Tonight sees the season finale of Fringe, giving us one last look at the brilliant insanity of Walter Bishop. While we love Walter, we're not sure if it would be a good thing if he existed in real life — but there are plenty of fictional scientists we wish were for real. Both for their awesome inventions, and for their uncanny insights.
Here are 10 fictional scientists that would make the real world that much richer.
10. Miracle Max from The Princess Bride
Although he has the word Miracle in his name, it's made clear in both the book and the movie that Miracle Men are just the doctors of their day. They examine patients, gather information, and with that information they formulate a treatment plan. That treatment plan includes specialized ingredients, a delivery system, and aftercare - "He shouldn't go in swimming after for at least an hour." The difference? This doctor gives you pills that can bring back from the dead . . . with a chocolate coating. There are still medical miracles, but I find that chocolate coatings are rare these days. It's time to bring back miracle men, starting with Miracle Max. We need that kind of approach to medicine.
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9. Lex Luthor from the Superman Series
Okay. Let's establish which Lex Luthor we're talking about, because there are many versions. The one from the movies tends to be mostly into real estate, and we can live without that. The one from the TV series is more an evil businessman, and we've got those. But there's one from the comics who, while he runs a business empire, comes up with all kinds of incredible inventions and technologies, while directing the research of others. This is a really useful guy. At this point, many people might bring up the fact that he was a supervillain. True. But how much more evil was he than, say, United Fruit in the 1970s? If we're going to have evil businessmen, and it seems like we will have those, why not have ones that can also get a lot done for science? Besides, since there's no Superman in this universe, Lex might not go bad at all.
8. Karen Jenson from Blade
Karen Jenson is not an iconic scientist in any way. She was a regular doctor, living her life in what turned out to be a vampire movie. Karen gets bitten by vampires, kidnapped by the vampire-hunter Blade, and has garlic juice shot into her neck to stop the infection of, I guess, vampire virus. When Karen learns that they didn't give her the shot in time, and she's turning into a vampire anyway, she takes it pretty well — by coming up with a cure within a day or so. Technically, since she's just cured vampirism, no one needs Blade any more. They just need an epidemiologist and a bunch of syringes. Instead, the movie ignores this very important plot twist, in favor of Wesley Snipes and Stephen Dorf having a duel enlivened by CGI blood monsters. I like to think that Jenson then goes out, grabs a bunch of dart guns and canisters of her formula, and actually takes care of the pesky vampire problem, while rolling her eyes at the swordplay — but I didn't see the sequels. It's this kind of brilliance mixed with practicality that we need out here.
7. Elsa Kast from Splice
There are a lot of mad scientists who cackle with intensity or shriek about how they will accomplish what no one else dared. And then there are mad scientists like Elsa, who go about their business with a quiet intensity that hides a massive amount of crazy just below the surface. We at io9 always like to combat stereotypes, and Elsa shows that you don't need a Gothic cathedral and a loony laugh to be a mad scientist. That's not what it's about. Just dig in to your field of study until you've sinned against nature, and then unleash your extremely unstable personality on your living experiment. Do it all with just the merest hint of the roiling cauldron of emotional turmoil within. No camp needed. Just madness.
6. Dr. Gordon from Solaris
Both the book and film take place on a space station orbiting a mysterious planet. On the station, strange new humans appear, all having some strange, and often painful, connection to the occupants' pasts. When a psychologist goes to the station, his wife, who died by suicide, suddenly comes back into his life. It seems that every one of them has an 'other' on the ship. But Dr Gordon's other is never revealed. What is revealed is Gordon figuring out how to dissolve the 'others,' rigging up an escape pod when the station starts getting pulled toward the planet, and heading right the hell back to Earth. Don't get me wrong, I love a good meditation on love, loss, identity, and memory. It's just that I like living a great deal more. While most of the people on the station try to figure out exactly why this is happening and how to cope with these newly-created specters, she decides that it's time to bust these ghosts and get out. She's a little like Karen Jenson — but she has the smarts that tell her to walk away from a bad situation. While saving one's own skin doesn't seem like a technique that needs to be exported to the real world, a healthy understanding of priorities in a bad situation does.
