The Shee were a race unique in their mindset, most likely having invented the steam engine as an offshoot of an attempt to design a better way of brewing tea before they invented the wheel.
(For the Disney movies, see Film.The Absent Minded Professor
— the "The" before the title is important.)
This Stock Character
is a brilliant scientist, but very flighty, often forgetting things like the date, people's names
, meetings, eating
, people's names
, etc. Good thing he (and it's very often a he
) is good at what he does
and often has perfect memory for scientific details or mathematical values
. Sometimes he becomes so engrossed in his work that he loses track of his very surroundings.
This is a very old character type, referred to by this name since at least 1864.
A subtrope of The Professor
. Compare also... um... blast it!... ah yes, the Mad Scientist
, who often exhibits this trait. I do so only reluctantly
. And of course, I must mention my colleagues in the math department
. Some of them go a bit beyond absent-minded, though.
Now if you'll excuse me, I must nip on home, as I seem to have forgotten to put on my pants. Ah, the hair
? Oh, yes, I should try to comb it some time... I do
have a comb, don't I? A subtrope
of...oh, yes, Forgetful Jones
. Compare with Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!
Errr... Examples! Yes, examples.
open/close all folders
It was either an Anime or Manga... Who published it again?
- Prof. Banner from Yu-Gi-Oh! GX qualifies, even though his profession is alchemy.
- Doctor Professor Franken Stein from Soul Eater.
- Gadgeteer Genius Dr. Hiroshi Agasa of Detective Conan, together with Einstein Hair and a German accent in the dub.
- Read or Die: Yomiko Readman qualifies. She's not a professor (although she is a substitute teacher), but she gets so caught up in her reading that her friend Nenene has to leave post-it notes scattered around her apartment reminding her to do things like close the door and eat.
- Field Marshal Tenpou isn't technically a professor, but otherwise fits this trope to a T. He's like if you took an absent minded professor and made him a military officer. Though he does notably teach Goku to read, (which saves his later incarnation, Hakkai, who is a teacher but the opposite of absentminded, from doing so) Oh! this takes place in Saiyuki by the way!
- Wataru Amanogawa from the Sailor Moon Stars season is a schoolteacher version of this (Though he could have been an uni professor, he declined it due to personal preferences.) Then he was attacked by Sailor Iron Mouse...
- Gunnm's Desty Nova is much more of a Mad Scientist, but some of his more friendly incarnations, mainly Nova The Flan Cook, can fit this trope pretty well.
- Kenjirou from Vividred Operation is a professor who had participated in the development of the Manifestation Engine and is shown to be a talented researcher who may forget family meals while involved on his projects. Following an accident, his body literally become absent of mind as his consciousness gets transferred into a doll.
Yes, I have your Comics... somewhere.
- There is a throwaway gag in the The Adventures of Tintin album The Broken Ear, a man mistaking a parrot for a lady. The man is completely unimportant to the story (the parrot is the point) but Hergé took the time to identify him as 1) very absent-minded and 2) a Professor.
- In the original French he climbs up a lantern to look at this strange bird and the following dialogue ensues:
Parrot: Good morning, sir! With whom do I have the honour?
Professor: I-I'm Professor Euclide ... I ... excuse me, sir, I was distracted and ... would you believe I mistook you for a bird!
- Speaking of Tintin, Professor Calculus has some aspects of this. He is also stone deaf. This was Played for Laughs too. Calculus is, in fact, the quintessential absent-minded professor.
- Also in Tintin, the album Cigars of the Pharaoh has the very absent-minded Dr. Sarcophagus, an egyptologist.
- Flemish comic book series Suske en Wiske has Professor Barabas.
- Flemish comics are full of these. Jommeke has Professor Gobelijn, and Piet Pienter en Bert Bibber even had two: Professor Kumulus and Hilarius Warwinkel.
- The Ur-example in American comics has to be Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic Four, best known for being able to completely ignore his bombshell wife to work with test-tubes.
