Planck studied physics, the science of matter and energy. He wound up making big discoveries in the area of thermodynamics, which is the study of heat and how it moves. Planck won the Nobel Prize for his work in Quantum Physics, which is the movement inside of atoms. It changed the way scientists understood the world.
Marie Curie's work in radioactivity changed the way scientists think about matter and energy and led to advancements in the treatment of disease. With her fellow scientist and husband, Pierre Curie, she searched for the source of radioactivity and discovered two elements, radium and polonium. They shared the 1903 Nobel Prize, the world's highest science award, for their discovery.
Scientists who have studied light and sound over the last few centuries invented many things that we still use today. Thomas Young, for example, proved that light moves in waves and invented prescription eyeglasses. The study of sound has led to inventions like the telephone and hearing aids. Thomas Edison studied both light and sound and invented such things as a long-lasting light bulb, the phonograph, and the first recording machine.
British scientist Robert Hooke built an early microscope and was the first scientist to observe cells and give them their name. Anton van Leeuwenhoek created the best microscopes of his time and used them to study living organisms. Matthias Schleiden, Theodor Schwann, and Rudolf Virchow created Cell Theory, which says that all living things are made of cells; cells are the smallest part of a living thing; and all cells come from other cells.
George Washington Carver was born a slave, but he became an important scientist and teacher. He experimented with soil and became famous for his work as a botanist. He used peanuts and other plants to make new products. Before Carver's research, plants were only used for food and clothing. His creative approach to agriculture taught people that plants could be used to make many products, like rubber, ink, fuel, and paper, to name a few.
Ecologists study the connections living things have with one another and their surroundings. John Woodward did some of the first ecology experiments in 1699 and figured out algae bloom. Aldo Leopold's work led to the Endangered Species Act to protect plants and animals from becoming extinct, and he led the U.S. government to begin considering the environmental impact of land use. Eugene Odum was the first to see Earth as a set of interlocking ecosystems. His work led to laws to protect wetlands.
Jane Goodall is the world's leading authority on chimpanzees. She moved to the African jungle to study them. Her visit to Kenya led to a meeting with famous paleontologist Louis Leakey. Although she wasn't a trained scientist, Goodall began working with Leakey in 1960. She earned the trust of the apes and observed their social interactions. She studied them for more than 30 years. She learned that chimps use tools and are more intelligent than was previously thought.