There are so many excellent scientists out there so I don’t think I can choose just one and also because my research changes all the time what inspires me will change too. Sometimes I am inspired by amazing results or interesting questions but often it is a researchers ability to keep going in the face of adversity that inspires me most.
Also, the questions and chats that I have had on this website this week have been pretty inspiring – just knowing that there are so many of you out there that are interested in what we do.
I don’t think I’ve ever used the word inspiring so many times!
I agree I can’t possibly choose just one! Scientists that inspired me growing up tended to do so through either having faced unusual challenges, or being extremely good writers (or both). For example, Hypatia of Alexandria, Nikola Tesla, Ada Lovelace, Marie Curie, Primo Levi, Richard Feynmann, Ramachandran – even Isaac Asimov. There’s many more. Pretty much every scientist I talk to now has something to inspire me.
I have to add that, although it sounds a bit dull, I find it inspiring when I find a really good, meticulous scientific paper – especially about something that isn’t particularly novel or high-profile. There is so much solid, well -thought-out data that doesn’t reach the more well-known journals because it isn’t ‘exciting’ enough. Yet, often, it’s just those seemingly boring, plodding parts of science that really need to be verified so that the high-profile stuff can get done! (By the way, I’m not saying the more high-profile stuff is necessarily not solid and meticulous!) It’s just good to know that people take care to do good science even when it’s the boring stuff ; )
That’s a really tough question and I don’t think I could pick one. I don’t think I was inspired to do science by any particular person, but always just enjoyed as a subject to learn about.
Sometimes though I read things written by scientists or watch tv programs presented by scientists and can find that really inspiring. Brian Cox is someone who is often inspiring when he talks about science on TV, as is David Attenborough. I read a book by James Watson (one of the people who discovered the structure of DNA) and his writing about genetics was really inspiring to me. On top of that, I read about some of the great scientists from history and the way they thought about their work can be fascinating and drive me on to try to be a better scientist. One example would be Erwin Schrodinger who was a great physicist, and his work in quantum physics is cool enough, but he also wrote a book trying to define what life is. That way of crossing subjects and thinking about things very differently and creatively is fantastic and I think more people (scientists and non-scientists) should try to think like that.