- Peter Parker once channeled Reed, ignoring Gwen Stacy while he worked on a science project.
- Professor Schimauski, by German artist Walter Moers.
- The titular character of Savant Cosinus by Christophe (1893), was so absent-minded he once forgot he was in a dentist's waiting room and was mistaken for the dentist by a patient who told him she needed a root extracted. Cosinus then suggests to use tables of logarithms to perform the operation (confusing the root of a tooth with a square root...) Cosinus later inspired Hergé for the character of Professor Calculus.
- A story in the only issue of now defunct Premier Magazine's Horror Anthology "Horror From the Tomb" from 1954 is not only about one, but also named after one.
It was a cartoon, but it was a movie... Oh yes! Animated Films
- Beauty and the Beast has Belle's father Maurice. He invents strange contraptions, gets lost in the woods on his way back from a fair, ignores his horse Philippe's instincts to turn back, and ultimately ends up as the Beast's temporary prisoner.
It's like the last one, but less... drawn... I got it! Live Action Films
- "Doc" Emmett Brown from Back to the Future.
- Bullshot (1983). Professor Rupert Fenton, of the Royal Society of Scientific Discoverers.
- Dr. Phillip Brainard in Flubber, who continually forgets to arrive at his own wedding, as he would get caught up in some experiment and lose track of time. The movie itself is a remake of another Disney film named The Absent Minded Professor.
- Professor Keenbean to an extent in the Richie Rich film.
- Dr. Steve Mills from My Stepmother Is An Alien.
- Wayne Szalinski from Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. He is an absent-minded professor, mixed with Man Child to the point of lampshading it in Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves, and he's even more so in the TV series starring Peter Scolari.
- Dr. Kelp, The Nutty Professor version 1.
- Dr. Reinhardt Lane in The Shadow (1994).
- Gregor the Elder from Waterworld, who accidentally activates his dirigible before his friends arrive, abandoning them during the sack of the atoll.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
- Dr. Marcus Brody is turned into something like this. It's frequently mentioned he got lost in his own museum (one that he was the curator for)! Granted, he was getting older...
- At one point, Indy tries to return to his office and is besieged by students because he hasn't been grading any of their work. He has to climb out the window to escape.
- Subverted by Henry Jones, Sr. in the same movie: he is taken by many (including Indy) be an absent-minded professor, but in the end betrays himself as a man who is more attuned to his environment than originally thought.
- Harold Medford in the classic giant-mutant-ant movie Them!
- The drunk mathematician in Strangers on a Train becomes a plot point—because of his forgetfulness, Guy is suspected of a murder he didn't commit.
- Dr. Pennyworth in the spoof Monster in the Closet.
- Dr. Daniel Jackson in Stargate. He sets a cup of coffee on the edge of a staircase he's walking by, leaves papers scattered everywhere, writes on whatever is nearby...
What do I need to say next? ... Jokes?
- Three professors from the university of Prague are walking through a shopping arcade.
Prof 1: What's the time of the day?
Prof 2 (pulls out a matchbox): Tuesday.
Prof 3: Then we have to aboard!
(And they leave for the street.)
- A biology professor announces a pop quiz, students will be forced to identify species of birds from their droppings. "Our first specimen—" He reaches into a brown paper bag and pulls out a ham sandwich. He frowns and dumps out the bag, revealing an apple and bag of chips. "My word," he blurts out, "What did I eat for lunch?"
- Older Than Feudalism : The absent-minded professor is a favorite character of the Philogelos, a Greco-Roman joke book dating back to the third century AD.
- Old Jewish Joke: Some students were curious how their brilliant Rabbi/Teacher would reason his way out of an odd situation. So one night they kept toasting his health until he fell asleep from the drink. They then moved him to the cemetery and hid to see what he would say as he woke up. When he did, his logic was "If I'm alive, why am I in the cemetery? If I'm dead, why do I have to go the bathroom?"
