10 Best Scientific Authors You Need to Read

Scientific authors help readers unwrap big questions about Earth, the universe, evolution, and more. 

Podcasts, scientific publications, journals, and scientific books all can play a role in helping us understand our world. Scientific authors and journal editors work to create non-fiction works that help people answer the big questions that life has to offer, from why humans act the way we do to how all the varieties of life in the world came to be. In addition, many science authors work to break down complicated scientific concepts in ways that make sense to the public, allowing people to gain a greater understanding of their world.

Scientific literature is constantly changing. As we learn more about the human genome, evolution, molecular biology, and other facets of science, scientific books change.

It’s important to remember that while scientific publications are generally accurate in the time that they’re written, science in current times may be a different story. Therefore, scientific literature buffs need to ensure that they’re aware of whether the information they’re reading is in line with current science.

From Cosmos To Conservation: Top Ten Scientific Authors Of All Time

Best Scientific Authors

1. Carl Sagan

Best Scientific Authors: Carl Sagan
By credit NASA JPL – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Planetary_society.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24462106

Well-known science communicator, educator, professor, and award-winning writer Carl Sagan is best known for his research in the field of extraterrestrial life.

Sagan was also one of the first scientists to explain the consequences of the greenhouse effect to the United States government, warning leaders of the potentially devastating consequences of global warming. Cosmos, Sagan’s American public television series (with the same title as the book that first gained Sagan notoriety), is still the most widely viewed public television program ever to air. The show made Sagan a pop culture phenomenon and a household name as he made complicated scientific concepts accessible to all who wanted to learn more. 

Sagan began his academic career teaching at Harvard, followed by working as a professor at Cornell. Sagan taught his students skepticism and encouraged them to use the scientific method to test their ideas. At Cornell, Sagan led the Laboratory for Planetary Studies. The scientist popularized the idea that came to be known as “Sagan’s paradox,” the idea that there are approximately 1 million extraterrestrial civilizations and that it’s unlikely that any of them would find Earth interesting enough to visit.

The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God
  • Sagan, Carl (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 284 Pages - 11/06/2007 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

2. Stephen Hawking

Best Scientific Authors: Stephen Hawking
NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This author’s name is synonymous with scientific brilliance: Stephen Hawking is known for many scientific literary works, including A Brief History of Time, The Grand Design, and George’s Secret Key to the Universe (Stephen and his daughter Lily worked together as co-authors on Secret Key).

Hawking faced many challenges in his life, including developing motor neuron disease. MND caused paralysis to spread through Hawking’s body over time. Nearing the end of his life in 2018, Hawking communicated using a device controlled by a single cheek muscle. Despite physical challenges, Hawking continued to research and debate space and time topics until the end of his life in 2018. 

In addition to being known as a scientific phenom, Hawking will also be remembered for his sense of humor. He believed that time travel was likely impossible but wanted to test his theory in a way that would gain public attention. In 2009, Hawking threw a large party, complete with champagne, and made the party open to the public. He told no one about the party until after the event had concluded so that only time travelers would be able to attend. As Hawking hypothesized, no one showed up to the event.

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A Brief History of Time
  • Stephen Hawking (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 212 Pages - 09/01/1998 (Publication Date) - Bantam (Publisher)

3. Roger Penrose

Best Scientific Authors: Roger Penrose
Cirone-Musi, Festival della Scienza, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

British philosopher and Nobel Prize winner Roger Penrose is renowned for his relativity, mathematics, and cosmology work. In addition, Penrose has delved into the exploration of human consciousness. In The Emperor’s New Mind (1989), Penrose surmised that the laws of modern physics could not explain human consciousness. Much of Penrose’s work also provides information on black holes and the idea that a universe existed before the beginning of the current universe.

In 2020, Penrose was awarded half of the Nobel Prize in Physics after his discovery regarding black holes and the theory of relativity. In addition, Penrose has been recognized with many other awards, including the Eddington Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society, the Albert Einstein Medal from the Albert Einstein Society, and the Naylor Prize from the London Mathematical Society.

The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Penrose, Roger (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 1022 Pages - 06/09/2021 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

4. Philip Plait

Best Scientific Authors: Philip Plait
ensceptico, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Astronomer and blogger Philip Plait is known as The Bad Astronomer and has authored two books: Death for the Skies and Bad Astronomy. In addition to working as a writer, Plait is committed to public outreach and is often an expert guest on radio and television shows. Plait currently writes an astronomy blog for Slate magazine. Plait also uses his platform to provide his opinion on controversial science topics, such as vaccination.

Plait is known for his comedic approach to complicated scientific topics, making astronomy accessible to the public. Like Sagan, Plait encourages his audience to remain skeptical, encouraging audiences to remain open to multiple points of view. Many science enthusiasts became aware of Plait through a Youtube series, Crash Course, in which he taught audiences about astronomy.

Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax"
  • Plait, Philip C. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 03/01/2002 (Publication Date) - Wiley (Publisher)

5. Richard Dawkins

Best Scientific Authors: Richard Dawkins
David Shankbone, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Richard Dawkins first appeared on the science writing scene with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, which delved into evolution. Dawkins is an atheist and has been outspoken on his views against intelligent design and creationism.

Dawkins has also spoken out against pseudoscience, including alternative medicine. He states that alternative medicine is dangerous because it leads patients away from conventional treatments that may provide a cure and/or higher quality of life. Dawkins has been awarded several honorary doctorates and awards, including the Shakespeare Prize from the Alfred Toepfer Foundation and the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science.

