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We Named 50 of the Smartest People on the Planet

Dec 5, 2008 6:00 AMNov 12, 2019 4:46 AM


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NEW YORK, NY, December 2008 ---- DISCOVER has identified 50 of the brightest people alive, from genius kids and rising stars to unsung heroes and self-styled outsiders. Highlights include:

  • Mathematician Terence Tao, 33, who uncovered the magic of prime numbers, leading to the development of better digital cameras, telescopes, and MRIs

  • John Kanzius, an amateur researcher who used pots and hot dogs to try to create a promising new cancer therapy at home.

  • The Washington politician who really calls the shots on science policy—it’s not who you think.

  • Stephen Hawking, the personification of scientific genius, up close and personal.

Despite being the world’s most famous physicist, Hawking rarely appears before the camera, in part because he is almost totally immobilized by ALS. Editor in chief Corey S. Powell and noted photographer Mackenzie Stroh flew to England to capture Hawking in his element in a Cambridge University math classroom. The results show the master of black holes as he has never been seen before. And he is just one of the 50.

“We conferred with leading academics and unleashed a team of crack researchers to seek out the best of the best,” Powell says. “Most of the people on our Discover 50 list are not household names—but they all should be. They are helping to solve our energy problems, roll back disease, spark a second computer revolution, and seek out life elsewhere in the universe. They are a truly remarkable group.”

Media Contact for interviews: Tricia Gately, Marketing Director, 212-624-4799, tgately@discovermagazine.com

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