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Absent-Minded Professor

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"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 The Absent-Minded Professor — the "The" before the title is important.)

This Stock Character is a brilliant scientist, but, uh, very flighty, often forgetting things like the date, people's names, meetings, eating, sleeping, cleaning, people's names, etc. His mind tends to run a mile a minute, he can often struggle to hold a normal conversation, and it's typical for him to become so engrossed in his work that he loses track of just about everything else. 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. With a little prodding from the heroes to focus on the matter at hand, he rarely fails to create the tools necessary to save the day.

This is a very old character type, referred to by this name since at least um... er... 1864? Yes, 1864!

A subtrope of The Professor. And some sort of genius, what was it?— TV Genius, that was it.

Compare Mad Scientist and Mad Mathematician who may exhibit this trait, demonstrating that even their vast intellect has limits. For those whose absent-minded brilliance shines in engineering and applied science, compare Bungling Inventor. One with an extreme case of this may resemble an Idiot Savant. And then there are those who are Brilliant, but Lazy, a Ditzy Genius, or a Genius Ditz. May end up being a Stupid Scientist. This teacher is highly likely to be More than Just a Teacher.

Often Played for Laughs as anyone they interact with becomes an exasperated Straight Man. When it's Played for Drama, they're painfully aware of their problem and are often as frustrated and embarrassed by it as anyone they deal with.

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.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Daitokuji-sensei/Professor Banner from Yu-Gi-Oh! GX qualifies, even though his profession is alchemy. This might be part of Obfuscating Stupidity or not.
  • Doctor Professor Franken Stein from Soul Eater.
  • Gadgeteer Genius Dr. Hiroshi Agasa from Case Closed, 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.
  • Saiyuki Gaiden: 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.
  • 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...
  • Battle Angel Alita's Desty Nova is much more of a Mad Scientist, but some of his more friendly incarnations, mainly Nova The Flan Cook (AKA Nova X, though he later turned out to be no better than the others) or Nova Pod (AKA Porta-Nova), can fit this trope pretty well.
  • Adolf K. Weismann a.k.a. Shiro from K shows himself to be this on occasion. His twin sister was better, and when they were working together as scientists, she was the one who kept him focused most of the time. In the present time of the show, Kuroh does this for him - frustratedly in season 1 while trying to get Shiro to prove his innocence, before he recovers his memories. In season 2, he's better because they have such a serious mission, but he still seems airy, doing things like hosting important meetings between Kings in his dorm room. And after the series, when he becomes a teacher at the high school, he's still mooching lunch off of his students.
  • 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.
  • Professor Dingy from Wowser often creates inventions to make life better for him and Wowser, only for the invention to wind up in the hands of Ratso Catso.
  • Van Hohenheim from Fullmetal Alchemist is generally a somber and serious character, but he can space out at times. Once, while setting up a swing set for Ed and Al, he stopped to think about other things and proceeded to fall out of the tree.

    Comic Books 
  • The Ur-example in American comics has to be Gyro Gearloose from Disney Ducks Comic Universe.
  • A famous example is Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic Four, best known for being able to completely ignore his bombshell wife to work with test-tubes.
  • In Silver Age The Flash, Iris West's dad, Professor Ira West, was an extreme version of this. According to The Life Story of the Flash, he has every physics award available, but no idea where he put any of them. In his first appearance, he nearly learns Barry's secret identity, but gets distracted before he can put the clues together. A later retcon takes it further; Barry told him he was the Flash, and Ira assisted him in creating his super-compressible costume, but a blow from some burglars gave him Easy Amnesia, wiping his memory of the day and leaving him permanently forgetful.
  • Flemish comics are full of these. Jommeke has Professor Gobelijn. He is probably the most extreme example of this trope because he continuously says and does the opposite of what he means.
  • The title 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.
  • Spider-Man: Peter Parker once channeled Reed, ignoring Gwen Stacy while he worked on a science project.
  • Spirou & Fantasio: The Count, who can be very absent-minded at times when he is concentrated on doing other stuff.
  • 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.
    • Cigars of the Pharaoh has the very absent-minded Dr. Sarcophagus, an Egyptologist. Similar characters include Professor Alembick in King Ottokar's Sceptre and Professor Phostle in The Shooting Star.
    • There is a throwaway gag in 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!
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Despite being a rather ingenious chemist with an interest in archeology Prof. Chemico is not a terribly good planner, and is really good at missing signs that things are about to get dangerous for him requiring his students, and on one occasion Steve Trevor, to rescue him from the mishaps he occasionally gets himself into.

    Comic Strips 
  • One The Far Side comic has a science lab with a scientist saying "What the-!? This is lemonade! Where's my culture of amoebic dysentery!?", while in the foreground a man consuming a half-finished glass has a bug-eyed look of horror on his face. Some labs use this cartoon to demonstrate exactly why food and drink are not allowed in science labs.

    Eastern European Animation 
  • „Kérem a következőt!”: Doctor Bubo is a well-meaning but inept doctor whose flawed diagnoses and attempts to help out animals with psychology often lead to trouble.

