10 Scientists Whose Ideas Made Them Millionaires

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You rarely find scientists’ names on the front page of Forbes. Their list of the wealthiest is reserved for the captains of industries, business magnates, tech tycoons, and founders of this and that. However, some scientific brains have worked their way into affluence by converting the products of their novel ideas into cash, even as they etch their names in the history books.

1. James Dyson

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British inventor and industrial designer Sir James Dyson is credited with inventing bagless vacuum cleaners and other household appliances, including the ContraRotator washing machine and hair dryer. He also developed the bladeless Air Multiplier fan, an air purifier, and a humidifier. Today, Dyson is the fifth richest person in the United Kingdom, with about $29 billion in assets.

2. James Watson

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James Watson is an accomplished scholar who contributed to developing advances in various scientific disciplines, including biology, genetics, and zoology. Watson’s most notable work was discovering the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in 1952. In 2014, he sold his Nobel Prize for $4 million, but donated some of the money to the University of Chicago.

3. Alfred Bernhard Nobel

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Alfred Bernhard Nobel made money from three explosives inventions: dynamite, mercury fulminate blasting cap, and gelignite. Public criticisms trailed Nobel’s inventions, and in his attempt to do something “positive,” he gave his entire net worth, about $160 million today, to the creation of the Nobel Prize. The prize was created to reward the inventions that conferred the most significant benefit to mankind.

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4. Katalin Karikó

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The 13th woman to win a Nobel Prize, Katalin Karikó’s studies in Messenger RNA (mRNA) led to the creation of COVID-19 vaccines, improving public health and bolstering her financial assets. In addition, some of her patents have been sold and the proceeds came close to $1 billion.

5. Ugar Sahin

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Just like Katalin Karikó, Ugur Sahin accumulated wealth from developing COVID-19 vaccines. He established himself in the biotechnology industry through BioNTech, a company he co-founded with his wife. Forbes estimates the German scientist’s fortune to be about $7.1 billion.

6. Craig Venter

Craig Venter
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Craig Venter led one of the first draft sequences of the human genome while pioneering several scholarly contributions to synthetic biology. Venter is recognized as one of the frontiers of commercialized science, and his entrepreneurial prowess has led to the establishment of $2 million institutes. One of the institutes is focused on extending the human lifespan, which could make Venter billions in addition to his current net worth of $300 million.

7. Ronda Stryker

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Ronda is from a family of medical professionals and she has risen to the top of her family’s business, Stryker Corporation, where she has been CEO for over three decades. Stryker Corporation specializes in developing and producing medical equipment such as neurosurgical devices, surgical navigation systems, and communication systems. Under her leadership, the company has become well-known for its high-quality products and breakthroughs in implants for trauma surgeries and joint replacements. Ronda is worth about $7.4 billion.

8. Gan Zhongru

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Chinese biologist and founder of Gan & Lee Pharmaceuticals, Gan Zhongru, is behind the production of insulin and injection pens that have made a big difference in the quality of life for people with diabetes. Despite dropping in the rankings, Gan maintains an aggregate valuation of over $7 billion.

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9. Carl Hansen

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Carl Hansen left his lecturing job at the University of British Columbia to focus on building AbCellera, a biotech firm in Vancouver that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to find antibody treatments for diseases. His decision paid off. Less than three years later, he’s worth over $2 billion.

10. Frances Arnold

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Frances Arnold, a chemical engineer and biochemist, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2018 for her work on the directed evolution of enzymes. She also co-founded several biotechnology companies, which have garnered attention and financial success. Her estimated worth in 2023 is about $4.4 million.

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