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Favorite Fictional Scientist
Emily Gertz, 26 Jul 04

TARDISBBC Cult invites us to vote for our top screen scientist (or as they put it, "favorite fictional boffin").

"Celebrities and scientists" will be chiming in to champion particular candidates for the next few weeks, leading towards the UK's BA Festival of Science in September.

The choices are fun. They also underscore some typical pop culture stereotypes that reflect anxiety about science and scientists:

Under Mad Scientist, put Doctors Frankenstein and Strangelove.

Campy Villains for your voting pleasure include Frank'N'Furter and Doctor Evil.

Dr. Bunsen Honeydew (the Muppet) represents Absent-Minded Scientists everywhere--although unlike grad students and post-docs nearly everywhere, his assistant Beaker also gets a nod.

Q, Doctor Emmett Brown (from those Michael J. Fox time-travel movies. Yes, I had to look it up.) and The Doctor are in the corner of Cranky Inventors and Distracted Gadget-Hounds/Geeks.

Mister Spock stands in for the Icy Researcher Devoted to Pure Knowledge at the Expense of Human Emotion.

The outlyer on the list is Dana Scully: the only woman, and a character who was portrayed as a rational thinker and expert in scientific method, even as she walked fine lines between religious belief, human experience and personal loyalty. Although of course, she's also the Brainy Beauty!

Making too much of this cute contest would be, well...making too much of a cute contest. But it's worth noting the pervasiveness of the not-so-flattering images of scientists present for decades in our mass media, as we move into a century where more than ever, we'll be counting on good science and dedicated scientists, engineers, technologists and thinkers to help change the world for the better.

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What, no Quatermass? (here,here, here, etc.)

Posted by: Dave Schuler on 27 Jul 04

Actually, that was my first thought! And him a Brit, too.

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 27 Jul 04



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