Where did I leave that blasted book again?
- Reg from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency is an example, to the point of not remembering his own age which is immense: the main cause of his absent-mindedness is that he's so old he's simply running out of space in his head for new memories. And then again, sometimes the reason he's forgotten what you said five minutes ago is that while it was passing he popped off somewhere in his Time Machine, and so for him it was weeks or even months ago.
- Professor Branestawm from the children's books by Norman Hunter perfectly embodies this trope.
- Dr. Jacob Buckman from The Mote in God's Eye and The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, who gets so caught up in the opportunity to observe the formation of a new star that he completely forgets to mention to anyone that the resulting gravitational shifts will release a race of hostile aliens into the galaxy.
- Earlier, he'd been so caught up in the observations he was taking as the ship he was on travelled through the outer layers of a red supergiant that he commented "If the Langston Field collapses, it'll ruin everything!" — referring to the loss of his data, not to the destruction of the ship or his own death.
- In Steve Perry's Black Steel, Sleel's parents were revealed to be the two most famous botanists alive, and both embody this trope. The robot that delivers their meals had to be set with an annoying alarm that required a manual shut off, thus ensuring that they would stop work for meals.
- Pretty much all the wizards at the Unseen University. The Bursar's mind in particular is on an extended leave of absence.
- There's no non-magical university on Discworld, but if there were, Leonard of Quirm would also be an example. As it is, he's merely an absent-minded polymath.
- Hubert Turvy in Making Money - the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork's economic forecaster and builder of a hydraulic water-based computer. But a classic Cannot Talk To Girls computer nerd.
- Xenophilius Lovegood from the later Harry Potter books seems to fit the trope without actually being an academic of any stripe, if he's not actually an outright Cloudcuckoolander.
- Samuel W. Taylor's short story "A Situation of Gravity" was the inspiration for The Absent-Minded Professor film.
- An oceanographer in Der Schwarm conforms so exactly to this that it seems like really lazy writing, until you remember that the huge cast contains at least a dozen other professors, none of whom is anything like him.
- Professor Pike of HIVE appears to be disorganized and distracted but has a brilliant and cunning mind.
- Professor Plum is depicted this way in the series of Clue books.
- Land of Oz series: The Scarecrow. Brilliant fellow, but in the second book he forgets that all of Oz speaks a single, common language.
- Professor Pinkerton-Barnes from Barnaby Grimes. He completely fails to notice when Barnaby is in a hurry to get away and track down the villain, instead prattling on about his latest theory, which involves small birds being turned savage by fruit.
- Played with in one of the Honor Harrington novels when WEB Du Havel responds to Anton's demand that he keep an eye on the Princess and Anton's daughter with the derisive comment that he's an absent minded professor and that they'll outwit him left and right.
- Enrique Burgos in the Vorkosigan Saga.
- Several characters created by Robert A. Heinlein fit this trope.
- Daniel Boone Davis of The Door Into Summer was absent-minded enough that he allowed his small engineering company to be taken from him by his business partner and his fiance because he was too busy designing the next big thing. Subverted in that he then proceeds to Take a Level in Badass by using his engineering genius—and knowledge of the future—to exercise an elaborate Batman Gambit as revenge.
- Jacob Burroughs of The Number Of The Beast is described early in the novel as performing advanced mathematical calculations in his head, but needing to grab a calculator to learn that 2+2=4.
- Annabeth's father in Percy Jackson and the Olympians. He often loses his track of mind,if even the smallest thing reminds him about history.
- Also by Rick Riordan; Thoth from The Kane Chronicles who spends quite a while yammering on about his barbecue despite the fact that there are far more pressing things like the fact that Set is free again.
- A classic example would be Jacques Eliacin Francois Marie Paganel, a French geographer in Jules Verne novel In Search Of The Castaways. In fact Paganel is probably the Trope Codifier for the modern literature.
