Mad Scientist
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Basic Information

This Character as Device Trope refers to scientists who are mad and engaging in science that is equally as mad. They are eccentric, bumbling, or possibly genuinely insane and can be benign or villainous. A Mad Scientist can range from Absent-Minded Professor to Evil Genius. Either of those character tropes can exist independently without overlapping with the Mad Scientist archetype, and a Mad Scientist doesn't have to fall into either of those categories either. The genuinely insane - as opposed to the merely personality disordered - can, of course, be extremely dangerous without being technically evil … where the sincerely deluded fit into that spectrum is anyone's guess.

It's also worth noting that a significant number of "mad scientists" are actually engineers, as evidenced by their tendency to build things rather than develop theories. There is, of course, significant overlap at some points.

Self-evidently a mad scientist requires a setting that at least attempts science (even if they call it "natural philosophy" or some similarly archaic term) and so is best suited for steampunk and later settings - clockpunk at the earliest. Around the clockpunk border, and earlier, this niche is occupied instead by mad wizards, alchemists and the like - or, in the worse sorts of fantasy tinker gnomes. Of course, in a dungeonpunk setting where the boundary between magic and science is deliberately blurred, the difference may not be obvious anyway.

When blurring the boundary, the madder sort of scientist may well apply science to the occult (the scientists from Ghostbusters spring to mind) or use magical techniques to short cut their research (a staple of Weird War 2 settings where unholy powers sell advanced technology to the Nazis). Where the Cthulhu Mythos is involved, it should be noted that, in that setting, there is, essentially, no boundary and the majority of magic is merely extremely advanced physics and applied mathematics.

Random Evil Scheme for your mad scientist to engage in:

Or, depending on what random link this generates, it may just be a field of mundane science you need to "Mad-ify".

Silicon-Based Life

by r_b_bergstromr_b_bergstrom 31 Aug 2009 21:27

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If that won't work for your plot, visit our list of pages tagged with "Science"


Tropes pertaining to the Mad Scientist's personality, characterization, or evil schemes:

Tropes of characters and things associated with Mad Scientists:

Famous Mad Scientists

Historical Mad Scientists

Fictional Mad Scientists

There are, of course, plenty more than this list, but these are not only iconic, they're also Public Domain Characters.



Game and Story Use

  • One of the most iconic character tropes, appropriate for a great many genres.
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