Oh no! The city is in danger! This looks like a job... for science!
A hero who uses science, technology and/or super-science to save the day. A staple of science fiction
and an expression of the faith that science will save us rather than doom us
This hero is one part Bad Ass Normal
, two parts The Smart Guy
, with a hint of Wrench Wench
and Gadgeteer Genius
. They're defined mostly by being highly technically proficient scientists (often in all fields
) and with a sense of adventure and curiosity
. Plus, gadgets!
The Science Hero
has become something of a Discredited Trope
with the onset of Post Modernism
because post-modernism rejected progress for progress's sake — which is a favorite motivation for a Science Hero — and allowed a resurgence of Science Is Bad
, Nature Hero
, and Rock Beats Laser
It also demanded personal motivations for characters. Classic Science Heroes tended to do their science for the good of society/humanity/the universe/etc. or For Science!
, and viewers were expected to be inspired by them. Modern Science Heroes are expected to have a personal or psychological reason for getting into science. Some reasons make the character a Mad Scientist
, with all the craziness that implies. It's good craziness used for a good cause, but we're not supposed to take that kind of character as a role model! Other reasons allow the pursuit of science to end or be shoved in the background because it is a means to a reachable end or to an end that can be better reached some other way. And, in modern fiction, even a Science Hero can be thrown off track by The Power of Love
— and more likely than not, this will be expected to be seen as a good thing...
For these reasons, it is hard to find new, unambiguous Science Heroes. It's a pity — we still need to inspire the scientists.
See also Giving Radio To The Romans
. Compare Nature Hero
and Badass Bookworm
. Contrast Science Is Bad
and Mad Scientist
. Often a champion of the Enlightenment in works featuring Romanticism Versus Enlightenment
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- Tom Strong. Indeed in the whole America's Best Comics universe Science Hero is actually the preferred term for what are commonly called Superheroes. Note that though called Science Heroes, not all the characters in that multiverse fit this trope. (For example, Splash Brannigan is called a Science Hero despite having no scientific knowledge, background or indeed, common sense. His powers even derive from the fact that his body is composed of MAGIC four-dimensional ink.)
- Some Marvel Comics heroes, such as Iron Man and the Fantastic Four, venture into this trope when they run into foes that they can't outfight. Several of them are scientists who invent themselves ways in and out of trouble.
- For a short time, Hank Pym (aka Ant-Man, aka Giant-Man, aka Goliath, aka Yellowjacket, aka...) ditched the costume, code name, and powers altogether and fought crime in a lab coat and civvies with nothing but his tool-belt full of super-tech. Recent plot developments have brought back the scientific acumen in full force. He's even got a fully functional pocket dimension lab on him at all times.
- Spider-Man is often a stellar example of this trope.
- Bruce Banner is a great example, especially in the runup to Fall of the Hulks where he spent a good while Hulkless.
- Reed Richards stands out in this regard - his stretching abilities are usually used to make his research easier, not so much for fighting. In an issue of Marvel Team-Up from the 80's with Spider-Man, he lost his genius, and was extremely upset, even telling Spider-Man that he has always considered his mind to be his true super-power.
- Brainiac 5 from Legion Of Super-Heroes. The Animated Adaptation turned him into a Do-Anything Robot.
- Tintin is usually this trope when he's not brawling or using stealth.
- Qubit from Irredeemable.
- Kalish in Universal War One. A man who saves the day with theoretical science!
- Atomic Robo is setting a new, two-fisted standard for these characters in his efforts to study/stop/bludgeon weird science across the globe. Also notable in that the titular Robo leads an entire organization of these people.
- Paul Dini's Madame Mirage revolves around both Science Heroes, and Mad Scientists and other science-abusing villains.