- Then there was Arronax in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, who at one point became hugely fascinated while reading a book, only for his manservant to point out that he himself had written it.
- Another good example occurs in Voyage to the Centre of the Earth: Trying to decipher Arne Saknussem's coded message, Professor Lidenbrock has the narrator Axel (who is secretly in love with the Professor's niece Grauben write a message in a simple code. He then effortlessly decodes it - "Oh, how much I love you, Grauben" - and does not even notice that Axel has unintentionally revealed his attraction to Grauben to him or how embarrassed Axel is after realizing what he just did.
- Mr. Meredith from the Anne of Green Gables series, though he is a minister and not a professor. He is so absent-minded that he doesn't notice when his children bring home an orphan that stays for a fortnight, or that his daughter rides pigs through the town. He once went to marry a couple and started to recite a funeral prayer instead of the marriage service. When the groom calls him on it, he rectifies his mistake, but the narrator notes that the bride never truly felt married from that day on.
- Mr. Welch, a professor of history in Lucky Jim, is usually too scatterbrained to finish a sentence properly.
- Justified in Septimus Heap, where Marcellus Pye is this owing to his old age of 500 years.
- Belgarath and his fellow sorcerers in Belgariad. To emphasise, Belgarath once placed a diamond under a step of his tower to find out how long it would take to grind it down to a powder. Then he forgot about it. He had been stepping over the step for so long all the others were worn out in the middle, except that slab. It is made of stone. He also keeps misplacing things. When he got around to cleaning an area around his fireplace, just enough to allow him and Eriond to start a fire, they found a couple of couches, several chairs, and a table. Not to mention the green something he left in the pot which was ready to come alive. And it was not pea soup. He loses track of centuries at a time. Just to name a few. That is how engrossed he gets in his studies.
- Aspa from Greek Ninja.
- Discussed in Lord Chesterfield's Letters To His Son. He wasn't too fond of this trope: "Sir Isaac Newton, Mr. Locke, and (it may be) five or six more, since the creation of the world, may have had a right to absence, from that intense thought which the things they were investigating required." (letter I)
- A non-human example from Foreigner: Grigi the Astronomer Emeritus of the atevi University. He is much more open and much less formal than other atevi, blithely ignores protocol (even in the presence of extremely annoyed assassins), and would much rather discuss astronomy and physics than things like political upheaval and the looming threat of war.
It was a Live Action show, yes... where did I leave that tape?
Um... Puppet Shows. Wait, since when was that a category?
Mnnk, grnk, what was that again, young man, Radio?
- The Goon Show's Henry Crun, although an occasionally brilliant inventor, is both incredibly absent-minded and ridiculously old, meaning conversations about his latest creation tend to go like this:
Crun: Well, now that you've asked me a straightforward question... I have no option... but to give you a direct answer. [long pause] ...What was the question again?
Seagoon: Does that mean aeroplanes can land on it?
Crun: Land on what?
Seagoon: The aerodrome!
Crun: Ohh! Am I building one of those?
...And that's if you're lucky and he doesn't just fall asleep halfway through a sentence.
Hmm... I know there's something to do with games and tabletops... Oh yes! Tabletop Games!
- Dr. McQuark in the Champions supplement "The Blood and Dr. McQuark".
- The trope is used to explain the difference between wisdom and intelligence in Dungeons & Dragons.
- The Izzet League from the Ravnica plane in Magic: The Gathering. Turns out that stressing creativity and having Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny! produces interesting magic, large explosions, bizarre gizmos, and no-one having any idea what they're actually doing except that it's a lot of fun and makes a loud noise.
Video Games...Video Games... Oh, where did I leave those disks?
- Professor E. Gadd from Luigi's Mansion. This is emphasized in the sequel, when he inadvertantly lets King Boo escape by accidentally selling his portrait at a garage sale.
