Death Was Written in the Key of (Vitamin) D]
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Wernher von Braun
1912-1977: Generally regarded as the father of the U.S. space program, von Braun powered astronauts and satellites into space on giant rockets. But his more significant contribution may have been his vision for the future. His dreams of space stations and airplane-styled spacecraft paved the way for today's space age. [Satellites Gallery: Science from Above]
Shown above in a 1958 photo from left to right: William H. Pickering, former director of JPL, James A. van Allen, of the State University of Iowa, and Wernher von Braun, leader of the Army's Redstone Arsenal team.
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1706-1790: Hailed by historians as the "First American," Benjamin Franklin shaped the American Revolution and was an intellectual leader of the "Enlightenment" Noted for his ingenuity and diversity of interests, he invented bifocals, the Franklin stove, the lightning rod, the glass harmonica, swimfins and is famous for his experiments with electricity. [Trove of Unknown Ben Franklin Letters Found]
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Leonardo da Vinci
1452-1519: The archetypical "Renaissance Man," da Vinci was a gifted anatomist, architect, astronomer, engineer, inventor, painter, and sculptor. Perhaps best known for painting the "Mona Lisa," da Vinci's surviving notebooks detail flying machines, human anatomy, and the first robot in recorded history. [Da Vinci's 10 Best Ideas]
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1942-Present: Born on the 300th anniversary of Galileo's death, Stephen Hawking provided mathematical proof, assuming the general theory of relativity is correct, for the Big Bang theory that explains the origin of the universe. This implied that time would end with black holes, which lead to the unification of General Relativity and Quantum Theory. Shown above in a photo with astronaut Buzz Aldrin. [8 Shocking Things We Learned From Stephen Hawking's Book]
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1564-1642: Referred to as the "father of modern astronomy, physics and science," Galileo didn't invent the telescope, but was the first to use it well. By making improvements to existing technology, he discovered Jupiter's four largest moons, which helped him verify a sun-centered model for the solar system (which defied the Church's belief that Earth was at the center of it all). He was also the first to spot Saturn's rings. (Photo: An 1857 painting titled "Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition" shows the astronomer standing trial before the Roman Catholic Church inquisitors.)
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1902-1992: Back when genetics was still considered an agricultural science, McClintock was studying chromosomes, their genetic content and means of expression. As a founder of the cytogenetic field, she developed the technique for visualizing chromosomes and genetic recombination and received a Nobel Prize for discovering transposons, also called jumping genes, which affect gene expression.
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Avram Noam Chomsky
1928-Present: Best known as the "most cited living scholar" and a controversial left-wing political activist, Chomsky pioneered the theory of transformational grammar which revolutionized the field of theoretical linguistics. He also challenged longstanding behaviorist views of psychology, igniting the cognitive revolution.
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1856-1943: Nikola Tesla ushered in the age of electrical power and is regarded as one of the greatest scientists in the history of technology. He developed the induction motor, the fluorescent lightbulb and created alternating current, which he proved safe by passing it through his body. Other experiments were less successful, such as attempting to fly off his roof clutching an umbrella.
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Henrietta Swan Leavitt
1868-1921: As one of the "woman computers" working at Harvard College Observatory, Leavitt cataloged more than 1,500 variable stars in the Magellanic Clouds. She noticed that the brighter stars took longer to vary, and used this observation to develop a method to measure the distance to any object in the universe.
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1571-1630: A talented mathematician, astrologer, and astronomer, Kepler was a key figure in the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century. He established Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion, determined Christ's birth year, described refraction in the human eye and improved the telescope.
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Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, changed the way people used computers, starting with the Apple II and continuing through today's iPhones. Jobs wasn't always successful — he was forced out of the company he created in 1985 — but he returned to Apple in 1996 and turned the company into a successful purveyor of handheld gadgets like the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Jobs was known for his sometimes-prickly persona and a skill at salesmanship that inspired deeply personal connections between Apple customers and their products. [10 Most Memorable Steve Jobs CEO Moments]