Great scientists, great moustaches V (a Movember posting)


The Movember Foundation is a charity dedicating to raising awareness of men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health. As part of the annual Movember event we’ve been running a series celebrating the magnificent moustaches of the men in white coats – a salute to some great minds, and the moustaches that went (just before them). Links to parts I-IV of this series can be found at the end of the posting.



Name: Lawrence Bragg
Known for: Pioneering the technique of X-ray crystallography together with his father (who also sported some fine facial hair). Then he served in World War I and optimised sound ranging, thereby allowing British crews to pinpoint the location of hostile artillery using only acoustics. Was also director of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, supported Max Perutz’s research on the determination of protein structure by X-ray crystallography, and was in charge when Watson & Crick solved the structure of DNA. Oh, and he’s still the youngest-ever winner of a Nobel Prize in science, having picked up the gong for Physics at the age of 25.
Moustache: Painter’s brush
Moustache rating: 6/10 The close grooming at the edges of the mouth mark this out as a robust version of the Painter’s Brush, which covers all of Bragg’s top lip. It’s clean, elegant, and precise, just like the great man’s work. Note too how the moustache perfectly triangulates the intensity and steadiness of his gaze, forcing you to take in his whole face instead of being held by his eyes.


Physics_Dr Raja Ramanna.jpg

Name: Raja Ramanna
Known for: Directing India’s nuclear programme in the 1970s, and for later becoming a lobbyist against nuclear proliferation and an advocate of the India-Pakistan peace process. Also served as director general of the Defence Research and Development Organisation. In his free time, a noted pianist who gave frequent public concerts.
Moustache: Pyramid.
Moustache rating: 6/10. This is a smart choice of moustache and a good illustration of what one can offer. Ramanna has a round face and fairly heavy cheeks, but the inclusion of a dainty and immaculate little Pyramid under his nose helps lighten and lift (lift off?) the impression. Think how sleepy and torpid he’d look with a Horseshoe moustache instead.


Physics_Heike Kamerlingh_Onnes_signed copy.jpg

Name: Heike Onnes
Known for: Being the original Mr Freeze – he was in 1908 the first person to liquify helium, achieving the lowest temperatures ever produced on Earth at the time. Discovered superconductivity three years later, and is also acknowledged for inventing the term “enthalpy” in thermodynamics.
Moustache: Walrus.
Moustache rating: 9/10. Perfectly fitted to the face both in terms of looks and what it brings. Walrus moustaches have the most license to look a little unkempt, and this scraggly monstrosity is a message of virility rather than grooming. Importantly, its very untidiness adds a playful element to Onnes’ face, which would otherwise look rather intense and forbidding.



Name: Walter Brattain
Known for: Being one of the three inventors of the transistor, so he basically gave birth to modern electronics. Part of the legendary era of research at Bell Labs (and the transistor is usually cited as being the single most important invention to come out of that whole remarkable institute).
Moustache: Painter’s brush
Moustache rating: 5/10. It’s close-cropped and neat, but it’s not a statement moustache. While Lawrence Bragg’s ‘tache adds a manliness and firmness to his face that might otherwise be lacking, Brattain’s growth seems to be trying to hide. As modest and self-effacing as the great man himself, it’s there out of conformity rather than style.




Chemistry_Theodore Richards2.jpeg Chemistry_Theodore Richards.png

Name: Theodore Richards
Known for: Determined the atomic weight of around 55 (!) different elements, and was the first to demonstrate that elements could have subtly different weights, which was an important validation of the theory of isotopes. Also made important contributions to electrochemistry and thermodynamics. The first American scientist to win the Nobel Prize in chemistry.
Moustache: Chevron
Moustache rating: 7/10. The younger Richards eschewed close grooming in favour of full growth, a ‘tache fit for an ambitious young man on the make. This is a wild man’s Chevron, with the top lip completely covered and growth extending well beyond the corners of the mouth. In older age and in a move befitting his elevation to the peak of the American scientific establishment, he clipped back the edges until it was almost a painter’s brush and began investing more in grooming. Both the young and old versions sport full growth, giving his face an assertiveness it might otherwise lack.



Name: Arthur Harden
Known for: Made critical contributions to the early work on the chemistry of biological systems. Alcoholic fermentation was an early interest (attaboy!), leading to his tour de force studies on the chemistry of glucose fermentation by yeast. These provided crucial insights into eukaryotic cell metabolism, and were a beacon to other chemists working on similar topics.
Moustache: Pyramid, unorthodox
Moustache rating: 6/10 This is a crafty and playful little concoction, a Pyramid moustache that’s flirting with the idea of being a Handlebar – there’s a gentle curve to the lines a hint of an uplift at the ends, and a fuller growth than is normal for a pyramid (compare with Ramanna’s textbook example above). It adds a bit of flamboyance to his features.