- Astro City has Augustus and Julius Furst, the scientist/adventurer brothers. Augustus is the head of the First Family, and while the rest of the team charges into battle with their super-powers or BFGs, Gus will hang back and analyze the enemy's weakness to six decimal places, then whip up some Applied Phlebotinum to finish it off. Julius is the true Badass Normal of the family, and can hold his own against all manner of nefarious superhumans with a badass cigar and a home-built BFG.
- Batman. Yes, he's stealthy and scary and brutishly strong, but the reason he's the most dangerous human in the universe is that he's forced to use scientific smarts to get the job done - unlike other superheroes, his strength has limitations. Which explains why he's defeated beings referred to as gods with his wits alone.
- The second Blue Beetle Ted Kord had elements of this, as seen in his cameo on Batman The Brave And The Bold.
- Rahan manages to be a stone age example of this. At the rate he's going, it won't be the stone age for much longer...
- The X-Men's X-Club is an entire team of Science Heroes.
- Both Jay Garrick and Barry Allen, the first and second Flashes respectively, are both experts in science. Jay is the director of a laboratory which was crucial in protecting Earth-Two, and Barry is a police scientist who uses his speed in creative ways in conjunction with his science knowledge.
- Jor-El during the Silver Age.
- Ray Palmer and Ryan Choi.
- In the Pulp-style Incognito, characters are referred to as "Science heroes" and "Science criminals", although by the present day, it's mostly spies and terrorists using dead Science Hero technology.
- The Ghostbusters are all doctors in various unusual fields who put their knowledge to work bustin' ghosts.
- The entire cast of Real Genius.
- Most of the crew of the Icarus II in Danny Boyle's Sunshine (2007), especially Capa, are intended to be this. There is action, but there's also at least as much thinking.
- Hard rocking neurosurgeon/jetcar inventor Buckaroo Banzai.
- In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Flint Lockwood wants to be one of these, but his inventions (usually created to address a specific need in his community) have a tendency to either fail horribly or cause more problems than they solve.
- The cast of Destination Moon.
- Dr Emmett Brown of Back to the Future fits. Unless he was the villain all along.
- Bernard Quatermass of the Quatermass movies is a rocket scientist who battles alien invaders and always manages to dispatch them by using science to uncover their weaknesses.
- Adam Royston from X the Unknown, a Captain Ersatz of Quatermass.
- The hero of Stephen Chow's film Forbidden City Cop is a member of the imperial guard by family heritage rather than martial arts ability. He's actually a gynecologist by trade and part-time inventor who uses his creativity and analytical mind to succeed where the other bodyguards fail.
- Most of the heroes of The Core were scientists — which is mildly ironic, given that on the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness, it isn't.
- Ellie Arroway from Contact is a Science Hero. The writer of Contact, Carl Sagan, was one too.
- The three astronauts onboard the Apollo13 and most of the personnel at Mission Control. They manage to turn a doomed scenario into one of NASA's finest hours.
- Doc Savage
- Tom Swift.
- Neal Stephenson's books live, eat and breathe this trope.
- Ax from Animorphs.
- In E. E. “Doc” Smith's works:
- Richard "Dick" Seaton in the Skylark Series.
- The Lensman series starts off with science heroes and villains, then quickly spins Serial Escalation. A specific example is La Verne Thorndyke: "If it could be built, 'Thorny' Thorndyke could build it. If it could not be built, he could build you something just as good." Arguably a prototype for Montgomery Scott. The Virgil Samms era has Fred Rhodebush and Lyman Cleveland, but they are contracted civilian scientists who are sometimes needed near the front line rather than serving combat officers. And there's Bergenholm, the Arisians' thumb on the scales.
- Arcot, Wade, and Morey, a trio of science heroes created by John W. Campbell.
- The Foundation (in Isaac Asimov's Foundation). It must be one of the best examples ever of this trope, considering the Foundation's job is to save all of galactic humanity from regressing, and it accomplishes its goals through science and cleverness and (especially) technology. Well, their real job is to distract the Galaxy from the Second Foundation, but we don't find that out for several generations into the story...
