Friday, March 2, 2018
Several Super Scientists
I was thinking how scientist characters tend to draw us in through both books and screen. There's something appealing about their brilliant and inquiring minds. The stories in which they feature tend to have interesting subject matter, and maybe they make us feel a tad smarter ourselves by reading about them. Several of the examples that sprang to my mind are so personally appealing, I was on the verge of calling this list, 'sexy scientists'. Here they are.
I'll begin with the natural history dudes. These guys are really into flora and fauna.
Arguably one of L.M. Montgomery's most successful and appealing heroes, he lives out in the forest and writes books about the great outdoors, using the pseudonym John Foster. Valancy Stirling has no idea that when she falls in love with Barney, she's also falling for her favourite author. He always makes an effort to throw her off the scent by criticising 'that writer' as a charlatan whenever he can. (My review is here.)
This earthy young man delves into the world of nature to the extent that he knows it as well as his own face in the mirror. His family considers his passion a major time waster, until he gets sponsored to take a major expedition to Africa to study plants and critters. It's a huge deal in the Victorian era, when men like Charles Darwin are doing the same thing, and there's no guarantee that they'll return alive. (My review is here.)
The most famous naturalist of the magical world, he's also beloved by many muggles who think he's just gorgeous. He also wrote the text book based on his fieldwork, Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is used by all Hogwarts students in their studies.
Reverend Camden Farebrother
More of a wannabe scientist than a legitimate one, this poor old pastor crams his study with samples beneath microscopes, because they really turn him on. Since his widowed mother and spinster sisters depend on him, he can't afford to indulge his passion full time. (My review is here.)
This novel is really about his wife, but the birdman himself has plenty of appeal in a driven, fanatical sort of way. Based on real personal history, he brought his wife around the globe to Australia to help him indulge his passion for birds. He adores them enough to kill and stuff them in a flash, whenever he gets the chance. (My review is here.)
Next are the biological dudes who major on the human body, which makes them deliciously creepy when the story requires.
This handsome young genius manages to fulfil his dream of playing God. He stitches together a brand new human-like being from bits and pieces he digs up in graveyards, and somehow breathes life into it. But his astounding feat returns to haunt him. Full of anguish at having ever been created, the hideous monster strikes out against what his creator loves most in the world.
A new doctor in Middlemarch, the good-looking and earnest young man dreams of making amazing medical breakthroughs to help mankind. As a boy, he looked into a book of anatomy, and discovered his purpose in a flash. Yet he doesn't reckon upon small town prejudice. The people who are grossed out by his habit of examining dead bodies are just the start of all he has to deal with. (See my link to Farebrother, since they come from the same book.)
I'm going to call this young boy a scientist, although his peculiarity is more along the lines of a freaky gift. He can rip hearts out of living beings to animate dead ones for the short term. And believe it or not, there are times when Enoch's skill comes in very handy. (My review is here.)
Then there's the inventor type, or gadget guys, who make all sorts of weird, mechanical contraptions, that cause serious trouble and mayhem. The majority of those I thought of tend to be in sitcoms and movies rather than books. Maybe this is because their particular branch of science has the potential to be a good spectacle.
Professor Wayne Szalinksy
His shrinking machine was a fabulous achievement, but something so dangerous shouldn't have been left lying around for unsuspecting family members to blunder into. What a mess! Also, he's a lesson to us all to never give up and assume failure prematurely. His lack of self confidence caused major trouble in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
I love this geeky, awkward little dude from Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs. He lived a lonesome life, always at odds with his father and shunned by others. The machine he'd hoped would win him respect and fix all his social troubles ended up plunging him in boiling hot water.
He can work wonders with a bit of primitive technology and whatever natural material is on hand, such as coconut shells. But it's never enough to get them all off the island! At least he was admired by lady viewers as the sexiest castaway, but didn't really have a lot of competition in Gilligan, the Skipper and Mr Howell.
The Time Traveller
A gentleman scientist from the Victorian era, he built the incredible machine which enabled him to visit many different time periods. Then he returns to his own era to wow gentry in their drawing rooms.
The Big Bang Theory
I'm drawing closer to my ultimate super scientist, but first I'll award the runners up. You've got to spare a thought for these wacky geeks; physicists Leonard and Sheldon, aerospace engineer Howard, and astrophysicist Raj. What they collectively lack in tact, social skills, and conventional coolness, they certainly make up for in brainy brilliance. (Incidentally, remember the episode where they get hold of the actual time machine, from the movie based on H.G. Wells' book?)
And now for the big drum roll for number One on my list...
I've got to make him tops because he's such an all-round legend. An astronaut botanist, he was abandoned on a mission to Mars by his fellow crew, who assumed he was dead. He manages to keep himself alive by drawing on all sorts of scientific disciplines which aren't even his specialties, such as Physics, Chemistry and Engineering. He's forced to snatch every bit of trivia floating through his head to become an instant expert, just to survive another day. And most amazing of all, he keeps his sense of humour intact throughout his whole ordeal. (My review is here.)
Did you notice the same concerning, in-your-face thing I did after my brainstorm? Without exception, all on my list are male. I guess that in the past, when several of the classics were written, science really was a male dominated field, but interestingly, the tradition has seemed to cling. Where are the Marie Curies, Rachel Carsons, Jane Goodalls and Dian Fosseys of fiction? I think I've set myself a really tricky challenge for a future post, and hope there are enough for a list.
As usual, if you can think of any other examples you love, either male or female, please add them in the comments.