    Fan Works 
  • Peter's favorite middle school Randall Fargus is becomes one in Family Guy Fanon (along with a bit of Mad Scientist). He loves to invent and create things to have fun, but due to his age (he's over ninety-six in this adaption), he's more scatter-brained and doesn't think about most of his inventions' dangerous consequences through until it's too late.
  • In Transformers Meta, Evac, the resident medic trainee, occasionally has these scatterbrained tendencies. Such as, taking sarcasm seriously.
  • Carlos from Welcome to Night Vale is typically portrayed as this in fanfic, with not very much canon to back it up. His obsession with science and initial obliviousness to Cecil's affections contribute to a fanon interpretation of Carlos as socially awkward and extremely nerdy. He's also often portrayed as forgetting to eat and Cecil as reminding him or simply bringing him food; also as inclined to Overworked Sleep. There are countless drawings and paintings of Carlos falling asleep at his lab table, often with Cecil covering him with a blanket.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, aside from the somewhat quirky Pokémon Professors (see below in Videogames), there's also Dr. Kim Monocles Boxer, a friend of Professor Oak and a brilliant, if somewhat eccentric, inventor from Pallet Town. While he's made many successful and revolutionary discoveries, he also has a tendency to hurt people with his work.
  • In Pokemon: The Origin of Species, Bill is a talented scientist, but he has poor people skills. He couldn't remember why he asked to meet with Red and Leaf, having them go far out of their way in the process, and they consider helping him get some drinks to be a real possibility after a few minutes talking to him.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Professor Martin Stein is depicted this way. He's a bit of a ditz despite working on projects that can change the world on a regular basis, excitedly asking if Hisashi is going to have kids and to be named the godfather. He then realizes that he stick his foot in his mouth when Hisashi angrily declares his infertility.
  • Guys Being Dudes: Arlo is smart enough to have spearheaded Team GO Rocket's Shadow Pokemon program and oblivious enough that not only does he have to have someone walk with him to remind him of oncoming pedestrians and low-hanging trees, he doesn't notice impending Death from Above when he's busy doing research on his phone.

    Films — Animation 
  • Gune in Titan A.E., to the point where he invents something he doesn't recognize in his sleep.
    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.
    Preed: Gune...
    Gune: I put at button on it. Yes. I wish to press it, but I'm not sure what will happen if I do.
  • Wallace from Wallace & Gromit, though he's more "eccentric" than "scattered".
  • Beauty and the Beast has Belle's father Maurice. He invents strange contraptions, gets lost in the woods on his way to a fair, ignores his horse Philippe's instincts to turn back, and ultimately ends up as the Beast's temporary prisoner.
  • Professor Bomba from Epic (2013); his outdated computers and messy house suggest he really doesn't get out much.
  • Tarzan: True to the book, Professor Porter is such a character.
  • Pops in April and the Extraordinary World. While not as bad as many other examples, he gets so caught up in his excitement in working out the flying machine, and the energy it runs on, that he fails to notice that the prison is flooding.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Absent-Minded Professor and its sequel, Son of Flubber. Of course. And its remake Flubber.
  • "Doc" Emmett Brown from the Back to the Future trilogy. Subverted in that Doc Brown is savvy enough to know better than to leave plutonium in the hands of terrorists (and to wear a bullet-proof vest when the same terrorists come after him). He also gives Marty very sound advice about not getting goaded into fights.
  • Bullshot (1983). Professor Rupert Fenton, of the Royal Society of Scientific Discoverers.
  • 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 Manchild 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... Also, while he speaks multiple languages, he doesn't appear to know any that would be helpful in the real world:
      Marcus: "Does anyone here speak English? Or maybe Ancient Greek?"
    • 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...
  • Jack (the 2013 CBC movie) features Jack Layton as a fairly literal example of one; he was a political science professor, and he is portrayed in the movie as being somewhat absent minded. (Forgetting he was supposed to be at a particular fundraiser until 10 minutes after said fundraiser started, for example.)
  • Truth in Television in Madame Curie (1943) for both Marie Curie and, tragically, for Pierre.
  • In "Pimpernel" Smith Professor Horatio Smith, despite bravely sneaking into Nazi Territory to save people seems to forget the simplest things. He doesn't want to travel to Berlin because it's so far away, despite being scheduled to go there the next day. His students had to put a note in his pocket to remind when the train leaves - which nearly causes him to get caught. While teaching a class in England he finds a knot tied in his cloak and says "This means something." (Crumpets for lunch)
  • Professor Petrie in The Phantom of the Opera (1962). According to his former landlady, he taught singing at the Academy... when he remembered to go there.
  • In Watch Your Stern, Blissworth's portrayal of visiting scientist Potter comes off to Captain Foster as a bit eccentric, whereas Admiral Pettigrew thinks he is drunk.
  • Professor Arthur Bohart, Jr. (played by Adam West) in Young Lady Chatterley II. A historic anthrolopologist, he is so wrapped up in his work that he not only fails to notice the nubile Lady Chatterley coming on to him, he even fails to notice when she is having sex in the backseat of a car behind him.
  • Prof. Roche in Invention for Destruction, who is so wrapped up in his research into 'pure matter', that he fails to notice that his 'new patron' has actually abducted him and his holding him in a Volcano Lair and is weaponizing his research.
  • Rutherford from Raising the Wind is considered one of the best composers at the London Academy of Music and the Arts, and in the world, but his head is permanently off in the clouds, too busy thinking about playing golf in his cluttered office to remember which pupils are supposed to visit him and when. He even manages to forget the word for "piano"!
    Rutherford: I have a screw loose. (Beat) If you find it, you'll might, er, put it in an envelope and send it to... wherever I'm going, please. The name is, uh, "Rutherford".