5. Station from Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey
We first meet Station, a Martian, in Heaven, where it is confirmed as the greatest scientist that ever was. There are two good things about this. First, if anyone would know that with any degree of accuracy, it would be the eternal beings in the afterlife. Second, it's always a good sign when a scientist is recruited from Heaven. Divine judgment really weeds out the problem starters, you know? Station makes a couple of robots that not only are capable of kicking ass, but also have demonstrable artistic ability — meaning they have a kind of sentience that no one has been able to achieve before, and he does it all with stuff they pick up at a hardware store. That takes real ability. Also, who doesn't want a dead Martian scientist roaming around the Earth? Not having one seems like a lost opportunity.
4. Abraham Erskine from Captain America
Okay. Cards on the table. This guy is mostly up here because he's played by Stanley Tucci. Sure, he came up with a super-soldier serum has has apparently never been copied despite the fact that it has been nearly seventy years, the test subject left a ton of biological samples, and I have no doubt that the doctor himself left notes. Sure, he not only had the ability to produce the formula but also picked the perfect candidate for it (and it's rare that anyone gets to show up Tommy Lee Jones). But thanks to Stanley Tucci, Erskine had the power of the wry comment, the deadpan look, and the ability never to drink alone, while at the same time never sharing his booze. He's a scientist with a winning style. Mostly I want to meet him, so I can put him in a buddy comedy with Neil Degrasse Tyson.
3. The Ghostbusters from Ghostbusters
It's so hard to find good paranormal investigators these days. Some might say, even, that it's completely impossible to find good paranormal investigators, ever. That's why we need the PhDs of the Ghostbusters so much. If there is a need for paranormal investigators in this world, they will fill it. If there isn't a need for paranormal investigators, they will create an entirely new branch of science. Sure, they'll be frustrated that their branch of science doesn't go anywhere, but that's their problem, not ours. Should ghosts suddenly pop up, we'll have people qualified to deal with them. No matter what, we'll have a copy of Bill Murray. There's always room for a spare Murray.
2. Doc Brown from Back to the Future
Let's face it, he had his foot in the door the minute he committed to Einstein hair. After that, a house full of gadgets, a time machine in a car with doors that opened upwards, and a little light arms dealing was just gravy. He's the crazy, non-gropey uncle that we all wish we had. And then he made a train hover. Who doesn't want hover-trains?
1. Professor Hubert Farnsworth from Futurama
This guy really is the (mad) scientist extraordinaire. He's created a box with another universe in it . . . in every universe. He's cloned himself. He's had his heart broken by both a robot and a robot-maker. He's created an engine that runs at over one hundred percent power to go over the speed of light. Then there's the smelloscope, which has found a way to detect particles that can't travel across the vacuum of space and is therefore possibly the more remarkable thing he's ever done. And there is his interest in his many lengths of wire. Most of all, there's his single-minded commitment to science. This is the guy who solved the ultimate mysteries of science, in one episode, and fell into a deep depression because that meant he couldn't do any more scientific inquiries. I think he proved that he needs to be real when he explained the beauty of scientific aspirations with this phrase, "Nothing is impossible! Not if you can imagine it! That's what being a scientist is all about!" No, it's impossible not to put exclamation points on those sentences, and that, my friends, is why this is a scientist we need in the world.
Honorable Mention: Darcy Lewis from Thor
There have been many great scientists, but only one great science intern. Of all the many characters returning in the Avengers movie, the one I honestly hoped for most was Darcy Lewis, the intern who out-zapped the Thunder God. Sure, she was a political science major, but I wanted her and her mighty taser to return in the movie and maybe, just maybe, short out Tony Stark's suit and make him pee himself. In fact, I think she should get her own reality tv series, Intern With a Taser, and just bounce around the scientific facilities of the world, learning science and dealing with anyone who gets unruly. It would make for both educational and riveting television. Truly, this world needs a Darcy.