- While stretching the term of the word 'Hero', Kiritsugu Emiya of Fate Zero frequently does battle with magi who are almost universally more skilled and powerful than he is. His solution? Don't use magic, use a sniper rifle. The target is using magic? That increases body temperature, use infrared lenses. Magi do not guard against purely physical dangers and are almost always caught completely off guard by such methods. The mere fact that he does use technology makes many view him as worthless, weak scum. When he finally combines the two, he has an intensely powerful gun that uses bullets that happen to carry the trait that they sever the magic using ability of those they are used on. You can't use mere armor to stop the bullet, and if you use magic to do so all your organs will be horribly ripped apart by the backlash of your magic circuits disintegrating. Oh, and he attaches normal cameras to the underside of bat familiars because you can't trick a camera with magic like you can the eye or brain and it also records better.
- Cyrus Harding (in Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island), after the group crashes on an island, he basically builds a mini-civilization out of natural resources and his own engineering prowess, including building a telephone network and a nitroglycerin plant. The latter becomes very important when the island is attacked by pirates and our heroes have to fight them off.
- Several of the characters in Ben Bova's grand tour series fit this trope. Particularly Kris Carenas.
- Anton Pendrake from John C. Wright's War of the Dreaming.
- In Dune Liet-Kynes is both a Science Hero and a Nature Hero, as an ecologist.
- Olaf Neddelsohn in The Cambist and Lord Iron is, unusually, an Economics Hero.
- Hostile Takeover: Protagonist CC is a financial analyst, and she uncovers a diabolical peculation scheme with spreadsheets!
- In Lord of Light, Yama, the Death God, becomes this after his Heel Face Turn. He's responsible for most of the advanced weaponry on both sides of the war between the Gods.
- Quite a lot of Robert A. Heinlein's works have this kind of hero. Of particular note is the fact he wrote the novel Destination Moon in the Film section was based on.
Live Action TV
- The Mythbusters.
- Prof. Bernard Quatermass, the first of many Science Heroes in British television.
- Star Trek in all its incarnations has heroes like this, though it throws in plenty of diplomatic and straight-up military challenges for variety.
- Grissom on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. All the CSI cast, in fact.
- MacGyver, despite the jury-rigged nature of the title character's devices, also qualifies.
- In Doctor Who, The Doctor in most of his incarnations, though he wasn't averse to less refined tactics when necessary.
- Mr. White of Breaking Bad is an AntiHeroic form of this. In the seven-episode first season alone, he uses his chemistry know-how to cook incredibly pure crystal meth, kill two drug dealers with phosphine gas, blow up an annoying yuppie's car, intimidate hardened criminals with exploding fulminated mercury, and melt through a solid metal lock with thermite.
- The members of The A-Team, while not scientists per se, usually found themselves imprisoned in a location with sufficient junk metal and obsolete machines to build an armored, armed, yet non-lethal, battle machine. Call it the Engineer Hero sub-trope.
- On Stargate SG-1, Samantha Carter's physics/technological knowledge and Daniel Jackson's linguistic/archaeological/anthropological knowledge end up saving the day numerous times, justifying their inclusion on a front-line team. They can kick ass when necessary too, though.
- While Sam does wield the science like nobody's business, she's also a highly skilled soldier, which justifies her inclusion on the team, brilliance aside.
- Science is also Rodney McKay's preferred weapon on Stargate Atlantis.
- The importance of science in saving the city is Lampshaded by McKay and Zelenka when the military bursts in at the end of season 1 and takes over.
McKay: I should be in that meeting. I am the foremost expert on the defense capabilities of this city.
Zelenka: You know how it is — when military steps in, scientists take a back seat.
McKay: Until they need us.
Zelenka: I don't think they need us.
McKay: Yeah, they don't think they need us, right up until the point that they need us, and then, they need us.
