Stem Heroes

Past and Present

Welcome to the Big Bang Class of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Heroes. Enter to discover more about the people who have contributed to the STEM subjects and inspired generations to follow in their footsteps...

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Stem Heroes

Past and Present

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Charles Darwin Body

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin Body

Charles Darwin

Dame Athene Donald Body

Dame Athene Donald

Dame Athene Donald Body

Dame Athene Donald

Danielle George Body

Danielle George

Danielle George Body

Danielle George

Erwin Schrödinger Body

Erwin Schrödinger

Erwin Schrödinger Body

Erwin Schrödinger

Grace Hopper Body

Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper Body

Grace Hopper

Heston Blumenthal Body

Heston Blumenthal

Heston Blumenthal Body

Heston Blumenthal

Carol Vorderman Body

Carol Vorderman

Carol Vorderman Body

Carol Vorderman

James Dyson Body

James Dyson

James Dyson Body

James Dyson

Isambard Kingdom Brunel Body

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel Body

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Jason Bradbury Body

Jason Bradbury

Jason Bradbury Body

Jason Bradbury

Jocelyn Bell Burnell Body

Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Jocelyn Bell Burnell Body

Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Leonardo Da Vinci Body

Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci Body

Leonardo Da Vinci

Maggie Aderin-Pocock Body

Maggie Aderin-Pocock

Maggie Aderin-Pocock Body

Maggie Aderin-Pocock

Marie Curie Body

Marie Curie

Marie Curie Body

Marie Curie

Nikola Tesla Body

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla Body

Nikola Tesla

Pythagoras Body

Pythagoras

Pythagoras Body

Pythagoras

Rachel Riley Body

Rachel Riley

Rachel Riley Body

Rachel Riley

Richard Ayoade Body

Richard Ayoade

Richard Ayoade Body

Richard Ayoade

Dara O'Briain Body

Dara O'Briain

Dara O'Briain Body

Dara O'Briain

Sarah Sobka Body

Sarah Sobka

Sarah Sobka Body

Sarah Sobka

Isaac Newton Body

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton Body

Isaac Newton

Brian Cox Body

Brian Cox

Brian Cox Body

Brian Cox

Stefan Gates Body

Stefan Gates

Stefan Gates Body

Stefan Gates

Back: Charles Darwin, Dame Athene Donald, Danielle George, Erwin Schrödinger, Grace Hopper, Heston Blumenthal, Carol Vorderman, James Dyson.
Middle: Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Jason Bradbury, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Leonardo Da Vinci, Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Marie Curie, Nikola Tesla.
Front: Pythagoras , Rachel Riley, Richard Ayoade, Dara O'Briain, Sarah Sobka, Isaac Newton, Brian Cox, Stefan Gates

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Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

About Charles

Charles Darwin’s father had hoped he would follow in his footsteps and become a medical doctor, but the sight of blood made Darwin queasy! From a young boy, he was far more interested in studying natural history.

Once Darwin had finished college, he signed up to take a five-year trip around the world on a boat. Over the course of the trip, Darwin visited four continents, collecting a variety of natural specimens, including birds, plants and fossils and developed his ‘Theory of Evolution’.

This stated that one species has the ability to develop into another over time and that only the strongest species will survive, whilst the weaker ones die out. He called this theory ‘Natural Selection’. These theories are still a widely accepted view of how humans evolved.

Best Known For

Being the father of evolution.

Dame Athene Donald

Dame Athene Donald

About Dame Athene

After completing a degree in natural science (theoretical physics) and a PhD, Athene worked as a postdoctoral associate before becoming a professor of experimental physics in 1998.

The majority of her research is based around soft matter physics, which looks at the relationship between various properties and the structures present in living organisms. Her research also includes study of synthetic and biological systems, as well as looking at how different methods could be used to enhance the work of plant biologists and food scientists.

Athene also works with the Athena forum, which aims to provide suggestions for developments with the aim of advancing women in the subjects of science, technology, maths, engineering and medicine.

Best Known For

Her research and her promotion of gender equality.

