A listing of individuals who were born or raised in Minnesota and have left their mark in the world of Science.

  • Peter Agre (Northfield, MN)
    Professor of Biological Chemistry and Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
  • Melvin Calvin (St. Paul, MN)
    Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from the University of Minnesota in 1935. Received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1961 for his research on the carbon dioxide assimilation in plants.
  • Robert Rowe Gilruth (Nashwauk, MN)
    Gilruth was an American aviation and space pioneer and referred to as “the father of America’s human space flight program”. He was the first director of NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, later renamed “Johnson Space Center” and is one of the first 10 people inducted into the National Space Hall of Fame.
  • Dr. James Jude (Maple Lake, MN)
    Jude was a thoracic surgeon who helped discover the lifesaving technique known as cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR. In 1960, he co-authored an article in The Journal of the American Medical Association, titled “Closed-Chest Cardiac Massage” which explained this technique.
  • Brian K. Kobilka (Little Falls, MN)
    Professor in Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry from University of Minnesota – Duluth, MN. Received his M.D. from Yale. Best known for his research of G protein-coupled receptors. Nobel Prize in 2012 for Chemistry.
  • Parke Kunkle (birth place unknown)
    Astronomer; a virtual unknown until he mentioned in 2011 that the dates of many zodiac signs had changed due to Earth’s wobbly orbit. This wasn’t anything new, but he stated that there may be a 13th Zodiac sign: Ophiuchus. His comments went viral in the social networking circle and created a huge storm of controversy in the astrology world. He is a teacher at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College, and is a board member at the Minnesota Planetarium Society.
  • C. Walton Lillehei (Minneapolis, MN)
    Lillehei was a pioneer in open-heart surgery, valve replacements and the electronic pacemaker. He is often referred to as the ‘father of open heart surgery’. Among his students at the University Minnesota were Dr. Christiaan N. Barnard, a South African who performed the first heart transplant in 1967. Lillehei was born, raised and educated in Minnesota.
  • Alfred Nier (St. Paul, MN)
    Physicist. Chairman of Physics Department at the University of Minnesota from 1953 to 1965. His early work helped determine the age of the earth, but his career was built on a mass spectrometer that he designed and built that was instrumental in the development of the atomic bomb for the Manhatten Project in the 1940’s.

Honorary Minnesotans
Individuals who were NOT born in Minnesota, but have lived, studied or spent a significant part of their lives in Minnesota.

  • Norman Ernest Borlaug (Cresco, Iowa)
    Agronomist/Humanitarian; He is considered the “Father of the Green Revolution” by many. Borlaug received his Ph.D. in plant pathology and genetics from the University of Minnesota in 1942. Received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions to world peace through increasing food supply. Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977).
  • Sister Elizabeth Kenny (Warialda, New South Wales)
    Created and promoted an alternative way to treat Polio. Her principles later became the foundation of today’s physical therapy treatments. Kenny first caught the eye of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and then the University of Minnesota. In 1942, she opened her first American polio treatment facility in Minneapolis, called The Sister Kenny Institute. This was her American base of operations for 11 years. She returned to Australia in 1951 and died from Parkinson Disease in 1952.
  • Ancel Keys (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
    Scientist. Specialized in cardiovascular disease. Was responsible for two famous diets; K-Rations (for combat soldiers in World War II), and the Mediterranean diet. He taught physiology at the University of Minnesota and lived in St. Paul for 35 years. In earlier research he worked to develop a portable and nonperishable ration that would provide enough calories to sustain soldiers for up to two weeks. His theories on the connection between diet, blood cholesterol levels, and heart disease is now widely recognized.
  • Dr. William Worrall Mayo (born Salford, England; arrived in Minnesota in about 1855)
    Physician/Surgeon, Founder of the Mayo Clinic. After his death in 1911, his sons, William J. and Charles H. were responsible for the dramatic growth of the world re-known medical facility that is focused on patient care, research and education.
  • Athelstan Spilhaus (Cape Town, South Africa)
    Geophysicist, Oceanographer, Inventor and Futurist. Multi-interests. Former Dean of the Institute of Technology at the University of Minnesota where he spent most of his career. He is the founder and original planner of the Minnesota Experimental City (MXC). Creator of a Sunday comic strip titled “Our New Age” and was also involved with the creation of the Skyway System in Downtown Minneapolis. He was the U.S. ambassador to UNESCO in 1954. He developed the “bathythermograph”, a tool used to measure temperatures in the deep ocean.

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