Name: Paul Karrer
Known for: A man of many vitamins. Carried out meticulous work on the structure of plant pigments, showing that some are converted in the body into vitamin A. Confirmed the structure of vitamin C, and then broadened his focus to take in vitamins B2 and E.
Moustache: Chevron
Moustache rating: 6/10. The shape and dimensions of this ‘tache identify it as a Chevron, albeit a slightly ragged version. Unlike Richards above, Karrer has stuck with a younger man’s approach even in middle age, which creates a more relaxed and calmer tone to complement the formality of his dress.


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Name: Otto Hahn
Known for: Worked alongside Lise Meitner to discover a set of radioactive isotopes, and in so doing discovered the process of nuclear fission. A committed opponent of Nazism, he played a key role in the postwar reconstruction of German science.
Moustache: Lampshade
Moustache rating: 8/10. At first glance it might look like another Painter’s Brush (and he did experiment with that style at times) but the straight lines at the corners give it away as the more challenging Lampshade style. Check out the sensationally precise grooming of the top lip too. You can see that this is a guy who takes pride in what in does, and pays attention to the smallest details.




Name: Louis Ignarro
Known for: NO, just NO. Made key discoveries on the signalling pathways triggered by nitric oxide (NO – not to be confused with nitrous oxide aka laughing gas, which is N2O). Showed that it functioned as a vasorelaxant, inhibits platelet aggregation, and identified it as the formerly mysterious endothelium derived relaxation factor (EDRF).
Moustache: Chevron, unorthodox.
Moustache rating: 7/10. The fact that it covers his top lip and extends beyond the corners of his mouth marks it out as a Chevron, but Ignarro flouts tradition by having it as close-cropped as a Painter’s Brush or lampshade. In so doing, it provides a fine counterpart to his full eyebrows, but without either feature dominating. There’s plenty of work gone into the maintenance too. Impressive.


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Name: Kiyoshi Shiga
Known for: Most biologists have heard of Shiga toxin. Not many know that it’s discoverer had a moustache. Discovered and identified Shigella dysenteriae, the bacterium responsible for producing the toxin and causing dysentery. Working with Paul Ehrlich, he also discovered the dye trypan red, one of the first drugs effective against trypanosomiasis. Also made contributions. To the study of tuberculosis, leprosy, and beriberi.
Moustache: English
Moustache rating: 9/10. Shiga’s moustaches were as eclectic as his research, and in older age he showed off Pyramid, Lampshade, and Pencil styles. But we’ve gone for the younger man with the English here – a magnificent full growth, much fuller than the average exemplar for this style, and with the definitive straight tips to distinguish it from a Handlebar. It’s sensuous, it’s elegant, it’s masculine, and it’s powerful.


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Name: Ronald Ross
Known for: Finding the malaria parasite in the guts of a mosquito, and subsequently demonstrating the role of mosquitoes in transmission of the disease. Showed that the salivary glands of the mosquitoes harboured the parasites, and that they were introduced into fresh hosts during feeding by the infected mosquito. Became the first British Nobel laureate in 1902.
Moustache: Handlebar
Moustache rating: 9/10. It’s all in the tips. Ross practically pays homage to a mosquito’s proboscis with these outrageously sculpted ends, that would almost call for a Dali classification were it not for the fullness of the growth on his top lip. The full growth in the middle and impeccable grooming enhance the almost unsettling intensity of his appearance. A styling masterclass.



Name: George Washington Carver
Known for: Agricultural scientist who promoted methods of rejuvenating soils depleted by cotton planting, advocate of crop rotation and promoter of sweet potatoes and peanuts. Founded and ran an industrial research lab to investigate and promote applications (and recipes) for novel crops. Enjoyed celebrity status during his lifetime, and acknowledged as one of America’s foremost scientists by his contemporaries.
Moustache: ? Freestlye.
Moustache rating: 9/10. Proof positive that you don’t have to conform to get amazing results. As bristly as a Walrus, with the straight ends of an English but the general dimensions of a Handlebar, this is a jaw-dropping concoction that challenges the viewer but leaves you in no doubt of its possessor’s capabilities. It could even be a homage to root system of one of Carver’s beloved peanut plants.


Liked it? Click on the links below to the other postings in this series.

Great scientists, great moustaches part I.

Great scientists, great moutaches part II.

Great scientists, great moustaches part III.

Great scientists, great moustaches part IV.


More information on the Movember Foundation and its work can be found here.

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