- Professor Frankly from Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door — he's pretty much the Goomba equivalent of Prof. Farnsworth.
- Dr Kleiner, from Half-Life, whilst technically not a professor, nevertheless exhibits many similar characteristics to the generic absent-minded professor. He's even called as such in Concerned:
- In Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim, the Wizard class is this, with lines such as "Where did I put my spellbook?" Even the Easter Egg line is a mix-and-match of two old sayings. And on the game's official site, a story shows a wizard humming through the forest when a troll appears. The wizard quickly kills the troll and continues looking for mushrooms as if nothing happened.
- Aldanon from Neverwinter Nights 2.
- Some of the professors in Pokemon tend to fall under this catagory.
- Pokemon Red And Blue's Professor Oak is so absent-minded he doesn't remember his own grandson's name, leaving it up to the player to remind him.
- Professor Elm from Pokémon Gold and Silver "steps out for a minute" while examining the starter Pokemon, just long enough for the rival to steal one of his Pokemon.
- Professor Birch from Pokemon Ruby And Sapphire, despite usually conducting his studies in the field, is ambushed by a Level 2 Poochyena, despite bringing three Pokemon of his own.
- Professor Rowan from Pokemon Diamond And Pearl leaves behind his research bag, which contains the three starter Pokemon. Admittedly, this is not his fault, as his assistant was in charge of the bag, but he seemed not to notice that his highly valuable Pokemon were missing until after the player and the rival had pilfered two of the Pokemon.
- Professor Pickle from Sonic Unleashed.
- The Professor in some of the Spyro the Dragon games.
- Dr. Crygor in Wario Ware.
- Kang the Mad in Jade Empire pretty much breathes this trope to live.
- Dr. Warren Vidic of Assassin's Creed is an evil example. The guy is under a lot of pressure, but would it kill him to put his security pen on the inside of his pocket so that he doesn't lose it and necessitate the entire complex's passwords being reset, or punctuate his emails, or treat the Animus subjects like people rather than vending machines for genetic memory?
- Momo of Breath of Fire III is a female example.
- Lucca of Chrono Trigger is milder than most of these examples, but when she saw Robo sitting inactive in the middle of an abandoned building the post-apocalyptic future, her immediate reaction is to repair it. Her father may also be of this character type (or just a workaholic), because in an optional subquest you read a younger Lucca's diary and she's very angry at her dad at neglecting herself and her mother.
- Various lines from Maria and the Professor himself in the flashback levels of Shadow the Hedgehog imply Shadow's creator, Professor Gerald, to be this as well as a Mad Scientist.
- In Fallout New Vegas DLC Old World Blues, Dr. Mobius turns out to be this. In his case, it's a combination of crippling senility, brain degradation due to being a Brain in a Jar and being heavily addicted to multiple drugs.
- EarthBound has absent minded Dr. Andonuts. When his son Jeff meets his father at his lab, Dr. Andonuts forgot that he even had a son.
- In The Sims 3 you can apply a trait called Absent Minded.
- Skyrim has a couple:
- Tolfdir may be the pre-eminent professor and master Wizard of Alteration in the College of Winterhold, but he still constantly misplaces his Alembic.
- Wylandriah, the court mage of Riften, manages to forget every single thing she's told the Dragonborn by the end of her explanations. She outdoes Tolfdir by forgetting three different items across half the province; once you return from finding them she's forgotten that she asked you to retrieve them.
- Final Fantasy IX has Dr. Tot. Held in high esteem by Garnet and Steiner (and for good reason), nevertheless he is the embodiment of this trope. Old? Check. Professor? Check. Absent-minded? "I'm sorry, I get lost in my thoughts sometimes." - to Eiko. Used to your advantage in Treno where he can lie to the owner of the synthesis shop to cover for Garnet, Steiner and Marcus.
- Also vaguely inverted in FF-IX where you can equip an ability called 'clear-headed' that stops you being inflicted with confusion.