Danielle George

Danielle George

About Danielle

Danielle is a professor of radio frequency engineering, a subject which has granted her a varied and interesting work life.

While her academic career saw her gain a bachelor's degree, a masters and a PhD, she was also working as an engineer and a lecturer, before being promoted to a professor, as well as editing the International Journal of Electrical Engineering Education.

Danielle has used her knowledge of radio frequencies in a variety of ways, including an unusual project around using them to find weeds in fields of crops! Her work on telescopes and amplifiers has also seen her work with both NASA and the European Space Agency, creating equipment to detect the Big Bang!

She is also one of only 6 women to deliver the noted Christmas Lectures at the Royal Institution.

Best Known For

Turning the Shell Centre in London into a giant game of Tetris!

Erwin Schrödinger

Erwin Schrödinger

About Erwin

Schrödinger was born in Austria in 1887. Some of his early experiments focused on the fields of electrical engineering, but he soon branched out into other areas of maths and physics. It was his groundbreaking work on wave mechanics that were his biggest breakthroughs. Through a series of papers on the subject, and what is now known as the Schrödinger Equation, he cemented his significance in the physics community.

Most people outside of this community may have heard of Erwin Schrödinger in relation to a theory he created around whether a cat in a box with some poison is alive, dead or both, without realising the full depth of his contribution to the field of physics. His work ranged from theories and research on colour, to his attempt to create alongside Einstein, a Unified Field Theory, the holy grail of unsolved theories amongst physicists

Best Known For

His “Schrödinger’s Cat” theory.

Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper

About Grace

As one of the first women ever to earn a PhD in mathematics after completing a masters in the same subject, Grace became a professor until World War 2 compelled her to join the US Navy. Unfortunately, aged 34, she was seen as too old to join, as well as not being heavy enough for her height. However, she finally convinced them to allow her in and due to her background in maths, she began programming computers and helped to develop and popularise the term ‘computer bug’, which is still used today when there is a glitch.

Her most famous development was creating a compiler, which is a program that allows code written by humans to be understood by computers. This creation was a major milestone in computer programming. When she retired in 1986, at age 79, she was the oldest serving officer in the Naval service.

Best Known For

Her contribution to computer programming and coining the term 'computer bug'.

Heston Blumenthal

Heston Blumenthal

About Heston

Heston is internationally famous for his 3 Michelin starred The Fat Duck restaurant, and although he is a self-taught chef, his creativity and passion for science have led to him being one of the world’s leading chefs.

Heston is known for pushing the boundaries of traditional cooking, and his research into historic British meals has led to several popular television shows where he found new and inventive ways to recreate them. His aim has been to change the way that people approach food, and he has pioneered new techniques, including creating multi-sensory cooking, flavour encapsulation and food pairing.

His drive to bring new technology and science into his cooking has led to him becoming a Fellow of The Royal Society of Chemistry and The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts. He was also awarded an O.B.E. for services to British Gastronomy. Heston was recently chosen as one of the Royal Society’s 175 faces of chemistry, an accolade given to someone who has significantly helped shape chemistry and science as a whole both past and present.

Best Known For

His experimental recipes, like snail porridge and sardine ice cream.

Carol Vorderman

Carol Vorderman

About Carol

Carol attended Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where she studied engineering. She then worked at a power station as a junior civil engineer for a time, as well as a graduate management trainee.

In 1982, Carol joined Countdown, a TV show she would continue to appear on for 26 years. Whilst here, she pioneered a new type of presenting role that focused on her intellectual ability and mathematical skills. Outside of her television and presenting work, she has produced a best-selling book, writes newspaper columns, and even has her own Sudoku based video game!

Carol is a dedicated campaigner for children’s education, and has her own series of school textbooks, including Maths Made Easy and Science Made Easy. In 2015, she got a job with NASA, when she joined the board of directors of the Challenger Centre for Space Science Education, where she works alongside astronauts to promote science and engineering to kids.

Best Known For

Being able to do tricky maths calculations in 30 seconds.

James Dyson

James Dyson

About James

James Dyson is a British inventor and industrial designer who revolutionised the vacuum cleaner and many other home appliances.

