The Professor

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Hermes Conrad: Professor, can you wire my head directly into the BattleGrid?
Prof. Farnsworth: I can wire anything directly into anything! I'm the Professor!

The nearly impossibly smart guy; A Stock Character exemplified on Gilligan's Island and MacGyver. Probably started off as a Teen Genius and is capable of many an Ass Pull, Deus Ex Machina, or, um, Polarity Reversal. May or may not rely on Techno Babble. Is the source of much Applied Phlebotinum, but is incapable of providing a solution that would thwart the show's premise (the Professor couldn't get the rest of the gang off that darn island, Ziggy couldn't bring Sam home on Quantum Leap). Often gets to be Mr. Exposition. Fluent in Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness and Sounds of Science. If he plays a game, it's inevitably Chess, because Smart People Play Chess.

Compare Omnidisciplinary Scientist and Absent-Minded Professor, may study a Fantastic Science instead of a regular one. May have hints of being a Spock, but this is usually not central to the figure. Combining this figure with the Mad Scientist is a common subversion. Sometimes, in fact, The Professor is an ex-Mad Scientist who has pulled a Heel Face Turn and now works for the good guys. Or just a Engineer Exploited For Evil or sufferer of Science-Related Memetic Disorder who happens to not be evil. Or a regular Mad Scientist among Villain Protagonists.

Contrast the more pragmatic Gadgeteer Genius who is more of an eccentric Mr. Fixit who constructs elaborate Rube Goldberg Devices. The Professor can be Mr Fixit too, provided he gets it working on the first try.

If The Professor is quite older than the Five-Man Band/Ragtag Bunch of Misfits/Nakama he works with, he's very likely to be the Team Dad or Team Grandpa.

Examples of The Professor include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • Reed "Mr. Fantastic" Richards of the Fantastic Four.
  • Charles "Professor X" Xavier of the X-Men.
    • The Beast fits this role even better. Despite being a Doctor...
    • Forge also had elements of this while on the team.
  • Professor Calculus from Tintin, invents some remarkable devices ranging from a submarine to a sonic weapon, works on a Moon rocket, somewhat eccentric, quite deaf.
  • The Count in Spirou and Fantasio can extract almost any chemical from mushrooms, build a submarine and electronical mind-control countermeasures, is old fashioned in his way of dressing and speaking, and can be very absent minded at times.
  • Adhemar from The Adventures of Nero, who looks like a baby in a smoking.
  • Gyro Gearloose in Donald Duck comics.
  • Favalli in El Eternauta
  • Kalish in Universal War One.


  • Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown from the Back to The Future trilogy. Also exhibits qualities of a Mad Scientist.
  • The movie Arachnophobia has an entomologist named Prof. Atherton, who is usually referred to by John Goodman's character as 'The Professor'.
  • The Professor in charge of filmy students in Diary of the Dead turns out to be ex-military and so the best person suited to guiding the teen-cast through the zombies.
  • The film version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen puts Nemo in this role, and Jekyll to a lesser extent.
  • North by Northwest has a character who is literally referred to as "The Professor," although he's less of an impossibly brilliant man of science! and more of a cloak-and-dagger spy type.
  • Henry Walton "Indiana" Jones, Jr. Ph.D. from the "Indiana Jones" movie series is also a professor of archeology when he is not fighting nazis, thuggees or recently communists.


  • Leonard of Quirm, in the Discworld novels. An exaggeration of Leonardo da Vinci, Leonard sometimes appears to be a one-man Industrial Revolution.
    • Partially subverted in that Lord Vetinari keeps him locked up in a prison (though Leonard is having so much fun inventing stuff he doesn't notice) so he can't throw off the balance of the city or give gadgets to the heroes.
  • Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula. Is there nothing he doesn't know about? Could also be seen as a forerunner for the idea of the genius with the funny foreign accent (he's Dutch) as well as a medley of eccentricities.
  • Several novels by Jules Verne, especially The Mysterious Island.
  • Early example: Merlin of Arthurian Legend is a magical version.
  • Hermione Granger and Remus Lupin from Harry Potter.
  • Professor Adelung in The Death of the Vazir Mukhtar.
  • Faust is possibly the granddaddy of this trope. Although he has been presented in different lights, Christopher Marlowe depicted him as the most learned scholar on earth but so hungry for more knowledge that he sold his soul for it. Once this happens, instead of doing anything intelligent, he hits the pope with a fish. It makes sense in context.
  • Professor William Race of Temple by Matthew Reilly.
  • Blackberry of Watership Down, given his limitations as an animal, is also The Professor. He may not understand the physics involved, but he'll devise plans that rely on buoyancy, tensile strength or leverage just the same.