  • 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?"
    • There's a very similar joke with a human anatomy exam and organ samples instead of ornithology and droppings. However, instead of simple absent-mindedness, the implication is that the professors were wasted enough to confuse a sausage intended for a snack to go with the vodka with, ahem, a sausage-shaped sample.
  • 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?"
  • A doctor is making his rounds through the hospital when he stops to talk to the head nurse. The nurse says , "By the way, doctor, did you know you've got your thermometer stuck behind your ear?" The doctor feels around his ear and says, "Great, some asshole has my pen."
  • Two professors discuss whether it's better to have a wife or a paramour. "Both — the wife thinks you're at the paramour's, the paramour thinks you're at the wife's, and you — hop to the library!"
    • Varieties of this joke swap the library for the lab depending on the implied branch of science, or replace the professor with a programmer for a programmer joke.
  • Did you hear about the absent-minded professor who:
    • Returned to his office after lunch, saw the sign "Back in 30 minutes", and sat down to wait for himself?
    • Slammed his wife and kissed the door?
    • Got up and struck a match to see if he had blown out the candle?

  • In Ananda's Fall, Leonardo's math professor grandpa is implied to be this.
  • Ben and Me: Amos mentions that a hole Ben made in the front of the hat came in useful for Amos warning him about obstacles right ahead of him that he didn't notice.
  • 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. In his very first appearance, it's mentioned that he fastens his coat with safety pins because the buttons have fallen off. He goes on to do things like send a sheet of blotting paper instead of a letter, and get caught in his own burglar trap because he forgot about it.
  • 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 traveled 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. One of the best descriptions of him, from Jingo is "a man who'd stay up all night to invent an alarm clock to wake him up in the morning." Some of the things he invents could be very dangerous, but Vetinari doesn't worry too much because without anyone to keep him on track he's "his own distraction" — prior to The Last Hero and everyone really needing him to invent a flying machine, his attempt were derailed when he decided he first needed to invent a special tray to have your meals on.
      • At one point in Jingo Vetinari sends Leonard to kidnap two 'volunteers' for a secret mission. Leonard proceeds to be so distracted throughout the whole affair — including handing his weapon to the kidnappees to hold so he can make some improvements to it — that the only reason it succeeds is that the victims are curious to see where this goes.
    • 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 Women 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 pretends to be excruciatingly absent-minded in front of his students so that he can observe them more easily without suspicion. Because this is just a front, he thinks of himself as being actually very put-together and clear-minded. In actuality, he is really only marginally less absent-minded than he pretends to be.
  • 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 Borgos in A Civil Campaign.
  • 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 is Jacques Eliacin Francois Marie Paganel, a French geographer in Jules Verne's novel In Search of the Castaways. In fact Paganel is probably the Trope Codifier for modern literature.
    • Then there's Arronax in 20,000 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 Journey to the Center 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.
  • Galam, from the Kadingir series. He's a genious scientist with Einstein Hair and a tendency to suddenly start scribbling his brilliant ideas on any available surface, whichever the situation and the number of enemies currently trying to kill him. He even fills the "professor" gap, since he tutored Ishtar and Malag.
  • 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.
  • In Septimus Heap, 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 (1994): Grigi the Astronomer Emeritus of the atevi University. He often Forgets to Eat due to being occupied with work, 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.
  • Henry from The Infernal Devices - while not really being a professor in the first place. But he's a brilliant inventor who just happens to forget things.
  • Felix Hoenikker from Cat's Cradle is a negative example - he only cared about scientific work, and barely noticed his wife and children. Once, after a breakfast, he gave his wife a tip. He was the father of the atomic bomb, and he invented a potentially world-destroying substance called ice-nine, but didn't care about the dangers of either.
  • Professor Jerry Lukacs of the Krim Pyramid books is so absorbed in his books that he can barely dress himself, let alone keep groceries stocked, and completely fails to notice that his workplace has been evacuated by the police due to alien invasion.
  • Mr. Wold in Ariel may be a teacher (as his wife is); what we do know is that he's extremely absent-minded and preoccupied. When Erskine half-jokingly suggests Ariel move in with him to avoid leaving the neighborhood, he claims "My father could live in the same house with you and never notice you were there. At dinner you could ask him to pass the salt and he'd pass it and still not notice."
  • Lensman universe:
    • Sir Austin Cardynge. Indomitably brilliant and dedicated to his job, but completely unhinged to the point where he doesn't even care if he and everyone else on his ship (with a crew of over a thousand) end up dead, so long as his notes get back to Civilization intact.
    • Neal Cloud, from the same universe (Masters of the Vortex), is an aversion. He's a mathematical savant capable of making complex calculations in the blink of an eye and being right every time, yet he's psychologically stable enough to have been happily married with three children — and after being widowed in the horrific cold open, he recovers (in time) from his grief and falls in love again.
  • Tarzan: Professor Porter is an Unbuilt Trope. Instead of just being Played for Laughs, Porter's absent-mindedness comes across more like high-functioning senile dementia, and his tendency to focus on the irrelevant and inability to move outside his comfort zone repeatedly place him and his companions in mortal danger. For example, when Sabor decides to try to make a meal of him, he reacts by disdainfully tutting that someone really should get that lion back in its cage, and goes back to what he was doing.
  • Isaac Asimov's Robot Series:
    • "Galley Slave": : Simon Ninheimer, professor of sociology, attempts to invoke this trope when it comes to explaining why he "forgot" to give copies of his book to his colleague, Dr Baker, and the university library.
    "Simple forgetfulness. I didn't give the library its copy, either." Ninheimer smiled cautiously. "Professors are notoriously absentminded."
  • Anne's archeologist father in Agatha Christie's Man In The Brown Suit often forgets meals, doesn't understand money and eventually dies after he takes his muffler and coat off to go into a cave and forgets about them even when he comes home through the freezing rain.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003). In the first season Dr. Baltar appears to be this, with his odd habit of rambling on to himself. No one gives him more than a funny look as, after all, he's just the usual quirky genius, right? It's not as if he's got an imaginary Cylon in his head or something.
  • Chilean children's show Cachureos had an Image song named "El profesor distraido", roughly translated as "Absent-Minded Schoolteacher".
