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Blueshift ponders…who’s your favorite fictional scientist?

If you recall this week’s link round-up, we linked to a very cool subway map of science. Sara printed out her own copy (it’s easier to follow if you can see the whole thing at once, instead of scrolling around on a screen), and this got us thinking of what scientists we thought should or perhaps shouldn’t be included on it. You may hear more from us about that in the future!

But this also got us talking in our weekly Blueshift meeting about our fictional science heroes… so that’s what we’d like to ponder this time around! So:

Blueshift ponders: Who is your favorite fictional scientist? It could be from a book, comic book, TV show, movie, or anywhere else!

Great Scott!
Photo credit: Fox Magrathea Circe/

We all had our own favorites. Here are some of them.

Sara: I admit, I’m pretty partial to the physicists on The Big Bang Theory. When the show first came out, I was worried that it would just poke fun at nerdy scientist stereotypes. Well, I was surprised – it does poke fun, but it’s also got some savvy science humor and the characters are deeper than just stereotypes. I think most of us here at Goddard can see a bit of Leonard, Sheldon, and Raj in the folks that we work with (for better or worse)!

I’m also a big fan of mad scientists in movies, like Doc Brown in Back to the Future. Inventing a flux capacitor and putting it in a car as awesome as a DeLorean… now that’s pure genius. 1.21 Gigawatts!

We also asked some of our friends and co-workers what they thought. Here they are:

Mike: Currently Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb. He is very clever, very polite, somewhat evil (ok who isn’t) and shows how the use of “ator” at the end of a word really makes it cool. Oh and Dr. Victor von Frankenstein. Such a tragic and flawed character. Constantly striving to do better and better, but then being horrified at what he produced. I think some of the first atomic bomb scientists felt similarly. They run a close 1 & 2.

John: Dr. Egon Spengler (Peter had the best lines, but Egon was a little more sciencey (sort of)).

Eliot: Well, maybe not my favorite, but the first one that came to mind was Doctor Emmett Brown.

Keith: Does Sherlock Holmes count? Watson describes him as having a profound knowledge of chemistry and I think Holmes is said to have published a few monographs.

Gail: Dr. Hari Sheldon from the Foundation trilogy. First, he invented a really cool science (“psychohistory”). Second, he outsmarted the government and just about everyone else. Third, he had a wicked sense of humor. What real scientist wouldn’t admire that combination?

Kevin: I’m gonna hafta say… Well, no, I won’t. But here’s a hint: He has a Ph.D. in horribleness.

Ed: My favorite would have to be Professor Farnsworth from Futurama, but I suspect you already have him covered. If not, I’ll just say that I appreciate how he always has “good news” for “everyone.” His Smelloscope and What-If Machine inventions are unparalleled in their entertainment value.

On a more serious note, I’ve always liked Ellie (Jodie Foster’s character) from Contact, although now that I think about it I’m having a hard time figuring out why, other than the fact that she’s played by Jodie Foster. Maybe because she just seemed like a real scientist, compared to other movie scientists.

Maggie: I picked both Professor Farnsworth and Jodie Foster in Contact – but before I could get back to what I was writing, I got Ed’s response picking exactly the same two people. And he said what I was trying to way better than I could, so I’ll just say “ditto”! I guess I really have to “ditto” Sara too – because the characters on The Big Bang Theory remind me so much of myself and my friends. But in a good way. Yeah. :-)

Now we want to know – who are your favorite fictional scientists? Tell us who – and why – in the comments! And we’d love some movie and book recommendations for seeing your favorites in action.

Comments are moderated and we ask that you be respectful. No profanity please! Any comments with non-NASA links may be edited or removed.

Disclaimer: All opinions in this blog entry are that of specific individuals and do not represent those of NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center, or Blueshift.


  • VAXHeadroom says:

    Doc Brown. He had a vision and sacrificed his career and almost everything he owned to make it happen. Plus he built it into a Delorean.
    Buckarroo Banzai. Smokin rock band, get to carry guns, and drove through a mountain.
    Both geeky, committed and totally cool!

    • Sara Mitchell says:

      Ooh, Buckaroo Banzai! Definitely another of my favorites.

      I also thought of Chris Knight in Real Genius – I loved that movie and still have it on VHS! Blowing up a house with a laser and some popcorn is probably impossible, but hilarious to watch!

  • Jay says:

    Dr. Herbert West! (Re-Animator) No matter how of a catastrophe happens, no matter hard he fails… he will try and try again.

  • Pete says:

    Doc Brown, hands down.

  • Ken says:

    Dr. Brackish Okun (Brent Spiner), the Area 51 Scientist from Independence day; ‘Mr. President! Wow! This is… what a pleasure. As you can imagine, they… they don’t let us out much’. Of course, as others noted, Dr. ‘Ellie’ Arroway from Contact.

  • Diana says:

    My favorite is from the HP Lovecraft story is Herbert West: Reanimator. Dr. West is just insane and relentless. What can I say, I <3 creepy.

  • Jeff Krukin says:

    All the above are great, and I don’t think I could pick just one favorite.

    I’m surprised nobody mentioned Mr. Spock, a scientist of many disciplines.

    Also the character played by James Spader in Stargate. (Unlike most scientists, he gets the girl!).

    The scientist from the original version of The Thing (1950’s).

    I must now return to real work…. where I’ll undoubtedly keep thinking of many more favorite scientists.

  • Jordan says:

    Dr. Rodney McKay from Stargate Atlantis.

    He’s a fussy, egotistical, pain in the neck who gets to explore a whole galaxy, fight aliens and occasionally annoy his coworkers. What’s NOT to love about him?

  • Dianne says:

    I second all of the above choices and I’ll throw in Dr. Horrible!

  • Nick says:

    I thought of several of the ones already mentioned (and Hari Seldon from Foundation is a good one I hadn’t thought of), but for variety I guess I’ll pick Gordon Freeman from Half-Life. You have to respect a character who can get a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from MIT but is also pretty handy with a submachine gun.

  • Eric Winter says:

    Dr. Benton Quest from the original “Jonny Quest” cartoon from the early 1960s. He was a brilliant polymath, principled, and had the coolest lab ever, on Palm Key. AND he knew how to fight, and could handle a gun. In “The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest”, he even gets the girl sometimes. Can’t beat that!

  • John Williams says:

    It’s hard to choose. I would have to say the two warring scientists in James P Hogan’s Giant series; Victor Hunt and Chris Danchekker.

    From Chris Danchekker – “But Man dared to dream…and what man dares to dream today, tomorrow he makes come true.”

  • Aidan Shaffer says:

    Sir Charles Shults
    For two reasons
    I. For thinking that he is Knighted by a Chinese Baron of Scotland.
    II. For thinking that water exists on Mars.

  • Susanne says:

    Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory – definitely!

  • Mido says:

    Interesting topic..thanks for sharing.

  • Gareth SEO says:

    Doc Brown, Jules Verne or Professor Farnsworth

  • Svetoslav Pavlov says:

    My best of all times is Isaak Azimov.
    I like Robert Shekley’s novels to rest and have fun.

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