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Kevin Dalby Talks About Scientists Who Succeeded in Science Without a Ph.D.

Originally published on

A common myth is that to be a scientist, you must earn a Ph.D. But, as Dr. Kevin Dalby explains, that’s not always the case.

Some outliers were able to gain wild success in science and some fame. Here is a list of some of these outlying scientists who succeeded in their field without a Ph.D.

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

Known as “the Father of Microbiology,” Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was primarily self-taught and never held a Ph.D. In the 1600s and 1700s, van Leeuwenhoek gained fame by establishing the scientific discipline of microbiology and his work in microscopy, which is still considered pioneering.

He began to dedicate his life’s work to studying microbial life under a microscope in the 1670s. He even designed and created his single-lensed microscopes. Van Leeuwenhoek was the first to observe and experiment with microbes and was also the first person to determine the relative size of microbes.

William Herschel

Sir Frederick William Herschel was born into a family of musicians and was an organist in the city of Bath by the age of twenty-eight. His interests in music led him eventually to astronomy, and in 1774, he constructed the first large telescope. He surveyed the skies over the next nine years, looking for double stars.

In 1781, Herschel noticed a new object located within the Gemini constellation. After consulting with other astronomers, it was eventually determined to be a plant, which would come to be known as Uranus.

This discovery made him famous, and he was eventually appointed as the Court Astronomer of England by King George III.

Charles Goodyear

Goodyear’s name is synonymous with the famous product that would eventually come from his discovery. In 1844, he received a patent in the United States for developing vulcanized rubber, ultimately used in many products, including tires and footwear.

Born in Connecticut, Goodyear never earned a Ph.D. but made outstanding scientific contributions with his discovery. The business of The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company is named after him.

Jane Goodall

English anthropologist and primatologist Jane Goodall first went to study wild chimpanzees in Tanzania in the 1960s, and she didn’t even have a university degree at the time.

As Dr. Kevin Dalby explains, she was the first to observe human-like behaviors among chimpanzees. This included instances of armed conflict.

She has been named an honorary member of the World Future Council and a UN Messenger of Peace.

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison is one of the most famous inventors in American history. His discoveries contributed to remarkable advancements in mass communication, motion pictures, electrical power, and sound recording.

He’s most well-known for inventing an early version of the light bulb, which changed the way people lived their lives. Beyond just inventions, Edison used his experience in science to take principles of teamwork and organization and apply them toward the invention process, which came to be the model for modern-day research & development.

About Dr. Kevin Dalby

Dr. Kevin Dalby is a professor of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry, currently working on cancer drug discovery. At the College of Pharmacy at The University of Texas, he examines the mechanisms of nature and cancer to develop new treatments and teach and motivate students to conduct research. Dalby is optimistic about the future of cancer treatments.