It was a Web Comic, yes... Now, what was it called again?
- In Wapsi Square, Monica's boss, Dr. Gregory Fields, has traces of this. He was most likely written to be reminiscent of Marcus Brody, and while he never got lost in his own museum, he did forget the security code.
- The Thrilling Adventures Of Lovelace And Babbage: Charles Babbage. On more than one occasion, he gets distracted from important stuff by minor details. While chasing a rogue steam-powered economic model that was wreaking havoc on everything in its path, he became obsessed with devising a means to protect it from damage while doing so rather than stopping it from moving.
- In Commander Kitty, Fortiscue shows evidence of this, culminating in him assuming CK works at Zenith Central as a janitor...even though he saw him in his regular outfit only minutes before, and it's been well-established he's the only living thing who's officially supposed to be aboard the station.
It was a Web Original... what was the URL?
- Herr Doktor Archeville from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe. Brilliant scientist, and one of the most agile minds on the planet. Often forgets what city he's in, can't remember the actual names of his lab assistants so he labels them "Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta" and so on (and then get's that mixed up) and if those same lab assistants weren't paid to remind him would often forgets he needs to eat and sleep every so often.
- From The Onion: Cure for Cancer "Around here somewhere".
- Doctor Chronopolis from Red Panda Adventures.
- Doctor Filbert R. Z. Quintain, M.S., Ph.D., F.A.A.S., the expert on mutant powers at Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe.
Animation... now, was it from the east or west? Oh, right! West.
- Female example: Gadget from Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers is a Wrench Wench, a Gadgeteer Genius, and this. Sparky's a more traditional male version of this trope.
- Good news everyone! Professor Farnsworth of Futurama, who is also very old. And capable of making you read this in his voice.
- Extra credit goes to the episode "A Big Ball of Garbage", where he goes to an inventors' competition, realizes the invention he brought (the death clock) is the same one he showed last year, attempts to invent the same thing again after it's pointed out to him ("I need a new invention! Perhaps some kind of death clock..."), quickly creates a new invention (the smell-o-scope) to replace it, then only hours later... "Finished!" "You built the smell-o-scope?" "No, I remembered that I'd already built it last year!"
- Prof. Frink from The Simpsons.
- Gune from Titan A.E..
Gune: [holding up a small device] Does this look familiar? Do you know what it is? Neither do I. I made it last night in my sleep. Apparently I used Gindrogac. Highly unstable.
Gune: I put at button on it. Yes. I wish to press it, but I'm not sure what will happen if I do.
- Professor Sumdac of Transformers Animated. Occasionally forgets important things like eating and remembering to make a legal record of his daughter's existence, and doesn't have much common sense in general.
- Professor Ludwig Von Drake, who started out as an absent-minded lecturer in the Wonderful World of Color (the continuation of the Disneyland program), eventually becoming an inventor by the time of House of Mouse and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
- A villainous example is Professor Calamitus from The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, who was unable to finish anything (including his... um... his... sentences! That's it!) and had to kidnap Jimmy so that he could finish his inventions for him.
- Professor Von Schlemmer, of the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, fits this to a tee.
- The Vector in Skyland.
- Cosmo from The Fairly Odd Parents, has been described by Butch Hartman, its creator, as such.
- Steven Boxleitner from WordGirl seems to be this; at least before his experiment went horribly wrong...
- Wallace from Wallace & Gromit, though he's more "eccentric" than "scattered".
- César from Generator Rex. He's superhumanly capable as a scientist and a master of technology decades ahead of the rest of the world, but forgets a lot of things not directly related to research. This isn't played entirely for comedy either, as he may have caused the nanite event that changed the whole world and cause the existence of EVOs in the first place. On top of that, he might not be as absent-minded as he seems.
- Wizard version: The Moochick from the original My Little Pony. Very knowledgeable... to the point where he can have difficulty remembering a particular detail at first, like where he stashed the Rainbow of Light.