James had an early passion for the arts before becoming interested in interior design. He later got into engineering, which came in useful when, after mounting frustration with his clogged up vacuum cleaner, he created a brand new technology called ‘cyclonic separation’. After launching it himself in Japan as the ‘G-Force’, where it won the International Design Fair, he took his vacuum cleaner abroad, where it became an instant success in the USA and the UK.

James Dyson has since continued to innovate in the world of appliances. Some of his company’s best known creations include: the Dyson Ball, Dyson Airblade hand-dryers, and the Air Multiplier fan.

Best Known For

Revolutionising the design of vacuum cleaners.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

About Isambard

Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s father was an engineer, and after being educated in both England and France, Brunel went to work alongside him. Together, they helped plan the Thames Tunnel, which is now part of London Overground and is the oldest tunnel in the oldest underground system in the world.

From here, he continued to plan and construct a network of tunnels and bridges for the Great Western Railway, many of which are still used today. His work on these train lines are perhaps what he is most well known for, but he also engineered other great creations.

Two of these were ships that were world first’s for various reasons. He even helped create ‘The Great Eastern’ in 1859, which was by far the biggest ship to have ever been built to that date. His work ethic and desire to push boundaries have left him in the history books as one of the world’s great engineers.

Best Known For

Impressive bridges, massive ships and the Great Western Railway.

Jason Bradbury

Jason Bradbury

About Jason

Jason Bradbury is a well known TV host, often presenting technology shows, which allows him to indulge in his passion for gadgets and science.

He has even invented his own gadgets, which include the world's first working jet-powered hoverboard! He is the owner of several robots, including dancing UAV’s and an Automower, which mows his lawn for him. He’s also a six-time world record holder, including the records for the world's fastest water powered car and the world's longest jump with an RC car.

Jason has written his own collection of books, the Dot Robot series, which follows a twelve-year-old boy genius that invents a robot crime-fighting force. The science in the books is not only real, but Jason has actually seen most of it! He even created the 'Dot Robot Roadshow', which gave schools and festival goers the chance to see some of the science in the books in action.

Best Known For

His energy and enthusiasm for all things tech.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Jocelyn Bell Burnell

About Jocelyn

After taking an interest in science from a young age, Jocelyn went on to gain a degree in physics before achieving a PhD from Cambridge University.

Whilst completing her postgraduate studies, Jocelyn Bell Burnell would go on to make a significant scientific discovery. While working as a research student, her work operating a new large radio telescope led to the discovery of pulsars- a celestial object that rivals even atomic clocks in the accuracy of their time keeping, as well as helping to confirm other scientific theories. Although she did not win the Nobel Prize for this discovery, her contribution is widely recognised.

Since then, she has worked on projects that used a rocket, a high altitude balloon, several satellites and ground-based telescopes. She also has a successful lecturing career due to her infectious love of science.

Best Known For

Her groundbreaking discovery of pulsars.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

About Leonardo

From a young age Leonardo da Vinci was known for his quick mental arithmetic and talent in music. Although he may now be best known for his artwork, that didn’t start off as his main focus.

He became a painter’s apprentice at 17 years old and towards the end really began to experiment with his own designs, including diving suits and submarines. His observations and inventions were recorded in 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, including designs for flying machines around 400 years before the first working plane took off!

Most of da Vinci’s inventions were only sketches and ideas, however some have been engineered and ‘brought to life’ since he died in 1519. One of da Vinci's last created works was a mechanical lion that could walk and open its chest to reveal a bouquet of lilies!

Best Known For

The Mona Lisa, his flying machine and Vitruvian man.

Maggie Aderin-Pocock

Maggie Aderin-Pocock

About Maggie

Dr Aderin-Pocock has achieved her long sought-after title; she’s a space scientist! She was determined to achieve her dream job, and didn’t let her dyslexia get in the way, obtaining a degree in physics and a doctorate in mechanical engineering.

Her job has taken her all over the world, and she’s worked on various projects, such as developing landmine detectors and missile warning systems, as well as helping to create state of the art telescopes that can help understand what is happening billions of miles away!

