Newport News Public Schools TV and the Telecommunications Center


Scientists have transformed the way we think and live throughout the centuries. What are the most important scientific discoveries of all time? This series presents the top 100 in eight different categories.

Sixth grade and above. Each show is approximately 45 minutes long.

Program descriptions:


Detailing the history of what may be the oldest science, this program explores 13 of its crucial benchmarks: ancient awareness that the planets move; Copernican cosmology; Johannes Kepler's laws of planetary motion; Galileo's discovery of Jupiter's moons; Edmund Halley's comet prediction; William and Carolyn Herschel's galactic mapping; Einstein's General Theory of Relativity; Edwin Hubble's proof that the universe is expanding; Karl Jansky's discovery of galactic radio waves; Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson's detection of the cosmic microwave background; observations of gamma ray bursts; the discovery of extrasolar planets; and the big rip theory.


The history of biology is as dynamic and colorful as the biosphere itself. This program presents 13 breakthroughs in the science of living things: Anton van Leeuwenhoek's discovery of microorganisms; Robert Brown's identification of cell nuclei; Carl Woese's Archaea classification; Walther Flemming and Eduard Strasburger's discovery of mitosis; August Weismann's conclusions on meiosis; awareness of cell differentiation and stem cells; pinpointing of mitochondria; Hans Krebs's citric acid cycle; the discoveries of neurotransmitters, hormones, and photosynthesis; Arthur George Tansley's ideas on ecosystems; and the centuries-long process of studying biodiversity.


In a sense, the modern world is founded on chemistry. This program focuses on 13 building blocks in the foundation: Joseph Priestly and Antoine Lavoisier's discovery of oxygen; John Dalton's atomic theory; Avogadro's Law; Friedrich Woehler's synthesis of urea; Friedrich Kekule's studies of molecular structure; Dmitry Mendeleyev's Periodic Table; Humphry Davy's electrolysis; J. J. Thomson's discovery of the electron; Niels Bohr's model of atomic structure; Gustav Kirchhoff and Robert Bunson's electromagnetic spectroscopy; Marie Curie's isolation of radioactive materials; John Wesley Hyatt and Leo Baekeland's invention of plastics; and the discovery of fullerenes.

Earth Sciences

Understanding of the Earth's structure has increased dramatically over the past 200 years. This program illustrates 12 landmark steps along the way: Richard Oldham's theory of a liquid core; Inge Lehmann's conclusion that the core is solid iron; Alfred Wegener's premise of continental drift; Harry Hess's findings on seafloor spreading; plate tectonics; Leon Teisserenc de Bort's discovery of atmospheric layers; the theory of global warming; Victor Hess's studies of cosmic rays; Bernard Brunhes's assertion of magnetic field reversal; Charles Lyell's ideas on geological change; Bertram Boltwood's formulas for radiometric dating; and Milutin Milankovitch's ideas on periodic ice ages.


Only a century or so old, genetics is now a cornerstone of the life sciences. This program presents 13 vital contributions to the field: Gregor Mendel’s rules of heredity; Thomas Hunt Morgan’s detection of chromosomal gene location; George Beadle and Edward Tatum’s “one gene, one enzyme” concept; Barbara McClintock’s discovery of transposons; the acceptance of DNA as the basis of genetic information; James Watson and Francis Crick’s double helix; Marshall Nirenberg’s genetic code; the discoveries of RNA, restriction enzymes, RNA splicing, and RNA interference; Alec Jeffreys’ DNA identification technique; and the Human Genome Project.


The human body is our inner frontier. This program describes 13 achievements which have expanded that frontier: Andreas Vesalius's anatomical charts; William Harvey's breakthrough on blood circulation; Karl Landsteiner's identification of blood groups; the development of anesthesia; Wilhelm Roentgen's discovery of X-rays; Louis Pasteur's establishment of bacteriology; Frederick Hopkins's recognition of the importance of vitamins; the discovery and isolation of penicillin; the development of sulfa drugs; Edward Jenner's invention of vaccine; and the discoveries of insulin, oncogenes, and the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV.


Why do matter and energy behave as they do? This program examines 13 discoveries which help answer that question: Galileo's law of falling bodies; Isaac Newton's conclusions of universal gravity; Newton's laws of motion; the second law of thermodynamics; experiments in electromagnetism; Albert Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity and his equation E=mc2; quantum theory; calculations on the nature of light; James Chadwick's discovery of the neutron; the development of superconductivity; Murray Gell-Mann's proposal of quarks; and the discovery of the strong and weak nuclear forces.

The Origin of Life and Evolution

Life on Earth's three simple words for a journey spanning billions of years. This program presents 10 milestones that have helped to tell life's story: Walter Alvarez's K-T asteroid theory of dinosaur extinction; the first identification of dinosaur fossils; Stanley Miller's simulation of the early atmosphere, leading to organic compound formation; Robert Ballard's discovery of hydrothermal vent ecosystems; Charles Walcott's analysis of the Burgess Shale; the Linnaean classification system; Darwin's theory of natural selection; Donald Johanson's Lucy; Mary Leakey's Laetoli footprints; and Michel Brunet's Toumai skull.

Top Ten

Drawing from history, this program showcases 10 revelations widely considered to be the most influential in science: Isaac Newton's laws of motion; Robert Hooke's discovery of cells, coupled with Anton van Leeuwenhoek's discovery of protozoa; Alexander Fleming's detection and isolation of penicillin; Ignaz Semmelweiss's germ theory; Gregor Mendel's laws of heredity; Nicolaus Copernicus's conception of a heliocentric solar system; Dmitri Mendeleev's Periodic Table; Einstein's equation E=mc2, followed by his General Theory of Relativity; and the achievement submitted as the most important in scientific history Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection.