Absent-minded professor  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The absent-minded professor is a stock character of popular fiction, usually portrayed as a talented academic whose focus on academic matters leads them to ignore or forget their surroundings.

The phrase "absent-minded professor" is also commonly used more generally in English to describe people who are so engrossed in their 'own world' that they fail to keep track of their surroundings. It is a common stereotype that professors get so obsessed with their research that they pay little attention to anything else.

The stereotype is very old: it was said that the philosopher Thales walked at night with his eyes focused on the heavens and, as a result, fell down a well.

Examples of real absent-minded professors

Isaac Newton, Adam Smith, André-Marie Ampère, Sewall Wright, Norbert Wiener, Archimedes, Kee Nam Cheung, and Albert Einstein were all professors considered to be absent-minded by their contemporaries – their attention absorbed by their academic studies.

Fictitious absent-minded professors

Examples in film of absent-minded professors are Professor Calculus from The Adventures of Tintin, "Doc" Emmett Brown from Back to the Future, and, of course, the title character in the film The Absent-Minded Professor and its less successful film remakes all based on the short story A Situation of Gravity, by Samuel W. Taylor, as well as Professor Farnsworth of Futurama. Professor Kokintz in The Mouse that Roared by Leonard Wibberley is an example from literature, while Professor Branestawm, created in the 1930s by Norman Hunter is an earlier archetype. Professor Caractacus Potts in the story of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang qualifies as an absent minded inventor. Multo, one of the characters in the hit series The Zula Patrol, is an example of an absent-minded professor. One in Television is that of Sheldon Cooper in the CBS television series The Big Bang Theory. Isaac Kleiner, from the Half-Life saga, is an example in videogames.

The "absent-minded professor" archetype is sometimes mixed with that of the "mad scientist", often for comic effect as in the Jerry Lewis film The Nutty Professor. However, the mad scientist archetype usually has malevolent connotations, the absent minded professor is typically characterized as benevolent.

The fictional absent-minded professor is often a college professor of science or engineering; in the fantasy genre, a similar character may appear as a wizard. An example of this would be the characterisation of Merlin in The Sword in the Stone - particularly the Disney adaptation.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Absent-minded professor" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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