Scientists You Must Know

In January 2015 the Chemical Heritage Foundation, now the Science History Institute, produced an hour-long television special and a film series featuring the electrifying stories of scientists whose insatiable curiosity about the world changed it forever. From the first spark of interest to the explosive discovery, their lives show what happens when risk-taking, savvy, and determination meld with a love of science.

The scientists are

Television Broadcast

This one-hour program first aired in January 2015 on National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) member stations. It features the stories of Gordon Moore, George Rosenkranz, and Arnold O. Beckman.

Film Series

The following are the five individual films in the series, with each film highlighting a different scientist you must know.


Gordon Moore, cofounder of Intel

You get to learn things nobody else knows by doing research. That’s a pretty powerful thing to have: ‘I’m the only guy who knows this tonight; tomorrow I’ll publish it.’

Were it not for a neighbor getting a chemistry set, a young Gordon Moore might never have discovered chemistry—and the microchip revolution Moore helped launch would have turned out very differently. Moore is the cofounder of Intel and one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent pioneers.

George Rosenkranz, codeveloper of the oral contraceptive

That was the motif of my life: ‘do what you have to do.’

George Rosenkranz, organic chemist and pioneering steroid researcher, was instrumental in developing one of the most world-changing pharmaceuticals in history: the oral contraceptive. Following a harrowing escape from Europe before the outbreak of World War II, Rosenkranz went on to become CEO and chairman of Syntex, a hugely successful pharmaceutical company.

Arnold O. Beckman, scientific instrumentation pioneer

I can think of no field more fascinating than electronics instrumentation and automation.

The field of astronomy was changed forever with the advent of new instruments for measuring and observation, and Arnold O. Beckman wanted to do the same thing for chemistry and biology. By building off the then-developing field of electronics, he did just that, and began an instrumentation revolution that changed science and civilization itself.

Robert Gore, developer of GORE-TEX

I’m better known as Bob GORE-TEX.

Robert Gore literally stretched material science to the limit. During a series of failed experiments, Gore became frustrated and gave a hard yank to a rod of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). The result revolutionized a range of fields from clothing to defense to medicine, and would make his company a household name.

Robert Langer, the most cited chemical engineer in the world

I value science ultimately for the good it can do.

By one estimate, research by Robert Langer and his colleagues has affected two billion people. This is no wonder since his career—which boasts over 1,000 patents and 220 major awards—has always been guided by his belief that science can make the world a better place.