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor is prone to acting like this, depending somewhat on the incarnation. They're quite likely more intelligent than any human being in history, but prone to Buffy Speak, Disorganized Outline Speeches, Metaphorgotten, Cloudcuckoolander-ness in general, and can hardly pilot the TARDIS or even remember what its buttons and knobs do. Sometimes this is Obfuscating Stupidity, but often it isn't.
      • The Fourth Doctor was very prone to this. In one episode it was revealed that much of his education was via subconscious and sleep learning, so he knows a great many things but can't remember why or how he knows them, in addition to all the stuff he's picked up telepathically or just in the course of thousands of centuries of knocking about through the galaxies.
      • The Fifth Doctor combined this trait with unsually bad luck. He tended to have his head in the clouds and frequently forget (at times rather important) details about the time era/places he visited, resulting in him and his companions getting in hot water.
      • In one of the Eighth Doctor Adventures novels, The Multiverse is in danger and the Doctor is in his lab sorting it out. He leaves for a couple minutes and accidentally smacks one of his companions, Fitz, in the face with a door, giving him a nosebleed, and doesn't seem to notice. Four days later, the Doctor gives him a soiled handkerchief and apologizes, apparently unaware that four days have passed. As Fitz said in a much-earlier book, "Ladies and gentlemen, the mind of a Time Lord."
      • When the Tenth Doctor becomes human and goes into hiding, his new personality as "John Smith" is very much this, to the point where he suddenly forgets where he's going. This is partly due to his Wistful Amnesia.
      • The Eleventh Doctor is very much an absent-minded professor in the body of an energetic twenty-something. Case in point, this exchange from "The Beast Below":
        (the Doctor puts a glass of water on the floor and stares at it)
        Amy: Why did you do that?
        The Doctor: Don't know. I think a lot. It's hard to keep track.
      • The Thirteenth Doctor is incredibly forgetful and scatterbrained. A Running Gag is her awarding points to her companions, but she keeps losing track of how many points each of them has, and whether she was using points or gold stars. She also has a tendency to lose something, panic as she looks for it, and then realize she was holding it the entire time. Sometimes, she even fails to notice either the presence or absence of her companions, even if they've been in the room or missing for quite some time.
    • Professor Chronotis from the unfinished “Shada” is the king of this trope.
      The Doctor: What was his name, Professor? What was his name?
      Chronotis: Oh, if only I could remember. Oh dear, I've got a memory like a... Oh dear, what is it I've got a memory like? What's that thing you strain rice with?
      The Doctor: What was his name, Professor?
      Romana: Was he old? Young? Tall? Short?
      Chronotis: I remember!
      The Doctor: What?
      Chronotis: A sieve! That's what it is. I've got a memory like a sieve.
      The Doctor: Professor, what was his name?
      Chronotis: Oh, I can't remember his name.
    • Professor Yana from "Utopia" is this, as he gets distracted a lot and often spaces out when others are talking. However, this stops when he becomes the Master again.
  • In Ellery Queen, Ellery is a certified genius. He is also constantly misplacing his glasses, hat, keys. etc. and accidentally leaving things in the fridge.
  • Walter Bishop in Fringe is a sound example. He constantly forgets the name of his lab assistant, flies off on tangents to talk about foodstuffs he likes, and delivers rambling anecdotes that may eventually lead to him remembering vitally important high-tech principles, or may go absolutely nowhere.
    • "Safe": while investigating a series of bank robberies, it's more than halfway through the episode that he remembers that the boxes stolen were some of his inventions. It's later still that he remembers what's in them.
    • It seems to be largely a result of his mental illness, though -itself partly due to having parts of his brain cut out. His younger self and Walternate aren't absent-minded at all.
    • "Letters of Transit" takes place in an alternate future, and Walter has had brain damage which makes him even wackier then usual. When he has the excised parts of his brain restored to heal the damage, he becomes incredibly competent. And kind of a dick.
  • Grand Maester Pycelle on Game of Thrones invokes this trope in-universe to diminish himself as a threat.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent had a few as non-main characters.
    • Bobby Goren's mentor Declan Gage is made of this trope. His second and final appearance suggests that some of this is due to long-term brain damage, but based on the way he's described, he's had elements of this for his entire career.
    • The victim in "Palimpsest" is one as well. After his death, it's revealed that two of his friends had resorted to taking rare books from his collection and selling them in order to keep the victim's bills paid, because he had "no head for figures" and was unable to keep track of his own expenses.
  • Lois & Clark:
    • Generally, the only trustworthy doctors on this show are the forgetful ones. See: Dr. Samuel Platt from the Pilot, followed by Emil Hamilton in "That Old Gang of Mine".
    • Superman's recurring sidekick, Dr. Klein has his moments, too. The only way to ever explain why Dr. Klein does not clue into the fact that Superman and Clark Kent are the same person is that he is a total absent minded professor.
  • Daniel Faraday, Lost. The youngest graduate of Oxford in its history, professor in his 20s, pioneer in Time Travel... and he can barely remember anything. Until the Island heals him, that is...
  • Deconstructed with Chance in Noah's Arc. When he has moments of forgetfulness (which are more frequent than the rest of the cast, it initially is played for laughs. Later on though, the behavior is gradually linked to his stresses at home (especially regarding his husband and stepdaughter).
  • Both Charlie Eppes and Larry Fleinhardt of NUMB3RS are prone to this. Charlie's absent-minded moments are only occasional and usually a reaction to stress, but Larry is often prone to being so deep in contemplation of either physics, math or philosophy that he forgets what's going on around him.
    Larry: When you met me, was I coming or leaving the physics building?
    • He also apparently has so little sense of direction that it's a wonder he ever manages to find his way back to Los Angeles after he's been away.
      Amita: Oh, by the way, Larry called from his string theory conference. He was confused about something.
      Charlie: What, his double special relativity theory?
      Amita: No. Whether he was in St. Louis or Cleveland.
      Charlie: He's so geographically challenged. Where is his conference?
      Amita: Minneapolis. (Charlie shoots her an oh-my-god look)
  • Mr. Boynton on Our Miss Brooks is smart, but Oblivious to Love, his idea of a hot date is taking Miss Brooks to visit the zoo, and he endlessly panders to his pet frog McDougall.
  • The scientist in The Outer Limits (1995) episode "Double Helix". His son calls him out on being so focused on his research that he was never there for his family. The scientist is incredibly shocked when he finds out that his teenage son is dating a 30 year old woman.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode Second Sight includes a professor so absent-minded and such an Insufferable Genius that his wife uses a telepathic double to romance Captain Sisko to deal with his neglect. The professor was amusingly played by Richard Kiley, best known for portraying Don Quixote.

