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The Professor

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. He's also very likely to be a TV Genius.

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 Reluctant Mad Scientist or sufferer of Science-Related Memetic Disorder who happens to not be evil. Or a regular Mad Scientist among Villain Protagonists.

The Professor may also happen to be a Bunny-Ears Lawyer who has wacky hobbies and idiosyncrasies, sometimes heating up Cup of Noodles soup in a test tube with a bunson burner or wearing wildly mismatched clothing. Despite these oddities, he will still prove to be amazing brilliant at his field of study and his quirks will be good-naturedly Played for Laughs.

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.

The Professor is quite often the least action ready of the team. This may be due to age, infirmity or just being physically weak. For this reason, the Professor may be left at headquarters while the more able characters handle the physical action. Occasionally, in a two man team, the Professor's teammate is there to specifically act as a bodyguard and handle the physical stuff. Sometimes, this bodyguard may be a government agent.

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


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    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.
  • Professor Emil Hamilton in the Superman comics, at least when he's not in one of his villainous phases (like right now).

    Film 
  • 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 communists.
  • X-Men: Dr. Charles Xavier earned his "Professor of Genetics" title from the University of Oxford. Even before he became a paraplegic, he was considerably less action-oriented than the other mutants on his team, and is often protected by a combatant (e.g. Cyclops, Beast). Professor X serves as the Team Dad for the X-Men.

    Literature 
  • 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.
    • On the other hand, it's pretty hard to imprison a man who lives mostly in his own head, forgets to eat and often doesn't see how people could to turn his Moving Mountains Out of the Way Device (for mining, obviously) into something more sinister. Leonard of Quirm has all the cunning of a concussed duckling, and Vetinari keeps him supplied with, well, everything, and tucked safely away behind booby traps he himself designed.
  • 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.
  • Arbat-Elivat-Estoni from Animorphs.
  • Hermione Granger and Remus Lupin from Harry Potter.
  • Professor Pike of the H.I.V.E. Series is the school's head engineering instructor- and also the source of the many technological advances that fuel G.L.O.V.E.'s reign. Also the Team Grandpa.
  • 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 a rabbit, 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.
    • And, of course, there's Professor Yana from Utopia. However, he cheerfully admits it's an invented title, since there hasn't been an university around in centuries.
  • On the Spin of of Doctor Who. The Sarah Jane adventures episode "Death of the Doctor" says that Ian and Barbara became Professor. note 
  • 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: The Original Series.
    • 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.

    Other 
  • Daedalus from Greek Myth makes this Older Than Dirt, having build the Labyrinth of the Minotaur and pairs of wings that allowed him to fly, among many other things.
  • In his footsteps follows Archimedes, a Greek inventor from the Greek colony Syracuse in southern Italy. He is best known for his work on lever action and bouyancy. While it's not entirely clear what kind of devices he actually invented and how well they worked, but he had a massive reputation as an inventor even during his lifetime.
  • Imhotep was a genius who lived in Egypt 2600 BC, credited with strongly contributing to the founding of the sciences of engineering, medicine, and architecture. His service to the Pharaohs was so remarkable that he became the only commoner ever to be elevated to godly status after his death.
  • Inorder to stop Dr. Gearck’s conquest of the entire world with the power of the evil gears called the “Warugiano” in the Yu-Gi-Oh! metaplot, Professor Kross created the Gear Heroes known as the “Geargias”!!!

    Video Games 
  • Professor Frankly of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.
  • It is repeatedly stated in the Pokémon universe that Pokémon Professors are the highest authorities in the world when it comes to the wonderful creatures that inhabit it. This is especially true in Gold/Silver/Crystal/HeartGold/SoulSilver, where Professor Oak gets celebrity treatment all across the Johto/Kanto area, though every region has its specialist.
  • Half-Life is full of these. The first game has them as allies who will open security doors for you (portrayed with three or four generic character models) while the sequels all have specific characters, most notably Dr. Kleiner who fits the archetype to a tee. Dr. Vance appears to be the team leader, though he comes of more like a Cool Old Black Guy. Dr. Freeman appears to be more of a lab technician, but he is a theoretical physicist working on teleportation as well.
  • Professor Layton, full stop.
  • Elco from the Sleeper Hit Western RPG Sudeki pretty much nails this on the head and drills it home with magical laser guns. He does actively participate in a lot of fighting, though, so he's a bit different from the standard all-support role.
  • Dr. Light from Mega Man.
  • Professor Mordin Solus of Mass Effect 2.
  • Roughly half the cast of the Metal Gear games qualify for the trope in at least a few respects, although Otacon probably comes closest to fulfilling it.
  • Grant Florian of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha As Portable: The Gears of Destiny, the father and creator of the Florian sisters. A brilliant and benevolent, if sometimes overenthusiastic, scientist who devotes most of his time trying to find a way to reverse the death of his home planet.
  • Dr. Andonuts from EarthBound. He's pretty absent minded however, as he forgot he even had a son.
  • Horace from The Last Story functions like this. He proclaims himself an archaeologist, but he seems to know a lot about architecture, geology, and dark magic (merely as an academic curiosity, of course), aiding the protagonists in a series of optional chapters.
  • "The Professor" from Ape Escape
  • Dr Ein of the Bomberman franchise.

    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 Power Puff 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 eponymous girls to Sloppy Joe's.
  • Professor Frink of The Simpsons. He may have Tourettes 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 Bros., 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.
  • There happen to be so many of these characters in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003— often dubbed appropriately— that it is, eventually, commented upon by our resident Teen Professor:
    Donatello: Professor!
    Professor Honeycutt: Yes?
  • Daedalus in The Mighty Hercules.


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