FILE - Enrico Fermi

Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi received the 1938 Nobel Prize in physics for identifying new elements and discovering nuclear reactions by his method of nuclear irradiation and bombardment. He was born in Rome, Italy, on September 29, 1901, and died in Chicago, Illinois, on November 28, 1954.

Have you heard of the atom bomb? What about DNA? How about penicillin?

Then you've heard of some of the people on the list of Illinois' top scientists.

Chris Wills with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum said the list is full of world-changing advances. Even if it's not full of world famous names.

"The names won't be nearly as famous [as other Top 200 lists], but what they accomplished is just amazing," Wills said.

Enrico Fermi and William Friedman are likely the most well-known names on the list.

But Wills said others on the list are just as important.

"We've got people who helped decode DNA and figure out how life works," Wills said. "We've got people who helped invent atomic energy, and others who made penicillin possible and made great contributions to the world."

That includes Francine Patterson, who taught Koko the gorilla sign language, and Nobel Prize winner Charles Huggins, who discovered a way to treat cancer with drugs and not just surgery.

As always, Wills said people can cast a ballot at


An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois statewide issues for INN.

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