This is by no means a complete list of people from history that I think you should become aquatinted with but it is a start.
Einstein developed the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics). He is best known in popular culture for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = m*c^2 (which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation"). He received the1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect". -Wikipedia article
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
-Quoted in interview by G.S. Viereck, 1929
An Austrian physicist who worked on radioactivity and nuclear physics. Meitner was part of the team that discovered nuclear fission, an achievement for which her colleague Otto Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize. Meitner is often mentioned as one of the most glaring examples of women's scientific achievement overlooked by the Nobel committee. A 1997 Physics Today study concluded that Meitner's omission was "a rare instance in which personal negative opinions apparently led to the exclusion of a deserving scientist" from the Nobel. Element 109, meitnerium, is named in her honor. -Wikipedia article
“I do not consider myself the father of the release of atomic energy. My part in it
was quite indirect. I did not, in fact, foresee that it would be released in my time. I believed only that it was theoretically possible…It was discovered by Hahn in
Berlin, and he himself misinterpreted what he discovered. It was Lise Meitner who provided the correct interpretation.”
-Einstein’s comment in his book, Out of My Later Years
An English scientist who contributed to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His main discoveries include those of electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism, and electrolysis. Although Faraday received little formal education, he was one of the most influential scientists in history. - Wikipedia article
"I have far more confidence in the one man who works mentally and bodily at a matter than in the six who merely talk about it."
-Letter to John Tyndall
An American theoretical physicist known for his work in quantum mechanics. For his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics Feynman received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. During his lifetime, Feynman became one of the best-known scientists in the world. In a 1999 poll of 130 leading physicists worldwide by the British journal Physics World he was ranked as one of the ten greatest physicists of all time. He assisted in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II and became known to a wide public in the 1980s as a member of the Rogers Commission, the panel that investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. In addition to his work in theoretical physics, Feynman has been credited with pioneering the field of quantum computing, and introducing the concept of nanotechnology.
"I don't know anything, but I do know that everything is interesting if you go into it deeply enough."
-The Pleasure of Finding Things Out
Emilie du Châtelet
A French mathematician, physicist, and author during the Age of Enlightenment. Her crowning achievement is considered to be her translation and commentary on Isaac Newton's work Principia Mathematica. The translation, published posthumously in 1759, is still considered the standard French translation.
"No woman was ever more learned than she was. ..She only ever spoke about science to those from whom she thought she could learn; never did she discuss it to attract attention to herself. ...For a long time she moved in circles which did not know her worth and she paid no attention to such ignorance. ... I saw her, one day, divide a nine-figure number by nine other figures, in her head, without any help, in the presence of a mathematician unable to keep up with her."
-Voltaire writing about du Châtelet
An American astronaut and the first person to walk on the Moon. He was also an aerospace engineer, naval aviator, test pilot, and university professor.
“It's an interesting place to be. I recommend it.”
-"60 Minutes" Interview, 2005
Born Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr., Aldrin is an engineer and former American astronaut, and the second person to walk on the Moon. He was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing in history. He is also a retired colonel in the United States Air Force (USAF) and a Command Pilot.
"When our crew was announced, I told my wife that I'd just as soon be on a later flight because I didn't want all the press and all the attention for the rest of my life for being on the first landing. Because that's all the press seems to care about. "Who was first? Who was on the first landing?" Nobody ever asks who was the seventh person on the Moon."
-Buzz Aldrin, Vanity Fair
A retired brigadier general in the United States Air Force and record-setting test pilot. In 1947, he became the first pilot confirmed to have traveled faster than sound. In the 1980s, he was prominently featured in Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff and in its 1983 film adaptation. - Wikipedia Article
"And there's so much more I want to do; I've never lost my curiosity about things that interest me. Fortunately, I'm very good at the activities I most enjoy, and that part has made my life that much sweeter. I haven't yet done everything, but by the time I'm finished, I won't have missed much. If I auger in tomorrow, it won't be with a frown on my face. I've had a ball."
-An Autobiography by Gen. Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos
Sir Nicholas Winton
A British humanitarian who organized the rescue of 669 mostly Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War, in an operation later known as the Czech Kindertransport. Winton found homes for the children and arranged for their safe passage to Britain. The British press has dubbed him the "British Schindler". Watch his story here.
"Everybody in Prague said, 'Look, there is no organization in Prague to deal with refugee children, nobody will let the children go on their own, but if you want to have a go, have a go.' And I think there is nothing that can't be done if it is fundamentally reasonable."
-Sir Nicholas Winton
A Malawian inventor and author. He gained fame in his country when, in 2002, he built a windmill to power a few electrical appliances in his family's house in Masitala using blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and materials collected in a local scrapyard. Since then, he has built a solar-powered water pump that supplies the first drinking water in his village and two other windmills (the tallest standing at 39 feet) and is planning two more, including one in Lilongwe, the political capital of Malawi. Watch his TED talk here.
“Before I discovered the miracles of science, magic ruled the world.”
-William Kamkwamb, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind