Gentleman scientist

Gentleman scientist

A gentleman scientist is a scientist with a private income who can pursue scientific study independently as he wishes without excessive external financial pressures.


Self-funding scientists were more common in the days before large-scale government funding was available, up to the Victorian era, especially in England. Many early fellows of the Royal Society in London were gentleman scientists. The position significantly reduced during the 20th century as other forms of science funding increased.

Benefits and drawbacks

Self-funding has the disadvantage that funds may be more restricted, however it has the advantage of avoids a number of inconveniences such as teaching obligations, administrative duties, writing grant requests to funding bodies. It also permits the scientist to have greater control over research directions, as funding bodies direct grants towards interests that may not coincide with that of the scientist. Furthermore, intellectual property of the inventions belongs to the inventor and not the employer.

Modern-day gentleman scientists

Modern-day equivalents are Stephen Wolfram who funds his own independent research through the sale of Mathematica software, Craig Venter, Julian Barbour, Aubrey de Grey and Barrington Moore.

Notable Gentleman Scientists

See also


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