- In the The Venture Brothers episode "Pomp and Circuitry" Rusty jokes that his son Dean will one day grow up to be this. Rusty himself sometimes qualifies, as he is sometimes a professor (guest lecturer in Mexico) and sometimes whole plotlines revolve around him being absent-minded (Escape to the House of Mummies Part 2). Also he has been known to forget the names of his own sons.
- 1973/74 Super Friends episode "The Mysterious Moles". Maximus Mole is retired professor of speleology (caves & caverns). He's extremely absent-minded, forgetting things on a regular basis.
- Ramon Ridley from Dogstar. His mind so focused on higher matters, that he will teleport places without putting his trousers on.
That place of non-fictional occurrences... Real Life, is it?
- There was a legend about Thales, the sixth-century B.C. philosopher and mathematician, falling into a well because he was gazing at the stars instead of watching where he was going. This tale became so iconic that it was eventually immortalized as one of Aesop's Fables, making this one Older Than Feudalism.
- A well-known legend about the 3rd-century B.C. mathematician Archimedes says that when he stumbled upon the solution to a problem he was wracking his brain on (how to tell whether or not a crown is pure gold), he got so excited that he leaped out of the bath and ran naked through the streets shouting, "Eureka!" ("I've found it!").
- There is also the tale of his death: a Roman soldier tried to ask him where Archimedes could be found, not knowing it was him, as his boss wanted him alive. Unable to get the old man's attention (he was solving a geometrical problem on a sand table), the soldier got angry and eventually killed him. Archimedes' last words? "Do not disturb my circles!"
- Isaac Newton is said to have invited a friend to dinner but to have subsequently forgotten about it. When the friend dropped by he found Newton in deep contemplation and, not wanting to disrupt his train of thought, sat and waited. Eventually a servant brought up dinner for one and the friend, still too polite to disturb his host, ate by himself. When Newton finally snapped out of it, he looked at the empty dishes and said, "If it weren't for the proof before my eyes, I could have sworn that I have not yet dined."
- It is also said that Newton calculated Earth's orbit, explaining mathematically why it was elliptic, and then forgot all about it. He only thought of it again when astrophysicist Edmund Halley (the guy with the comet) asked him for help with the same problem.
- Newton has a million of these. Another one involved him getting distracted on the way home by a student, and finishing by asking the student which way he was walking (he had forgotten whether he was just entering or just leaving the university building). His response when the student tells him that he was walking out of the university? "Wonderful. That means I've had lunch already."
- One of the most infamous ones involve Newton using a potential love interest's pinky to clean his pipe. It is noteworthy that Newton by all accounts never married or was seriously connected to anyone and died (proudly) a virgin at the age of 84.
- Another story of Newton: once his servant had to go out for errands while needing to hard-boil an egg for Newton, so he set an egg timer and told Newton to put the egg in the pot of boiling water when the timer was done. The servant came back to find the egg on the counter still uncooked and the egg-timer in the pot of boiling water.
- Newton also had two cats, one large and one small. Their constant comings and goings began to annoy the whole family, so his mother asked him to cut a hole in the door so that the cats could go through without needing a human's help. He cut two holes, one large for the large cat, one small for the small cat...
- Albert Einstein.
- Also subverted. Well-known is the idea that he often wore socks of a mismatched color. Less but still well-known is the idea that he always wore socks of matching thicknesses.
- He once called his wife from a phone booth and asked her to remind him where he was going, because he forgot on the way.
- He once used a $1500 cheque as a bookmark and lost the book.
- John Nash, a Princeton mathematician. Good at what he does, but very strange (there's a book and an Oscar Bait movie). One of his students asked him to demonstrate a proof. Which he did, mostly in his head. This was often his habit, writing only a handful of crucial steps out, leaving the "obvious" leaps in between to others. This time, the student creatively asked, "I'm not sure I understand, Professor. Could you do it in another way?" Nash thought about it for a moment, said, "Yes, certainly," then once again dashed out a couple of crucial steps on the board, for a different proof.
