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What’s in a name?

Posted by on September 19, 2013

By Natasha Neill, Executive Officer at the Society of Biology

Wallace, Darwin, Franklin, Watson and Crick are simply names to some, but to those with a passion for biology, they represent some of the greatest minds of all time. What they each achieved has a different meaning to us all, but we’d all agree they are worth celebrating and ensuring more people acknowledge their contribution to science.

But when it comes to answering the inevitable “Who do you think is the most important scientist” it’s difficult to choose between the mentors that have shaped and inspired you and the figureheads of science that you’ve never met, but have influenced your work in some way. For me, some of the most important scientists are my university project supervisors, who challenged and inspired me to achieve my very best. This is tricky for the likes of Darwin and Franklin, who to me, are like great characters in a story, rather than people who know and understand my abilities and potential.

The Science Council’s recent search for the top 100 scientists across the ten different types of scientist offered the opportunity to celebrate the different ways that someone can be important, seeking nominations from; explorers, investigators, developers, service providers, entrepreneurs, communicators, teachers, policy makers and those working in business and marketing.

I think rewarding excellence across a wide spectrum is a real testament to the value that we all can make to science. A teacher doesn’t know what that ten year old student might go on to achieve and a lab manager doesn’t know how sharing their ‘tricks of the trade’ might allow the new member of staff to change the face of biology as we know it.

When we remember the big discoveries in biology, and the individuals that have ensured we can work in the environments we do, it highlights the important part that others have played in our development, and I think that they are equally worthy of celebration.

The Society of Biology is currently developing a project to celebrating biology, through inspiration and recognition. People interested in updates on our project, funding news and calls to action can stay in the loop by registering for Biology Heritage Updates at mySociety for free, or by emailing

One Response to What’s in a name?

  1. Rebecca Nesbit

    Many of the people who inspired me in science may not even call themselves scientists, instead identifying themselves as conservationists. As well as being further up the chain’ as they were in my case, many conservationists are further down the chain as well, tranlasting scientific advances into global benefits.