Mad Scientists

  • Stephen Webb
Part of the Science and Fiction book series (SCIFICT)


On 16 June 1816, Mary Shelley had a vivid ‘waking dream’1 about the re-animation of a corpse, a dream that led to her write what, in the opinion of many,2 is the first SF novel. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) is certainly science fictional: Victor Frankenstein, a man with scientific training, undertakes various laboratory experiments and succeeds in fulfilling his ambition of creating life from non-life. What could be more SF than that? Shelley established something else in her novel: the archetype of the mad scientist. Although Victor Frankenstein himself is a sympathetic character, his ambition leads him to experiment with activities traditionally forbidden by society—he decides to ‘play God’. Subsequent mad scientists might be of the certifiably insane, evil genius, or humorously eccentric variety—but the hubris of Victor Frankenstein set the pattern (Fig. 11.1).


Black Hole Large Hadron Collider Science Fiction Star Trek Absorb Carbon Dioxide 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



  1. Aldiss, B.: Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction. Doubleday, New York (1973)Google Scholar
  2. Asimov, I.: The first science fiction novel. Collected in: Asimov on Science Fiction. Doubleday, New York (1977)Google Scholar
  3. Asimov, I.: Asimov’s New Guide to Science. Basic Books, New York (1984)Google Scholar
  4. Asimov, I., Shulman, J.A.: Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations. Grove Press, New York (1988)Google Scholar
  5. Bostrom, N.: Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. OUP, Oxford (2014)Google Scholar
  6. Crichton, M.: Ritual abuse, hot air, and missed opportunities: science views media. Speech to American Association for the Advancement of Science, Anaheim, CA (1999)Google Scholar
  7. Drexler, E.: Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology. Doubleday, New York (1986)Google Scholar
  8. Dudo, A., Brossard, D., Shanahan, J., Scheufele, D.A., Morgan, M., Signorielli, N.: Science on television in the 21st century: recent trends in portrayals and their contributions to public attitudes towards science. Commun. Res. 48(6), 754–777 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Frayling, C.: Mad, Bad and Dangerous? The Scientist and the Cinema. Reaktion, London (2005)Google Scholar
  10. George, R.: Bring Back the Fish. (n.d.)
  11. Nouri, A., Chyba, C.F.: Biotechnology and biosecurity. In: Bostrom, N., Ćirković, M.M. (eds.) Global Catastrophic Risks. OUP, Oxford (2008)Google Scholar
  12. Phoenix, C., Treder, M.: Nanotechnology as a global catastrophic risk. In: Bostrom, N., Ćirković, M.M. (eds.) Global Catastrophic Risks. OUP, Oxford (2008)Google Scholar
  13. Snyder, L.A.: The Portrayal of Scientists in Science Fiction. Strange Horizons (May 2004)Google Scholar
  14. Yudkowsky, E.: Artificial intelligence as a positive and negative factor in global risk. In: Bostrom, N., Ćirković, M.M. (eds.) Global Catastrophic Risks. OUP, Oxford (2008)Google Scholar


  1. Asimov, I.: Liar. Astounding (May 1941)Google Scholar
  2. Asimov, I.: Lenny. Infinity Science Fiction (January 1958a)Google Scholar
  3. Asimov, I.: A Whiff of Death. Avon, New York (1958b)Google Scholar
  4. Benford, G.: Timescape. Simon and Schuster, New York (1980)Google Scholar
  5. Gunn, J.: The Listeners. Scribner’s, New York (1972)Google Scholar
  6. Herbert, F.: The White Plague. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York (1982)Google Scholar
  7. Narlikar, J.V.: The Return of Vaman. Springer, Berlin (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Sagan, C.: Contact. Simon and Schuster, New York (1985)Google Scholar
  9. Shelley, M.: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor and Jones, London (1818)Google Scholar
  10. Stevenson, R.L.: Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Longmans, Green, & Co, London (1886)Google Scholar
  11. Vonnegut, K.: Cat’s Cradle. Holt, Rinehart and Winstone, Berlin (1963)Google Scholar
  12. Wells, H.G.: The Island of Doctor Moreau. Heinemann, Stone and Kimball, London (1896)Google Scholar
  13. Wells, H.G.: The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance. Pearson, London (1897)Google Scholar

Visual Media

  1. Dr Who: [Television series] UK, BBC (1963–present)Google Scholar
  2. Forbidden Planet: Directed by Fred M. Wilcox. [Film] USA, MGM (1956)Google Scholar
  3. Metropolis: Directed by Fritz Lang. [Film] Germany, UFA (1927)Google Scholar
  4. Quatermass II: Created by Nigel Kneale. [Television series] UK, BBC (1955)Google Scholar
  5. Quatermass and the Pit: Created by Nigel Kneale. [Television series] UK, BBC (1958)Google Scholar
  6. Star Trek: Created by Gene Roddenberry. [Television series] USA, Desilu Productions/Paramount Television (1966–1969)Google Scholar
  7. The Quatermass Experiment: Created by Nigel Kneale. [Television series] UK, BBC (1953)Google Scholar
  8. Them!: Directed by Gordon Douglas. [Film] USA, Warner Bros (1954)Google Scholar
  9. This Island Earth: Directed by Joseph M. Newman and Jack Arnold. [Film] USA, Universal (1955)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Webb
    • 1
  1. 1.DCQEUniversity of PortsmouthPortsmouthUK

Personalised recommendations