- A variant of the same story is told about Norbert Wiener, the MIT prof who coined the term (and subject) cybernetics.
- The same story is also told about Lev Landau, the Soviet theoretical physicist who wrote a seminal textbook compendium on theoretical physics, where he would often cheerfully omit a longwinged and non-trivial proof as "obvious".
- Another tale says that at least in one such case he simply lost the notes with the proof on a subway train, and the "obvious" bit was actually invented by his student and coauthor Evgeny Lifshits to meet a publishing deadline.
- A story about Wiener (admittedly second hand). He was on sabbatical when his office was needed for a visiting professor. One look at the piles of papers and the admins hunted up his daughter, who was a student at MIT at the time. Some time later she was heard laughing and asked what about. She replied that near the bottom of one of the piles she had found a note congratulating Norbert on the birth of his daughter, her!
- Pavlov, known for his work on classical conditioning, was strict and disciplined in the lab, asking the same of his assistants. (He once chastised an assistant for arriving late to work during the Russian revolution. The man had been late because he had to avoid stray bullets and an angry mob.) Outside of work, Pavlov was dirt poor, as he often forgot to pick up his own paychecks and had a tendency to lose them. On a trip to New York, he carried all his money in a big visible wad, only to be mugged in the subway. His hosts had to gather contributions to make up for his lost funds. He also once gave his wife a pair of shoes as a gift as she was about to go for a trip. Once at her destination, she found she had only one of the two shoes, with a note from her husband saying he had kept the other one to remind himself of her until her return (he failed to realize she'd need both). It's said his wife stayed with him despite his obvious absent-mindedness because she recognized his genius when in a lab.
- The other wiki has their own article about this. Showoffs....
- Then there's Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics who, amongst other things, was famous for boiling bread and butter in a teapot and declaring it to be the worst cup of tea he ever had.
- Russian composer/chemist Alexander Borodin, while in the army, went out one day to review his troops. Having forgotten to put on his trousers.
- This is commonly a characteristic of the INTP.
- The Curie boys (discoverers of piezoelectricity). Pierre described hitherto unknown magnetic effects, was the co-worker on the experiments that led to the discovery of radium, and after dinner you could ask him "how was that steak?" and he'd reply "I had a steak?"
- Pierre's wife, Marie Curie could be like this too. She was ordered by her doctor to live with her sister and brother-in-law so she'd have someone to remind her to eat.
- G. K. Chesterton was notorious for this:
- "On rising this morning," he wrote to a friend, "I carefully washed my boots in hot water and blackened [polished] my face, poured coffee on my sardines, and put my hat on the fire to boil. These activities will give you some idea of my state of mind..."
- Famously, he once sent a telegraph to his wife: "Am in Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?" She telegraphed back, "Home."
- French physicist André-Marie Ampère was notoriously absent-minded too, inspiring the fictional Savant Cosinus.
- Stephen Fry claims his physicist/inventor father was a bit like this. It ended up making the young Stephen somewhat resentful towards him as it meant his mother wasn’t often able to socialise or go on holiday, and basically had to run his life for him
- This Darwin Award finalist
- Part of this has been suggested to stem from ADHD; one known aspect of it is so called "hyperfocus" where someone will ignore virtually everything to the point of exclusivity. ADHD also helps explain part of the eccentricities that go hand in hand with this trope.
- Dyspraxia also leads to poor focus, difficulty in organising thoughts and poor short term memory, but doesn't have any effect on actual intelligence.
- Schizophrenics also have difficulty in concentrating or focusing on single thoughts. Again, no effect on intelligence.
- Weak schizotypical disorders correlate quite closely with the increased intellect, especially in the abstract fields like natural sciences or math, making people who have them naturally predisposed to science occupations, but also pretty weird.
... What am I doing here again?