She is committed to encouraging people to explore careers in science and engineering and in 2009 she sent a satellite into space with Blue Peter, earning her own Blue Peter badge. Due to her expertise with engineering, telescopes and space, she was a natural choice to become co-presenter on the BBC4 show The Sky at Night.

Best Known For

Her vast knowledge of space.

Marie Curie

Marie Curie

About Marie

Marie learnt to read and write at a young age, and did well at school. After graduating, Marie wanted to attend university, but in 19th century Poland, university was only for men! Marie didn’t back down though, and after six years and the help of her elder sister, she finally made it to a French university that accepted women.

With a degree in physics, Marie and her husband began their research. Together they explored X-rays and radiation, and even invented the word ‘radioactivity’. Through this work, Marie became the first ever woman to receive a Nobel Prize. Marie and her husband then discovered 2 new elements. One she named polonium (after her homeland, Poland) and one radium. To date, she is one of only four people to ever receive 2 Nobel Prizes!

Best Known For

Her discovery of radium, which was used to make everything glow in the dark.

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla

About Nikola

Nikola Tesla is widely credited as being one of the most influential minds of the 20th Century. Born in 1856, a young Tesla developed a talent for creating little tools and appliances, as well as coming to realise he had an eidetic (photographic) memory.

Although a devoted student, Tesla never actually completed university, but his passion for invention never faltered. His rivalry and treatment at the hands of Thomas Edison, who he worked under for some time, has become legendary, as has what is known as the “War of the Currents”, where Tesla’s contributions to the Alternating Current (AC) system of electricity supply, which is still used today, was pitched against Edison’s Direct Current (DC) system.

The list of inventions that are credited to Tesla is extensive, and his aim that his creations should be of benefit to mankind have formed his legacy, one which has far outlived the man himself.

Best Known For

Being a pioneer of electricity.

Pythagoras

Pythagoras

About Pythagoras

Pythagoras is famously often referred to as the first great mathematician. Alongside this, he is extremely well known for his ideas on science, religion and philosophy, making important discoveries in music, astronomy and medicine.

He was born in 569BC, a long time before many mathematical theories had been properly developed. He believed that all things are numbers, and as mathematics is the base of everything, the world could be understood through maths.

Many of Pythagoras’ maths findings are learnt and used today. His list of studies is a long one, but include looking at: triangles, algebra, odd and even numbers, angles and 3D shapes.

Best Known For

His Pythagoras Theorem, seen as a cornerstone of maths.

Rachel Riley

Rachel Riley

About Rachel

Rachel Riley achieved a masters degree in mathematics from Oriel College, Oxford, covering quantum theory, fluid mechanics and applied maths. Whilst at university, she also captained the college netball team and played in the women’s football team.

Her education equipped her with the skills that enabled her to be chosen as the numbers expert on Countdown, and she has since gone on to appear in various other television shows. These include presenting The Gadget Show to demo the latest technology, featuring on 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and Football Focus, demonstrating her versatility. Rachel also got her dancing shoes on back in 2013 to reach the 6th round in Strictly Come Dancing and presented at the BAFTA red carpet in 2015!

Best Known For

Her quick wit and mental arithmetic.

Richard Ayoade

Richard Ayoade

About Richard

Whilst studying law at Cambridge University, Richard Ayoade became the president of Footlights, which paved the way to his later TV work. He is well known for playing Maurice Moss in The IT Crowd, acting as a technologically brilliant individual. His character had a detailed knowledge of specialised technical subjects including chemistry and electronic engineering.

Richard’s reputation for all things tech made him the perfect candidate to take over presenting The Gadget Man in 2013, where he tried out a variety of interesting and innovative products related to each episode’s theme, including game, home and holiday gadgets. Some of these included: the Soloshot 2, for the ultimate selfie; the JakPak, an all-in-one waterproof jacket, tent and sleeping bag; and the No Place Like Home GPS shoes, which use lights to guide the wearer home!

Best Known For

His love of gadgets and distinctive haircut.

