During the spring of 1998 we co‐taught a graduate course on modern classical physics that aimed to cover the fundamentals while also conveying the directions and sense of current research. As we talked about the subject, we realized that many of the important discoveries underlying a wide range of topics of current interest in physics and engineering were made by a single individual, the British scientist Geoffrey Ingram (G. I.) Taylor (1886–1975). Although many researchers are familiar with one or another of Taylor's contributions, few seem to be aware of the incredible breadth of his scientific publications and their relevance to important research questions today. The same person who is commonly remembered as the namesake for several basic fluid flow instabilities (Taylor–Couette, Rayleigh–Taylor, and Saffman–Taylor) also was the first to show experimentally that a diffraction pattern produced by shining light on a needle does not change when the intensity of light is decreased. And these topics are only the beginning. Taylor made fundamental contributions to turbulence, championing the need for developing a statistical theory, and performing the first measurements of the effective diffusivity and viscosity of the atmosphere. He wrote one of the first scientific papers using random walks; gave the first consistent theory of the structure of shocks in gases; and explained the importance of dislocations for determining the strength of solids. He also described the counterintuitive physics of fluid motion in a rotating environment, providing the basic principles for important aspects of atmospheric and oceanic dynamics.

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