  • There's a dreadfully funny song by the Spooky Men's Chorale called Sometimes I Forget Things.

  • The first stanza of a poem from an old, out of print and almost certainly out of copyright British comic book annual:
    Professor Marshmallow, remarkable fellow,
    Knew everything, so it is said,
    But failed when it came to remembering a name,
    He couldn't keep those in his head.
He goes to a shop to try to buy something but forgets what he came to buy. After accidentally sitting in glue while searching in an attempt to remember what he wanted to buy and then becoming stuck to a chair, he finally remembers that he came to the shop to buy... a chair.
  • The protagonist of one the most popular Russian children's poems, What an Absent-Minded One by Samuel Marshak, puts on a frying pan instead of a hat, gloves in place of boots, ends up sitting two days in a detached train car and is shocked that he somehow got back to the same station after two days' traveling. He was based on a real-life physics and chemistry professor – who recognized himself no less.

  • Doctor Chronopolis from Red Panda Adventures.
  • Doctor Alexander Hilbert in season 1 of Wolf 359. This is revealed in the season 1 finale to be an act to divert suspicion from his actual charactization as The Unfettered, ready and willing to sacrifice as many people as necessary for his work. This trope is almost completely discarded from season 2 onward, with Hilbert quickly becoming a much darker character.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show: Dr. Bunsen Honeydew. In fact, he sometimes straddles the line between this and Mad Scientist. His inventions are often absurd, and tend to blow up in his face, or far more likely, the face of his hapless assistant Beaker.
  • Supercar: Dr. Horatio Beaker (no relation to the above), and (less often) his co-inventor (of the titular wonder-vehicle), Professor Popkiss. Beaker in particular is known for often humming and hawing for several long seconds before remembering the final word of the line he's in the process of, ummmmmm, ahhhhhh, ermmmmmm, delivering.

  • 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 (and that's if you're lucky and he doesn't just fall asleep halfway through a sentence):
    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?