Dawkins is no stranger to controversy, and his outspoken atheism has attracted some criticism over time. Dawkins has stated that religious faith is a delusion and has come under fire for refusing to debate with creationists. Inspired by other campaigns across the UK, Dawkins has endorsed the Out Campaign, which encourages people who do not believe in a higher power to assert their atheism publicly.

Unweaving The Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Dawkins, Richard (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 04/05/2000 (Publication Date) - Mariner Books (Publisher)

6. Matt Ridley

Best Scientific Authors: Matt Ridley
Chris McAndrew, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Matt Ridley is a British writer who focuses on topics including economics and the environment. Much of Ridley’s work explores the science of human nature. In 1993, Ridley published The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature, exploring human evolutionary theory. Most recently, Ridley wrote Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19, co-authored by Alina Chan.

One of Ridley’s most popular ideas is society’s “collective brain,” a theory that states that human connection and idea exchange are the foundation of development and innovation.

While accepting the Hayek Prize in 2011, Ridley further explained the need for human connection, stating, “As Hayek understood, it is human collaboration that is necessary for society to work… the key feature of trade is that it enables us to work for each other not just for ourselves; that attempts at self-sufficiency are the true form of selfishness as well as the quick road to poverty; and that authoritarian, top-down rule is not the source of order or progress.”

Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
  • Ridley, Matt (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages - 05/30/2006 (Publication Date) - Harper Perennial (Publisher)

7. David Attenborough

Best Scientific Authors: David Attenborough
Image Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/04/movies/david-attenborough-a-life-on-our-planet-review.html

Known by many as the voice behind nature documentaries, David Attenborough is also an accomplished science author. A biologist and natural historian, Attenborough got his literary start in 1956 with Zoo Quest to Guyana. His most recent publication was 2020’s A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future.

In addition to educating the masses on matters of biology and nature, Attenborough is also a strong advocate for the health of the environment and participates in public outreach to educate people on how they work to keep the Earth healthy. 

Attenborough has worked to educate others on climate change and was a crucial player in the buildup of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. He spoke at the opening ceremony of the Conference, helping to bring attention to the issue. In his speech, he was encouraging, saying that the UN had the capability to solve climate change.

A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future
  • Hardcover Book
  • Attenborough, Sir David (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 10/06/2020 (Publication Date) - Grand Central Publishing (Publisher)

8. Bill Bryson

Best Scientific Authors: Bill Bryson
The National Churches Trust from London, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

British travel and science author Bill Bryson got his start with 1995’s Notes from a Small Island, in which he provided a detailed account of his exploration of Britain. Bryson also wrote A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003), which was met with wide critical acclaim for making complex, complicated science topics accessible to the public. Bryson has received many honorary doctorates from universities around the world, including King’s College London, University of Leeds, and Durham University. 

The Body: A Guide for Occupants
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Bryson, Bill (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 578 Pages - 10/15/2019 (Publication Date) - Anchor (Publisher)

9. Steven Pinker

Best Scientific Authors: Steven Pinker
Rose Lincoln/Harvard University, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Steven Pinker is an author and psychologist who studies social interactions, rationality, and human nature. A Harvard professor, Pinker works to provide the public with valuable insights into the human psyche. He has written several books, including How the Mind Works (1997), The Blank Slate (2002), and The Stuff of Thought (2007). Pinker is known for his unique ability to combine many fields of science, including human behavior, evolution, and genetics, to explain why humans act the way we do. 

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Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters
  • Hardcover Book
  • Pinker, Steven (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 432 Pages - 09/28/2021 (Publication Date) - Viking (Publisher)

10. Jane Goodall

Best Scientific Authors: Jane Goodall
Goodall’s name is synonymous with innovative conservation

Conservationist Jane Goodall is best known for her work with chimpanzees. She completed a 60-year study in Tanzania where she observed chimpanzees exhibiting many behaviors similar to humans. While in Tanzania, Goodall observed behaviors that change the way biologists understand primate behavior, including organized hunting, violence, and aggression. Goodall has authored several books, including My Friends the Wild Chimpanzees (1969), Brutal Kinship (1999), and The Ten Trusts: What We Must Do To Care for the Animals We Love (2002).

Goodall’s name is synonymous with innovative conservation, and while her methods in working with chimpanzees were unconventional, she’s heralded today as one of the greatest primatologists of all time. Prior to Goodall’s work, animals in behavioral studies were typically identified by numbers instead of names to help researchers maintain objectivity and avoid bias. Goodall named the chimpanzees she worked with and is the only wildlife researcher who has ever been accepted into chimpanzee society.

The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times (Global Icons Series)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Goodall, Jane (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 10/19/2021 (Publication Date) - Celadon Books (Publisher)

Final Word On Top Ten Best Scientific Authors

From writing scientific papers to publishing popular science books on topics that pique public curiosity, scientific writers work hard to help readers understand the world around them. If you’re searching for scientific research books for the first time, take your time reading book reviews to learn more about which books might be best for your interests. 

FAQ On Top Ten Best Scientific Authors

How does scientific literature change over time?

Changes happen in the scientific community constantly, and often, a scientific author’s first book is vastly different from books they publish later in their careers. As research around the world develops, scientists work to incorporate new ideas, utilize new research methodology, and use evidence from scientific publications to ensure that their work is a valuable addition to science writing.

Are scientists required to publish their work?

In order to be a respected member of the scientific community, many professionals feel that sharing scientific research is an essential part of their career. Not all scientists publish books, however. Some science writers publish research articles and research papers. In contrast, others offer their scientific writing skills by participating in the peer-review process and offering their scientific writing editing services to other scientists.

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