The reason I couldn’t decide was I couldn’t figure out what my criteria for “favourite” should be! There are scientists who have been inspirational or instrumental to me becoming a scientist … but mainly through their communication of ideas, rather than the science they themselves performed.
Then there are people who I know: mentors or colleagues, but that just seems like unfair weighting when they’re people you can chat to in the pub.
So I thought I’d pick someone outside of anthropology or biology: the physicist Richard Feynman. He was a marvellous communicator and teacher, and knew the importance of inspiring people–but he also did groundbreaking theoretical work and defended vociferously the importance of “big idea” science as well as the individual sense of satisfaction from puzzle-solving. And he was the ultimate geek who thought safe-cracking was a fun hobby. And he played the bongos.
Edit: Read everyone else’s answers to the question here.
If you could have another job or career outside of science, what would it be and why?
I have had a job outside of science: I was a jewellery designer for a couple of years. It was rewarding when it was good and dreadful when it wasn’t.
But my alternate life is the one where I became a professional cellist, played with an innovative chamber group like the Kronos Quartet, and had a top ten indie/classical crossover album. Why? Because music is as creative and intriguing and rewarding as science.