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dr. McQuark in the Champions supplement "The Blood and Dr. McQuark". As an example, he often asks where his glasses are and his employees tell him they're on his forehead.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The trope is used to explain the difference between wisdom and intelligence.
    • There is also the "Absent-Minded" trait, which improves Knowledge checks, but penalizes Listen and Spot checks.
  • 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.
  • GURPS has the Absent Minded disadvantage, which is exactly what it sounds like. The descriptive text notes that it "is the classic disadvantage for eccentric geniuses".

    Video Games 
  • The Smart Guy Gale in Baldur's Gate III is the fantasy equivalent, as well as a Deconstructed Character Archetype as his story revolves around him dealing with the consequences of being the "high INT, low WIS" kind of person. His recklessness combined with being too smart for his own good endangered countless lives.
  • Creatures has a whole species of absent minded professors called the Shee. It's said that they likely invented the steam engine as an offshoot of an attempt to design a better way of brewing tea before they invented the wheel.
  • Luigi's Mansion: Professor E. Gadd is this, as emphasized in Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, when he lets King Boo escape by accidentally selling his portrait at a garage sale.
  • 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:
    "Dear Dr. Breen. Help! I've been taken prisoner by an alcoholic and a stereotypical absent-minded professor! Send Striders!"
  • 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.
  • Mewgenics: Dr. Beanies is the scientist that bestows you with a Starter Mon, and he can also be found in certain random events. One of these has him offer to heal your cats by using a machine he built- except he forgot which button to press, letting you pick between red and blue. Choose wrong, and it will have a negative effect instead. Not to mention the gratuitous and absurd animal experimentation.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2: Aldanon is the arcane version of one, being the only one that can really identify what your Plot Coupon actually is to prove his capabilities (as well as being able to hold to very valuable terrain in the middle of a Decadent Court of nobles that want it), but very absentminded, prone to irrelevant tangents in the middle of his speech and getting sidetracked by his own analogies and metaphors, coupled with some minor but visible memory issues. His servants are mostly there to keep him functional.
  • ''Pokémon: Some of the professors to fall under this category.
    • Pokémon Red and Blue: Professor Oak is so absent-minded he doesn't remember his own grandson's name, leaving it up to the player to remind him. This remains the case in the GBA remakes, but Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! reveals that it's actually a subversion: said grandson (who isn't your rival here, but instead a recurring NPC) exasperatedly interrupts the conversation to tell him no one thinks that joke is funny anymore and to focus on the task at hand.
    • Pokémon Gold and Silver: Professor Elm "steps out for a minute" while examining the starter Pokémon, just long enough for the rival to steal one of his Pokémon. His wife also states that sometimes he gets so wrapped up in his research that he Forgets to Eat.
    • Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire: Professor Birch, despite usually conducting his studies in the field, is ambushed by a Level 2 Poochyena, despite bringing three Pokemon of his own. In the remakes, he later gets chased by a Shroomish, the moving company's Machoke, and even his own wife, never realizing that they were never threats to him in the first place.
    • Pokémon Diamond and Pearl: Professor Rowan 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.(However, this is not the case in Platinum, where they're given to the player and rival instead).
    • Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: Jacq is one of the player's actual teachers rather than the main professor, but he tends to get overly-focused on his research and is easily distracted. He slips a user survey about the Pokédex onto his midterm exam (which Clavell apparently scolds him for), and he occasionally gets cut off by the bell because he got distracted and started rambling. His appearance also evokes this, given that his clothes and hair are very messy.
    • While not technically a professor, Warden Baoba of Fuchsia City's Safari Zone obtained the nickname "Slowpoke" due to his constant "vacant look" despite his vast knowledge of Pokemon.
  • Invisible, Inc.: Dr. Xu, supposedly. Central remarks in his bio that he "plays the Absent-Minded Professor character well", but can still be relied upon when it really matters. His lines and interactions with the other agents suggest that while he may overplay it on purpose, it's not entirely an act.
  • Assassin's Creed: Dr. Warren Vidic 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?
  • Chrono Trigger: Lucca 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 (1994) has absent minded Dr. Andonuts. When his son Jeff meets his father at his lab, Dr. Andonuts forgot that he even had a son.
  • Professor Harlod MacDougal from Red Dead Redemption is constantly tweaking from his heavy cocaine use.
  • In The Sims 3 you can apply a trait called Absent-Minded to an Inventor or a Scientist, resulting in this Trope.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Throughout the series, this applies to a startling number of magic users, particularly within the Mages Guild. While they tend to be incredibly skilled in their particular area of magical expertise, and can typically provide training to others in that area, they are almost comically inept in other phases of their jobs and tend to be completely ignorant of this fact. Additionally, the Mages Guild tends to have major issues with The Peter Principle when it comes to promoting members. Being skilled with magic does not automatically translate to being a skilled administrator, leading to many Pointy Haired Bosses in high-ranking positions within the Guild. When they became detrimental, they'd either be Kicked Upstairs and/or Reassigned to Antarctica to keep them out of them way.
    • Skyrim:
      • 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.
  • Dungeon Maker II: The Hidden War: Greg the apothecary is a brilliant and capable potion maker that even the royal alchemists can't keep up with, but he's also forgetful and silly. He even dresses the part: long, messy hair, button up shirt that's improperly buttoned, and dark gray lab coat thrown on as an afterthought.
  • Atlantis Underwater Tycoon: Absent Mindstein is described as being so absent-minded that he ends up inventing more whimsical but useless things than genuine life-improving things. He also apparently "left the keys to his time machine in the past." Which is probably why his main drawback is -10% Starting Funds for your Underwater City if you choose him.
  • Albert Einstein, like everything else in the Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series, is of course a hammy caricature of the man. His portrayal is that of a brilliant but scatterbrained scientist, especially in the second game. For instance, he keeps annoying Eva by asking her what all the buttons at her control station are for.
  • Max and the Secret Formula: Max's Uncle Pong, an absentminded genius of an inventor, has lost an important formula in his house and needs help to find it. The narrator goes on to note that "that's the way it is with inventors - they're geniuses, but they're also quite forgetful."
  • Uncle Albert's Adventures: Uncle Albert has a scientist side and is said to be absent minded by Tom, who was accidentally locked inside the album with the treasure by Albert.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • From The Onion: Cure for Cancer "Around here somewhere".
  • 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.
  • SCP Foundation, SCP-2099 ("Brain in a Jar"). SCP-2099 is is brilliant enough to regularly create new anomalous objects at will, such as a cannon that fires ninja robots. However, he is also quite forgetful and depends on his notes to remember things.