- In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Billy, the original Blue Ranger. When the team transitioned to Power Rangers Zeo, he stepped back from heroics to support the Rangers from the lab full-time (though he still got into the occasional fight).
- Ross from Friends wrote a comic about a Kid Hero names "Science Boy", who had a superhuman desire to learn.
- John Crichton of Farscape; quite apart from being both a scientist and an astronaut, he's one of the most scientifically-minded members of the cast, often found experimenting with gravity slingshots and wormholes, and once cobbling together a home-made nuclear bomb. Also, he's also a very firm advocate of ethics in science; quite apart from condemning Namtar for his use of unwilling sentient beings in his Bio-Augmentation trials, he also tries to avoid taking shortcuts in developing wormhole tech ("If you're not smart enough to develop it on your own, you're not smart enough to use it wisely"), at one point spending the months between Seasons 3 and 4 working out the calculations and variables. In the movie, he even goes so far as to set off a Wormhole Weapon just to demonstrate why nobody should be willing to use them.
- Ladies and Gentlemen, Professor Roy Hinckley. Who can build a nuclear reactor out of coconuts but can't fix a two foot hole in a boat.
- Artemus Gordon of The Wild Wild West is not only a Gadgeteer Genius and a chemistry wiz, but he seems to have at least a basic familiarity with every field of scientific endeavor which existed at the time.
- Sanctuary: Dr. Helen Magnus, with a vengeance. She's also a VERY capable fighter who definitely Minored In Asskicking.
- Dungeons & Dragons of all games eventually added a class based on this: the Artificer, technomagical engineers from the Eberron setting.
- Dr. Rudolph van Richten of Ravenloft was about as close to this trope as someone whose field investigations involve undead and lycanthropes can get.
- The Sons of Ether in Mage The Ascension, gloriously so; they even have an informal Adventurers faction that's expressly made up of Science Heroes. Some members of the Technocracy might count as Science Anti Heroes.
- And of course, this is a common character type for players of Genius The Transgression, even having as far as a merit called Science Hero.
- Artificers and Scholars are based on this concept in GURPS: Dungeon Fantasy.
- In Mortasheen YOU get to play as one, albeit of a darker variety than usual, and whose main scientific abilities are the creation of very strange Mons.
- Lucca of Chrono Trigger
- Dr. Hawkins of MDK exemplifies this trope.
- Daniel Dankovski, bachelor of medicine from Pathologic.
- The cast of Science Girls! ... when they're not just using magic by a different name.
- Gordon Freeman is made of this trope.
- A number of player characters in City of Heroes, as well as canon example Positron. The character creator specifically lists "Science" and "Technology" as two of the 5 selectable origins for a player character.
- In Champions Online the "Gadgeteering" power set appears to be specifically made to accommodate player characters using this trope, complete with rayguns, robots and other near little science-y toys. A canon example is seen in Dr. Silverback, the settings big name Science Hero... who's also a sentient talking gorilla wearing a lab-coat.
- In Metal Gear Solid, Snake does all the sneaking and fighting, but Otacon's engineering and hacking is what enables him to do so.
- Giacomo, the main character of Rise of Legends, who invented the Clockwork Men.
- League of Legends has a few, such as Heimerdinger, along with Science Villains, such as Singed. The heroic ones tend to hail from Piltover, which the evil ones come from Zaun.
- Dr. Mordin Solus of Mass Effect may not be human, but his character is probably one of the straightest mainstream examples of this trope out there. Particularly in that he brings back the "scientists live by a code of ethics" part most seem to overlook.
- Science Anti-Hero is as likely, given that from the outset he's also portrayed as a completely dispassionate killer when the need arises and turns out to have been complicit in biological warfare.
- Until Mass Effect 3, when he manages to pull of a Heroic Sacrifice WITH SCIENCE!. "the very model of a scientist Salarian" indeed.
