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Timeline of Notable Scientists in Physics and Chemistry

Lesson Overview


To review, students will match the names of scientists with their respective contributions to science. The teacher will guide the students through the correct chronological sequence of achievements. In groups, students will use reasoning and deduction skills to match the name of the scientist to the picture of the scientist.

Grade Range:



After completing this activity students will be able to:

  • Summarize the accomplishments of 12 chemists and physicists.

  • Recognize famous scientists form portraits and photographs.

  • Arrange scientific accomplishments chronologically.

Time Required:

One class period of 45 minutes.






Settlement, Beginning to 1763, Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877, Progressive Era to New Era, 1900-1929, Great Depression/World War II, 1929-1945, Postwar United States, 1945-1968



Illinois Learning Standards:


12.C.4b Analyze adn explain the atomic and nuclear structure of matter.
12.F.4a Explain theories, past and present, for changes observed in the universe.
13.A.4c Describe how scientific knowledge, explainations and technological
           designs may change with new information over time.



Worksheet 1, including matching achievements with names, as well as chronologically arranging the sequence of events. Available on PDF

Analysis Tool:

Worksheet 2, including the use of primary sources and deducation skills to identify scientist from pictures obtained from the Library of Congress website. Available on PDF


Modern Chemistry, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, ISBN 13:978-0-03-036786-1, though most chemistry textbooks would be sufficient.


Available on PDF page 2 - 3

Library of Congress Items:

Sir Isaac Newton, ob. 1727/Engraved by W.T. Fry


Dr. Dalton, F.R.S.-president of the Literary & Philosophical Society


Michael Faraday, 1791-1867


Dimitri Mendeleev, 1940


Prof. J.J. Thompson


(Marie Sklodowska Curie, half-length portrait, seated, facing right)


Dr. Max Planck, 1930


Albert Einstein/C. Wide World


Prof. Ernest Rutherford, portrait


Neils Bohr


Werner Heisenberg, 1901-, head-and-soldiers portrait)


(Enrico Fermi, head-and-soldiers portrait, facing front)



Teach will show Introduction to Primary Sources Slideshow presentation of scientist (available on PDF) asking students to identify any scientist that they recognize. There will probably only be a few such as Einstein and Curie that students will know with confidence.


Using the Introduction to Primary Sources Slideshow, the teacher will explain what primary sources are. The teach will describe what type of information can be used involving primary sources.


The teacher will hand out Worksheet 1 (available on PDF), and students will complete a matching section involving the scientist and their contribution to atomic theory. After students individually complete this, the teacher will review the answer.


The teacher will assign students to groups of about four. Students will then go through the worksheet together and try to correctly complete the sequence.


The teacher will hand out Worksheet 2 (available on PDF), and students will first look at each item and describe notable features of this item.


After thoroughly describing each picture, the entire class will share their observations.


Using deductive skills about specific features of the items along with the timelines, students will try to identify each scientist, including reasons why they believe they have matched them correctly.


The teacher will collect Worksheet 2 toward the conclusion of the period, and assess the students on the accuracy of their matching in addition to their reasoning behind their choices.


A class discussion should be held identifying which scientists were difficult to match with their items. The teacher will go through the PowerPoint again during this discussion. The students should also talk about what they have learned form the use of primary sources.


The teacher will evaluate students based on their completion of Worksheet 2. It will involve not only matching the scientists correctly, but partial credit can also be given if student thoroughly explain an incorrect choice.


After the completion of this exercise, students could use the Library of Congress website to find an early invention or experiment of one of the scientists mentioned in the activity and write a short paragraph describing why this item was indicative of the time period.

Author Credits:

T. Walk
Sullivan High School