Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Professor Challenger

Go To

Professor Challenger is a fictional professor from the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He starred in a series of books (starting with The Lost World) usually narrated by his friend Edward Malone.



  • 1912 - The Lost World, which describes an expedition to a plateau in South America where ancient creatures, including dinosaurs, still survive.
  • 1913 - The Poison Belt, in which the Earth passes through a cloud of poisonous ether.
  • 1926 - The Land of Mist, an Author Tract on spiritualism.

Short stories:

  • 1928 - When the World Screamed, on Challenger's World Echinus theory. Considerably less scary than the title implies.
  • 1929 - The Disintegration Machine, concerning the potentially dangerous new invention by a scientist named Theodore Nemor.

Works in the Professor Challenger series with their own trope page include:

Other works in the series provide examples of the following tropes:

  • Badass Bookworm
  • Born in the Wrong Century: That's how the Professor himself is described:
    He is a primitive cave-man in a lounge suit. I can see him with a club in one hand and a jagged bit of flint in the other. Some people are born out of their proper century, but he is born out of his millennium. He belongs to the early neolithic or thereabouts... It's the greatest brain in Europe, with a driving force behind it that can turn all his dreams into facts. They do all they can to hold him back for his colleagues hate him like poison, but a lot of trawlers might as well try to hold back the Berengaria. He simply ignores them and steams on his way.
  • Disintegrator Ray: The device from "The Disintegration Machine". It's powerful enough to theoretically destroy entire cities with a single blast. (The prototype described in the story is closer to a Disintegration Chamber; the narrator describes it as resembling "the electrocution chair at Sing Sing", sitting in "a large whitewashed room" along with various other apparatus—"copper wires hanging in festoons from the ceiling", a huge magnet on a pedestal, and a large glass prism—but a fully operational model would presumably be more of a Ray Gun or Death Ray.)
  • Dug Too Deep: Professor Challenger's experiment in "When the World Screamed".
  • Faux Death: In The Poison Belt, the eponymous region of space contains an ether that apparently kills everyone on Earth; even Professor Challenger, who had predicted the phenomenon, is only able to stave off the inevitable for himself and a few friends for a little while so they can observe the phenomenon. In the end, however, it turns out the ether only rendered everyone unconscious until Earth moved out of it again, and the only actual deaths were those caused by the traffic accidents, etc. that resulted from everybody losing consciousness.
  • Genius Loci: Earth itself is revealed to be a single, massive organism in "When the World Screamed".
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: The Professor and his wife.
  • Lovecraft Lite: Some of the stories have plots that could have easily turned into heavy-handed examinations of humanity's insignificance in the universe... but go somewhere else instead.
    • The Poison Belt, where space itself becomes toxic to all animal life on Earth. No one escapes, not even the protagonists. Except the Earth passes out of this "poison belt" in just 19 hours, and everything recovers from the toxic ether after another 19 hours.
    • In "When the World Screamed", Professor Challenger discovers the planet Earth is alive and completely unaware of the humans living on it. He digs deep enough to painfully sting the Earth—to make the Earth notice mankind for the first time. The entire thing is Played for Laughs.
  • No Man Should Have This Power: In "The Disintegration Machine", Challenger and Malone "accidentally" activate the machine while its creator is standing in the affected area. And neither of them can remember which button to push to re-integrate the mad scientist. They remark on what a pity it is that all knowledge about the disintegrator disappeared with its creator.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: In "The Disintegration Machine", Theodore Nemor only has one working disintegrator, and doesn't write down any information about how to build or operate it. He's paranoid about the plans or backups being stolen, because he intends to sell the device to the highest bidder.
  • Remember the New Guy?: The Professor's daughter Enid. She appears without warning in The Land of Mist with no prior indication of her existence. One would assume she'd at least warrant a mention in The Poison Belt, when the characters are discussing their loved ones who are apparently dead or dying.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Nemor gleefully informs Challenger and Malone that he's selling his disintegrator to an enemy nation, and that he has absolutely no backups or schematics for the device. Then he steps into the range of the device while Challenger and Malone are standing at its controls...