- Note that Mordin was always ethical, and undertook said biological warfare (to cripple the Krogan birthrate) to save the Krogan too, as all estimates suggested they would be wiped out if they continued using their We Have Reserves mentality to wage war on the galaxy. That doesn't stop him continually pondering whether it was the right thing to do.
- While willing to use harsh measures to save people he maintains he has never used science to harm people, and is filled with uncharacteristic rage when discussing how its misuse twisted the Protheans into mindless husks.
- During his loyalty mission, he explains one reason why he went from a being top salarian scientist with near unlimited funding to running a clinic on Omega was because he wanted to spend the last decade of his life doing something that wasn't morally questionable.
- Arguably a Sentinel Shepard, due to their proficiency in using both biotics and tech skills during combat. This would undoubtably indicate that Shepard not only went through biotic training, but also studied engineering during their time training with the Military.
- Engineer Shepard can also be considered a Science Hero. In Mass Effect 2 Engineer!Shepard gets a reduction in research costs indicating it is not just purely battlefield combat engineering he studied during his training but also scientific knowledge required for researching and developing technology.
- In the Omega DLC for Mass Effect 3, Engineer!Shepard gets the first ever class-specific interrupt, where in the middle of General Petrovsky's Hannibal Lecture about having to sacrifice civilians to stop a reactor breach, Engineer!Shepard mocks him for thinking they are a simple grunt, shuts the reactor down in seconds and leaves him standing there with egg on his face.
- Tails of Sonic the Hedgehog. In the games this mostly means "hook up a Chaos Emerald to pretty much anything"; the comics give him more opportunities in computers and robotics.
- Speaking of the comics, there's a few of these peppered around, like Rotor, Uncle Chuck, Dr. Robotnik's Moebius counterpart, Dr. Robotnik himself at one point...
- In Pathologic, the goal of the protagonists is to Find the Cure against The Plague, and one of them, Daniel Dankovski, Bachelor of medicine uses scientific methods and knowledge of biology, and the other, Artemiy "Haruspex" Burakh, while being also a skilled physician, relies on an ancient steppen practicies. There is also Stanislav Rubin, while he is not a protagonist, he also uses science to resolve the plot.
- In Fallout, a character with a high Science skill can become this, solving problems with their advanced knowledge. This especially comes into play in the Fallout New Vegas DLC Old World Blues, which takes place in a facility for a group of Mad Scientists and where the Science skill gets quite a bit of work. In fact, if the main quest is completed with Good/Neutral karma, the epilogue states that the Courier becomes the caretaker of the technologies of the Big MT until the day they can be used to benefit mankind.
- Girl Genius lives and breathes this trope. Naturally, the best example is the eponymous heroine, Agatha Heterodyne. Othar Tryggvassen
- GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER is a troperrific example, with the dark-ish twist that he's also trying to kill all the others, and then ultimately himself.
- The best example is the Heterodyne Boys. Agatha's working up to follow in their footsteps.
- A Miracle of Science, being a world where being a Mad Scientist is a diagnosable mental illness, gives a few of these, including the population of an entire planet.
- Mori of The Dragon Doctors. Interesting in a world of wizards and magic.
- Dr Nonami stars a young female scientist who fights villains with her inventions.
- A Science Hero makes a brief appearance in one strip of Narbonic. The Science Villain title character finds such good Mad Scientists decidedly creepy.
- Sluggy Freelance often has Riff take this role, though he's also responsible for a lot of the disasters he's helped to solve.
- Dubious Company's Captain Walter uses his Avoisian engineering to counter The Empire's magic-based elites, if he's not using it to make silly cool stuff and is properly motivated.
- Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog features a science Anti-Villain. Until the end when he drops the 'anti', anyway.
- This is a common character archetype in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe. Prototype, Herr Doktor Archeville, Technomancer, Wi-Fi, Doctor Tomorrowland, and Solomon are all examples.