    Western Animation 
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers: Gadget is a Wrench Wench, a Gadgeteer Genius, and this. Sparky's a more traditional male version of this trope.
  • Futurama: Professor Farnsworth is also very old. Extra credit goes to the episode "A Big Piece 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, quickly creates a new invention (the smell-o-scope) to replace it, then only hours later... "Eureka!" "You built the smell-o-scope?" "No, I remembered that I'd already built it last year!"
  • Transformers: Animated: Professor Sumdac 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.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: Professor Calamitus is unable to finish anything, including his sentences. He has to kidnap Jimmy so that he can finish his inventions for him.
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: Professor Von Schlemmer fits this to a tee. It's even pointed out by Tails!
  • WordGirl: Steven Boxleitner seems to be this; at least before his experiment went horribly wrong.
  • Generator Rex: César is 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.
  • My Little Pony (original show): The wizard known as the Moochick is very knowledgeable to the point where he can have difficulty remembering a particular detail at first, like where he stashed the Rainbow of Light.
  • The Venture Bros.: In "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 names.
  • 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.
  • Dogstar: Ramon Ridley has his mind so focused on higher matters that he will teleport places without putting his trousers on.
  • Count Duckula: Dr. Von Goosewing is a ruthless but easily-sidetracked vampire hunter.
  • In Dexter's Laboratory Ego Trip Old Man Dexter is a much more brilliant scientist than the present-day Dexter, creating miraculous technology for the good of humanity. However, he suffers from poor memory due to his old age, and can't remember the details of the battle with Mandark, even though Mandark's Brain in a Jar is proof of the villain's defeat. Thus, when present-day Dexter arrives in his Time Machine, they both have to go to the actual time period where it happened (with Dexter's young adult self) to inquire with their middle-aged self.
  • Extreme Ghostbusters: Egon Spengler is this to the point where he relied on Janine's help even more than he did in The Real Ghostbusters.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes:
    • Hank Pym, starting out. He's more interested in tinkering with his insanely creepy-looking robots than paying attention to his super-attractive girlfriend (and insists his robot isn't creepy, just because he made its head look like an ant skull). As the first season goes on, this starts to fade... just not for the better.
    • As in the comics, Reed Richards is much the same, not noticing his wife Sue's sudden change in behavior. Which is because she's been replaced by a Skrull.

