12 Academic Superstars

All too often academia feels removed from the 'real world.' But sometimes scientists, historians and other academics achieve so much success in their fields that their work crosses over into the mainstream. Each of these professors has reached out of the ivory tower and influenced people all over the world.

Stephen Hawking taught at Cambridge

1. Stephen Hawking

British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who is best known for his theories on cosmology and quantum gravity, is possibly the most famous scientist of all time. His popular science book A Brief History of Time stayed for 237 weeks on the bestseller list of the British Sunday Times. Hawking retired in 2009 from his position as Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge.

Steven Chu taught at UC Berkeley before becoming Secretary of Energy

2. Steven Chu

Steven Chu, a famous American physicist, won the 1997 Nobel Prize for his work with trapping and cooling atoms with laser light. He taught at UC Berkeley until 2009, when he was appointed U.S. Secretary of Energy for the Obama administration.

Alex Filippenko teachs at UC Berkeley

3. Alexei Filippenko

Alexei Filippenko was the world's most oft-cited astronomer from 1996 through 2006. He captured the public's imagination with his ground-breaking theories on black holes and supernovas. Filippenko also teaches at UC Berkeley.

Brian Greene teaches at Columbia

4. Brian Greene

Brian Greene, Columbia University professor, is another famous American physicist. His work on mirror symmetry went mainstream in a number of popular science books, including The Fabric of the Cosmos and Icarus at the Edge of Time -the former inspiring a related PBS special.

Thomas Levenson teaches at MIT

5. Thomas Levenson

Thomas Levenson is Professor of Science Writing at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT). He's well known for his popular science books, including Einstein in Berlin and A Musical History of Science, as well as his award-winning NOVA miniseries 'Origins.'

John Forbes Nash teaches at Princeton

6. John Forbes Nash, Jr.

John Forbes Nash, Jr. is the subject of a popular 2001 film, 'A Beautiful Mind,' based on a book of the same name. The film tells the story of Nash's life as a mathematical genius who struggles with schizophrenia. Nash currently serves as Senior Research Mathematician at Princeton University.

Howard Zinn taught at Boston U

7. Howard Zinn

Historian Howard Zinn is an emeritus professor at Boston University, where he has taught Political Science since 1964. He's most famous for his extraordinarily popular book, A People's History of the United States. Zinn is also a playwright and a Civil Rights and anti-war activist.

Samantha Power teaches at Harvard

8. Samantha Power

Samantha Power is an Irish-American journalist and foreign policy specialist who is well known for her research on genocide and human rights. She received a Pulitzer for her book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide and has made pop-culture appearances in venues like Jon Stewart's 'The Daily Show.' Power teaches Public Policy at Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.

Jeffrey Sachs taught at Harvard and now teaches at Columbia

9. Jeffrey Sachs

Twice named one of Time magazine's 'Most Influential People of the Year,' Jeffrey Sachs is an American economist known for his work on poverty and economic 'shock therapy' in the developing world. Sachs started his academic career as one of the youngest economics professors ever at Harvard University. He currently teaches at Columbia.

Jeremey Siegel teaches at UPenn

10. Jeremy Siegel

Jeremy Siegel, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's prestigious Wharton Business School, has risen to popularity with regular appearances on NPR, CNN and CNBC, offering financial advise and market commentary. Siegel also regularly contributes to Yahoo! Finance and Kiplinger's Personal Finance.

Glenn Reynolds teaches at the University of Tennessee Law

11. Glenn Reynolds

Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee, made a name for himself with Instapundit, his extremely popular political blog. A self-described 'former Libertarian' with views that borrow from both the left and the right, Reynolds' other popular publication credits include Forbes Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

IM Pei taught at Harvard

I.M. Pei's glass pyramid in front of the Louvre Museum in Paris, France

12. I.M. Pei

Legendary Chinese architect I.M. Pei received his master's degree in Architecture from Harvard in the 1940s. He subsequently became a naturalized U.S. citizen and returned to Harvard to teach before retiring from education to work in the private sector.

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