- The Salvation War has this when a captured demon realizes another reason why Humanity is beating Satan's forces so completely: their scientists approach the unknown as something that can be explored, and are flexible through the doctrine of falsifiability to change their thinking to solve problems and mysteries far faster and better than Hell's Demons can.
- In the Whateley Universe, this was a big trend back in the Fifties, with science heroes and heroines popping up, many of them teens, like the great-grandmother of Sophia Ferriss. In fact, the entire Ferriss line may be science heroes, since the women of the family have been combatting the supervillainess Deathmaiden with science for decades.
- In Worm, they are the Tinker-class heroes.
- Freakazoid! brilliantly spoofed this trope with "Toby Danger", a parody of Jonny Quest.
- For that matter, Benton Quest.
- Dexter (and later Jimmy Neutron) embodied this trope for kids shows. (Even though they cause nearly as many problems they solve.)
- Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers: Gadget Hackwrench fulfills this trope with ease. Plus, she is both a Gadgeteer Genius and a Wrench Wench.
- The Venture family of The Venture Brothers has a long line of "superscientists," essentially superheroes who use science. While the current patriarch Rusty Venture flounders in his father's shadow, he's still a true superscientist. In one episode he shows that he can replicate all of a wizard's powers using science. He seems to have a love-hate relationship with the superscience racket, and considers it a mercy that he's not forcing his Book Dumb son Hank to follow in his footsteps. However, he does eventually say the page quote at one point, apparently having forgotten that it's his father's Catch Phrase.
- Kowalski from The Penguins of Madagascar
- Peter Dickinson in The Flight of Dragons has one foot in magic and one foot in science. He ultimately defeats the evil mage by explaining how his magic is scientifically impossible, and in doing so banishes himself from the world of magic forever.
- In Batman The Brave And The Bold, Batman is a science hero, moreso than in some other incarnations, as was his friend Ted Kord (second Blue Beetle) when he's shown in flashbacks.
- Phineas And Ferb
- : Wallace for Wallace and Gromit. Though Gromit has quite a keen mind he does not get the impresion that science is the answer to everything the way Wallace does.
- Every scientist and rational thinker whose inventions and theories have led to the decrease of famine and disease, the rise of technology and civilization, the expansion of the breadth of humanity's knowledge, and in general the increase in the quality of life for the average human across the board is a Science Hero. Rousseau Was Right, indeed.
- In fact, there's a direct correlation between the penetration of the sciences into a given society, and the quality of life that society enjoys.
- The greatest Science Hero is almost certainly Norman Borlaug. He started the Green Revolution and his selectively bred crops, which he personally spent his life propagating have saved many, many people from starvation.
- Just to be clear, the number of lives Norman Borlaug is credited with saving is in the BILLIONS.
- Taken collectively, the centuries-long war on infectious disease fought through both medicine and sanitation by a host of brilliant and compassionate minds has prevented more human suffering and death, especially among children, than any human endeavor ever. Most tropers would have to ask their parents, at least, for first-hand accounts of times when tens of thousands of children every year were crippled by polio. Smallpox killed more people in the last century than war, but it's now extinct in the wild.
- Dr. Jonas Salk - developer of Polio vaccine, and lauded as a Science Hero after the discovery.
- Dr. Dennis Slamon - developer of Herceptin, a non-toxic drug (based on antibodies) against breast cancer
- Everyone in Symphony Of Science, as the name suggests.
- The Bletchley Park crew that solved the Enigma code in World War II.
- And before that, the Polish scientists M. Rejewski, H. Zygalski and J. Rozycki. They started the decrypting process in 1930 and passed their results to British and French intelligence agents in 1939. Without access to this team's discoveries, Turing and his buddies would have to start from scratch.
- Ralph Bagnold, who used information gained by the study of the North African desert to become a commando during World War II.
- Carl Sagan. Enough said.
- Today we look upon them with a little more ambivalence, but the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project were certainly seen as Science Heroes during World War II.