7 questions on scientists

7 questions on science

A quarter of 14-year-olds confuse Marie Curie with Mariah Carey, according to research by the L'Oreal Young Scientist Centre at the Royal Institution for the BBC News Magazine. It reveals what six to 15-year-olds do and don't know about scientists. Can you do any better?

Boy with est tubes

1.) Multiple Choice Question

He discovered electromagnetic induction and featured on the back of £20 notes for 10 years, but 64% of children don't know who Michael Faraday is. Can you pick him out?

Four scientists
  1. One
  2. Two
  3. Three
  4. Four

2.) Multiple Choice Question

Albert Einstein is one of science's most recognisable faces, with 61% of children able to pick him out. His 1910 paper on "critical opalescence" helped confirm, among other things, what?

Albert Einstein
  1. Why pure light is white
  2. Why grass is green
  3. Why the sky is blue

3.) Multiple Choice Question

But while they could name him, 12% wrongly thought he discovered the law of gravity. That was Isaac Newton. What was the name of his book that explained the three basic laws that govern the way objects move?

Apple tree
  1. Principia
  2. Movement and law
  3. Nature's laws
  4. Universia

4.) Multiple Choice Question

Marie Curie was the first person to be awarded two Nobel Prizes, but 61% of young people do not know what she is famous for. What chemical element did she NOT discover?

Marie Curie
  1. Polonium
  2. Barium
  3. Radium


When asked to pick out a photo of Marie Curie, 14% of children pointed to a picture of Mariah Carey and 13% to Margaret Thatcher. The Royal Institution research is published ahead of Big Bang, a celebration of science and engineering for young people.

Mariah Carey and Margaret Thatcher

5.) Multiple Choice Question

Television is a big part of life today, but only 28% of young people know it was in the 1920s that John Logie Baird made the first TV broadcast in the UK. Where did he give the first public demonstration?

Young girl watching television
  1. Women's Institute meeting
  2. Royal Institution
  3. Selfridges department store
  4. Glasgow train station

6.) Multiple Choice Question

Ditto the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell is credited with inventing the first practical telephone, but what did he call it?

  1. Electrical speech machine
  2. Voice transmitter model
  3. Speech sound encoder


But there are claims Italian Antonio Meucci invented the telephone. He showed his "talking telegraph" to prospective investors in 1860. He filed a renewable notice of an impending patent in 1871, but in the end couldn't afford to renew it. In 1876 Bell, who shared a lab with him, filed instead and went on to fame and fortune.

Antonio Meucci

7.) Multiple Choice Question

One scientist 77% of young people do recognise is Stephen Hawking. He says the best explanation for the existence of the universe is something called M-Theory. What does the "M" stand for?

  1. Mega
  2. Mutation
  3. Membrane


  1. It's picture one. The British chemist and physicist's work was crucial in allowing electricity to be transformed from a curiosity into a powerful new technology. Two is Charles Babbage, a British pioneer of computing. Three is Isaac Newton, the Brit who discovered the law of gravity. Four is American Thomas Edison, whose inventions include the phonograph.
  2. It's why the sky is blue. As well as other things, Einstein looked at the cumulative effect of the scattering of light by individual molecules in the atmosphere. The sun produces white light which is made up of all the colours of the rainbow and molecules in the air scatter blue light from the sun most easily - hence the sky is blue. This is known as Rayleigh scattering.
  3. It's Principia. Newton published his most famous book in 1687 while he was a mathematics professor at Trinity College, Cambridge. It was when he saw an apple fall from a tree that he began to think about gravity.
  4. It's barium. Curie discovered polonium and radium, working with her husband Pierre. Not only was she the first person to be awarded two Nobel Prizes, she was also the first woman to be awarded one on her own merit.
  5. It's at Selfridges. The Scottish engineer and inventor gave the first public demonstration of moving silhouette images by television at the London department store in March, 1925. It was part of events to celebrate the store's 16th birthday.
  6. Electrical speech machine was the name he gave to what is now known as the telephone. Only 27% of children know he invented it in the 19th Century - 9% think he invented it in the 17th Century.
  7. It's membrane. Hawking believes M-theory is the elusive "theory of everything" - or the explanation of how the universe works.

Your Score

0 - 3 : Black hole

4 - 6 : Dimly lit

7 - 7 : Bright spark

For more details on some of the world's leading figures, go to the scientists collection on the BBC's Science website.

For past quizzes including our weekly news quiz, 7 days 7 questions, expand the grey drop-down below - also available on the Magazine page (and scroll down).

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