    Real Life 
  • 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."
      • That one is told about Wiener as well.
    • 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 for the large cat and one 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. note 
    • 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.
      • There is an identical story about G.K. Chesterton.
    • He also once called his housemaid to ask where he lived. He first pretended to be someone else out of embarrassment, but revealed himself when the housemaid understandably refused to relay the address to a stranger.
    • He once used a $1500 cheque as a bookmark, then lost the book.
    • He was occasionally seen walking down the street carrying a folded umbrella, in pouring rain.
  • John Nash, a Princeton mathematician. Good at what he does, but very strange (there's a book and an Oscar Bait movie, which he says bears little resemblence to his real experience). 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 co-author Evgeny Lifshits to meet a publishing deadline.
  • A story about Norbert 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!
    • Another story about Weiner; shortly after he moved house, when his daughter was still a little girl, his wife made him write down the new address. He then used the paper for calculations, threw it away once he'd finished and - unable to remember the new address - walked back to the old house. He saw a young girl there and started to ask her if she knew where the Weiners had moved to. She turned out to be his daughter, who his wife had sent there in the expectation that this would happen.
      • Allegedly, the daughter was later asked whether this was true, and she said that it was, except for the "failing to recognize his own child" part.
  • A certain professor at the University of Oslo in the late 19th century was on his way downhill to the university. As it happened, he had to walk against the wind. The man had to set his watch, and positioned himself with his back against the wind — away from the university. When he was finished setting the watch, he happily continued his walk... away from the university.
  • Ivan 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.
  • 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 without realising he hadn't yet put on his trousers.
  • This is commonly a characteristic of the INTP. The ENTP is also a lot like this, perhaps more so than 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?" After his death in a street accident, his father said "What was he dreaming of this time?"
    • He used to tell this story on himself. He and a couple of students were working something out on a blackboard in a second-floor classroom. They all lost track of time. The building closed for the night and the custodian had locked the door. They ended up climbing out the window and sliding down a drainpipe.
    • Pierre's wife, Marie Curie, could be like this too. Before her marriage, while working on two master's degrees (math and physics) simultaneously, she was ordered by her doctor to live with her sister and brother-in-law (also both doctors) so she'd have someone to remind her to eat. (Unfortunately they were not only party animals in their off hours but lived too far away from the school, so she didn't stay there for long but returned to her poverty-stricken garret.)
  • 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." note 
  • Charles Bunsen the chemist proposed to a girl who said yes. He then became so engrossed in his lab work for weeks on end that he forgot about her and his proposal. When he emerged and proposed again, she turned him down.
  • 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: The list includes liquefying varnish in a toaster oven, almost melting an aluminum Dutch oven through inattention, and rolling a tractor by trying to mow a too-steep slope. Again.
  • 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.
    • People whose IQ is in the top 2% have higher rates of ADHD.note  Some of them make it as professors.
  • 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.
      • The "genius and madness connection" trope may be overrated. While there may be some overlap, possibly even some causation, there haven't been enough empirical studies done yet.
  • The Oxford don William Archibald Spooner was notorious for this, to the point that Spoonerism is named after him. He was a bit annoyed by that and claimed that only one of the "spoonerisms" attributed to him was genuine — announcing the hymn "Conquering Kings" as "Kinkering Congs." But his other exploits, as recorded on the other wiki, are just as hilarious:
    • He was said to have invited a don to tea, "to welcome Stanley Casson, our new archaeology Fellow". "But, sir," the man replied, "I am Stanley Casson". "Never mind," Spooner said, "Come all the same."
    • Another story tells of Spooner preaching a sermon about St. Paul, but substituted the name Aristotle. When he finished, he came down from the pulpit, paused, went back up, and told his bewildered congregation: "Did I say Aristotle? I meant St. Paul."
    • A first-hand account from Reginald Coupland, then a student in College, describes an encounter with Spooner outside the Chapel. Upon seeing Coupland Spooner said, 'Mr Coupland, you read the lesson very badly'. Coupland replied 'But, Sir, I didn't read the lesson', to which Spooner said 'Ah, I thought you didn't'.
    • After World War I, Spooner once reportedly asked an old friend, "Was it you or your brother that was killed in the war?"
  • The mathematician Paul Erdős once asked another mathematician where he was from and on being told Vancouver said, "Then you must know my friend Eliot Mendelson." The reply was "I am your friend Eliot Mendelson." Though Erdős being famous for being jacked up on speed most of the time, it's only to be expected. The man once complained that while he's perfectly okay without meth, he cannot think about mathematics at all while sober.
    • Erdős only turned to speed in his 60s; before that he did just fine on coffee.
  • This trait occasionally goes for artists as well. Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg was once on a rowing trip With a friend, and while contemplating the nature, Grieg found a new tune, which he wrote down on a sheet of paper, put it beside him and forgot all about it. His friend then found the paper, memorized the tune and began humming it. Grieg responded by asking him where he had picked up that lovely tune... His friend informed him accordingly that he himself had written it down only moments before. Grieg was astonished.
  • Paul-Louis Courier had this reputation, especially as an officer in Napoleon's army. He was a renowned Hellenist, but he had an unfortunate tendency to lose everything but his manuscripts. Several of his letters describe his constant battle to find proper clothing after his luggage got lost or stolen; likewise, many letters from his friends often end with a reminder that he left some of his belongings at their house some months (or years!) ago and never came to take them. Not to mention that he became somewhat infamous among people of letters for having spilled ink on an invaluable 14th-century manuscript.
  • Vincent Schaefer was a chemist and meteorologist who was a seminal figure in the development of cloud seeding, but he was notoriously absent-minded. Once, he left a tip on a table… for his wife. If this sounds familiar to those who've read Cat's Cradle, that's because Kurt Vonnegut's brother Bernard was a colleague of Schaefer's.
  • Louis Braille, who as a Teen Genius invented the Braille tactile reading and writing system, could be like this. As a teacher at the French Royal Institute for Blind Youth, where he had been educated, he would drift off on preoccupations and worriesnote  to the point that he would fade out in the middle of a lecture until his students brought him back to the present. Forgetting to eat and having tuberculosis didn't help any.


Video Example(s):


Professor Mordin Solus

Prone to thinking out loud and singing Gilbert and Sullivan patter songs, Mordin is a brilliant scientist only *slightly* hampered by his eccentricity.

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Main / AbsentMindedProfessor

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