Live-Action TV

  • Marco Pacella (and, later and to a greater degree, Dr Kevin Burkhoff) from The 4400.
  • Professor Wickwire of The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.
  • Walter White of Breaking Bad exemplifies this trope. From breaking into a high security chemical storage facility using the thermite from an etch-a-sketch to using mercury fulminate in order to blow up an entire floor of a drug dealer's headquarters, the man's chief weapon is his degree in chemistry.
  • On Doctor Who, Ace called the Seventh Doctor "Professor". Despite his irritation at this sobriquet, all of the Doctor's incarnations have had at least an element of The Professor about them.
  • The actual Professor from Gilligan's Island (his rarely-used real name was Dr. Roy Hinkley) used lots of Bamboo Technology.
  • Mohinder Suresh from Heroes.
  • Sayid is Lost's Professor, creating and fixing all sorts of gizmos using only what he can find in the plane wreckage or the hatch. Of course, none of these gadgets got him off the island though he did indeed get home in season 4.
    • Until they introduce Daniel Faraday who is, in fact, a theoretical physicist.
  • MacGyver
  • On Stargate SG-1, both Dr. Daniel Jackson (Cunning Linguist and Adventurer Archaeologist) and Major Samantha Carter (physicist and a female Mr. Fixit) fill that role. Both became a prime example of the Hot Scientist trope.
  • Scotty from Star Trek.
    • On The Next Generation, Geordi Laforge and Data often trade off on this role. Whenever the crew needs to do something that doesn't involve diplomacy or combat, it's good odds one (or both) of them will develop the Applied Phlebotinum solution.
  • Dr. Helen Magnus from Sanctuary is a hot scientist who specializes in crypto-zoology and xenobiology. Very much The Professor.
  • Ray Langston from CSI, who actually picked up the nickname "The Professor" due to his being one before becoming a CSI.

Video Games

Web Comics

Web Original

  • Dr. Amos Messing of the Amazing Three, in the Whateley Universe. Not that he's a parody of anyone else on this list whose initials might be 'RR'...
  • A minor character in Darwin's Soldiers: Card of Ten is referred to only as "the professor."
  • The Global Guardians PBEM Universe has both Herr Doktor Archeville and The Academician. The former is a world-renowned scientist who uses his advanced technology to fight crime. The latter is the leader of the People's Republic of China's official hero team. Both are among the smartest men in the world.

Western Animation

  • Professor Membrane Invader Zim is a prime example going so far as to make the Perpetual Energy Generator AKA P.E.G.
    • "The man without whom this world falls into chaos, and the inventor of SUPER-TOAST!"
  • Professor Utonium from Powerpuff Girls is possibly one of the kindest and most fatherly characters here- although in one episode he realises that pretty much everything good he ever invented was by accident, from the titular girls to Sloppy Joe's.
  • Professor Frink of The Simpsons. He may have Tourette's Shitcock Syndrome thanks to his "Who-hey, Glavin" tic. He also qualifies as an amicable Mad Scientist thanks to his crazy inventions.
    • Also a parody of the original Jerry Lewis version of The Nutty Professor.
  • Professor Hubert Farnsworth from Futurama is a subversion. He's capable of making many wondrous and useful inventions at times and some incredibly odd/hilariously simple ones but due to his age (160 years old as of the second season), he often has many odd habits that belie his intelligence. He also has Mad Scientist tendencies, perhaps more so than Doc Brown from Back to The Future.

Prof. Farnsworth: Good news, everyone! I've taught the toaster to feel love!

  • Dexter from Dexter's Laboratory, despite his age, almost exemplifies this trope.
  • Dr. Benton Quest from Jonny Quest is an especially egregious example. One must presume he holds multiple degrees and doctorates, as he is apparently qualified to work in an absurdly diverse number of science fields from anthropology to astrophysics without much assistance.
    • Parodied in the form of Dr. Thaddeus Venture of The Venture Brothers, who is not actually a doctor, having dropped out of school two months before getting his degree. While most of his inventions do actually work, his success is often due more to blind luck and other people's perceptions of him than any actual skill. Also an example of a Mad Scientist, as many of his inventions are monstrously destructive or unethical, including an "Ooo-ray" that somehow melts buildings with sound waves, and a dream machine powered by the heart of an orphan. Venture's twin brother, Jonas Venture Jr., his good fraternal twin, is a more straight application of the trope, but is still played for comedic value.
  • In the sequel series Extreme Ghostbusters, Egon Spengler found himself playing his role to the new blood.
  • Cornelius Robinson, the older form of the protagonist in Meet the Robinsons. Graduated college at age 14 and went on to invent flying cars, self constructing buildings, time machines and much of the rest of the future's technology.
  • King of the Hill gets a quick shot-in at this when Dale believes he's been transported into a distant future. As he looks around the landscape, he remarks, "It's times like this I wish I had a friend called 'The Professor!'"
  • Disney's Professor Ludwig Von Drake.
  1. Okay it was also said they hadn't aged since the '60s, though that could mean anything.