Dara O'Briain

Dara O'Briain

About Dara

Whilst being well known for his comedy and presenting skills, Dara O’Briain has always been a keen scientist and mathematician.

His interest in quantum physics was sparked at a young age, when at 14, he bought and read A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. He went on to obtain a degree in mathematics and theoretical physics, and has even starred in a documentary with Stephen Hawking himself!

His presenting work has seen him host TV shows such as Stargazing Live, as well as his own maths and science related programmes, School of Hard Sums and Dara Ó Briain’s Science Club, with both of these shows exploring science and mathematics in a fun and accessible way.

Best Known For

His comedy work and unique approach to maths and science.

Sarah Sobka

Sarah Sobka

About Sarah

Sarah is an 18 year old who, in March 2015, became the youngest UK Young Scientist of the Year at age 17. After whittling down over 2000 entries, Sarah’s was one of the 202 projects chosen to attend The Big Bang Fair, where just 10 finalists would have the chance to present their idea to a panel of judges.

The brilliant project that won Sarah the prize was aimed at helping sufferers of cystic fibrosis, an inherited life-limiting condition that affects over 9000 people in the UK. The project focused on looking at alternative cheaper treatments for sufferers, based around a drug called Lubiprostone, usually used to treat irritable bowel syndrome.

Sarah initially decided to pursue medicine from a humanitarian point of view, but decided to learn more about the drug-development process after seeing how integral they are to modern medicine. Since winning, she is now a first year medical student, and hopes to combine a career as a clinician and medical researcher, continuing her work to find a cure for cystic fibrosis.

Best Known For

Having a brilliant young mind.

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton

About Isaac

At the age of 17, Newton’s mother took him out of school to run the family farm, however he had no interest in this, and returned to become the top-ranked student at his school, and distinguished himself mainly by building sundials and windmill models.

Newton is probably most famous for discovering gravity, which helped to explain the movements of the planets and the sun. Legend has it that Newton got his inspiration for gravity when he saw an apple fall from a tree on his farm! He also developed the Laws of Motion, laying down the three fundamental laws for physics.

In 1668, Newton invented the reflecting telescope, which used mirrors and light, and the design is still used in astronomy today. Newton’s work was not limited just to science however; he even created a whole new type of mathematics called ‘calculus’, which is still used today in science and engineering.

Best Known For

His 3 Laws of Motion and discovering gravity.

Brian Cox

Brian Cox

About Brian

Dr Brian Cox obtained both a degree and a masters in physics, before then going on to study high-energy particle physics as part of his PhD, after the pop-band that he was playing in at the time, broke up.

Since then, he has gone on to become a recognisable face on science programmes, after presenting shows such as his popular Wonders of… series, Stargazing Live, the Science Britannica series, as well as voicing episodes of the BBC Bitesize revision programmes.

Outside of TV, Cox has worked at a top level institute in Switzerland called CERN, which houses the Large Hadron Collider, a massive device designed to find evidence of the original Big Bang. He’s also a professor of particle physics at the University of Manchester, and was awarded an OBE in 2010 for his services to science.

Best Known For

Going from pop star to science star.

Stefan Gates

Stefan Gates

About Stefan

Stefan is an award-winning TV presenter, live-show performer and author who combines his passion for science with a love of adventurous eating - and uses them to make people fascinated by their food.

He has made over 100 TV programmes including BBC's Incredible Edibles, E Numbers: An Edible Adventure and Food Factory, all of which tear food apart to reveal the extraordinary stories behind it. Stefan has written books and articles about global food adventures, science and technology, as well as a kids’ food/science book. He helps companies develop new foods and recipes and hosts dozens of live events every year for both industry and family audiences where he whips the crowds into a STEM frenzy, invariably blowing things up along the way!

Stefan is a committed promoter of STEM subjects for children, and in 2018 made his 5th appearance headlining at The Big Bang Fair!

Best Known For

His explosive creations and eating insects.

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13th - 16th March 2019
Birmingham NEC

Open
Logo: The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair

13th - 16th March 2019
Birmingham NEC