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10 Brilliant Scientist Who Misused Their Power

By Ken Pasini     February 25, 2010

10 Brilliant Scientist Who Misused Their Power
© Mania/Bob Trate


Literature and cinema have long held a fascination for scientists, doctors and insanely brilliant minds that are either bent towards a twisted agenda, or consumed by their own intellect. Mania delves into these works, and offers this latest list of what we consider to be the most misguided and diabolical of these fascinating characters.

10. Dr. Moreau

The enigmatic character at the heart of this H.G. Wells classic, Dr. Moreau exemplifies the hazards of genius overshadowed by obsession, and the intoxicating effects of power. Though difficult to sympathize with Dr. Moreau’s motivations, Marlon Brando’s interpretation of the character in the 1996 adaption entices the audience to understand his perspective, as he continues to populate his island. Seemingly oblivious to the cruelty of his actions, he envisions himself as a father or a god to his half-human/half-animal family.   


9.  Dr. Strangelove

Absolutely off-the-hook insane, Dr. Strangelove is the respected scientific advisor to the president of the US (also played by Peter Sellers in the movie). He suffers from ‘alien hand syndrome,’ which he comically battles throughout the film. His many eccentricities and Nazi underpinnings are evident in virtually every scene, with the characters madness escalating as the film nears its climax.    

8. Dr. Doom

Probably the most developed character on our list, Dr. Doom has enjoyed over 40 years of continuous development in Marvel Comics. One of the few minds equal in sheer brilliance to Reed Richards, Doom is an insanely jealous, emotionally and physically scared megalomaniac, who wants nothing short of world domination. With occasional demonstrations of nobility and mercy, he is most often a cunning, villainous adversary.   

7. Dr. Jekyll

This literary classic by Robert Louis Stevenson has served as inspiration for many characters and has been adapted into several films. The Doctor’s personality disorder swings between a morally sound, well respected, but somewhat repressed Doctor Henry Jekyll, and the far more sinister personality traits of Mr. Edward Hyde. Dr. Jekyll concocts and administers to himself a potion which causes him to transform his carefully controlled persona to that of his much darker ‘inner’ self. The ingredients of the transformative elixir are never revealed, but most anyone who’s ever chased a worm to the bottom of a tequila bottle knows all too well the power of this potion. Mr. Hyde’s increasingly dominant personality is revealed each time Dr. Jekyll succumbs to the temptation of the elixir, with more savage results than the time before. 

6. Dr. Sebastian Caine

The Invisible Man,a fascinating character often portrayed as tragic, the 2000 movie Hollow Man positions Dr. Sebastian Caine as a self-centered jerk, an absolute genius molecular scientist who leads a team of young minds in a quest to develop an invisibility drug for the US military. When the project is threatened, he administers the breakthrough drug to himself, resulting in success. Unfortunately, the team never developed a serum to reverse the effect. The loose moral fabric that held Caine’s personality in check disappears as quickly as his pigmentation, and he spends the remainder of the film devolving from one cruel act to the next, ultimately adding rape and murder to his resume.

5. The Mantle Brothers

From Dead Ringer, Jeremy Irons convincingly plays identical twin gynecologists Elliot and Beverly Mantle in this David Cronenberg thriller. The brothers are quite close, with Elliot being the dominant, aggressive, more gregarious of the two. He preys on women patients of the clinic, at first seducing them and then passing them onto his passive brother. The women however, have no idea they’ve been ‘demoted’ to his brother, as the Mantle’s keep their identical twin tag-team a secret. Things become complicated when Beverly becomes smitten with new patient Claire, ahead of Elliot’s usual ‘first dibs.’ Misplaced jealousy of Claire’s assistant sends Beverly into depression, addiction, and perversely horrific fantasies, causing him to lose his esteemed job at the hospital where they work. The symbiotic relationship between the two brothers causes Elliot to soon follow Elliot’s downward spiral into madness, both moving towards fulfilling their fantasies with ever more tragic results.

4. Dr. Frankenstein

Arguable the most recognizable name on this list, Dr. Frankenstein has been portrayed as a tragically obsessed doctor in the midst of a quest to create life, or as a mad scientist with diabolical intentions. While the former interpretation is probably more accurate, his creations macabre assemblage of pilfered body parts often suggests the latter. In either case, the good doctor finds success the moment his monster breathes life, but quickly discovers regret at its hand. In some respects a retooling of the classic “Moby Dick” tale, Dr. Frankenstein must struggle with having to rid the world of his miraculously horrific patchwork man.

3. Dr. Fu Manchu

An insidiously evil villain who’s developed a fountain of youth elixir which greatly expands his lifespan, Dr. Fu Manchu harnesses the power of ancient mysticism and modern sciences, to advance his nefarious agenda. Created by Sax Rohmer in 1912, the character has evolved in print and cinema throughout the 20th century, but has retained the power of hypnotism in most of these incarnations. His goal is to completely eradicate Western culture in place of that of his beloved Eastern ways, and establish himself as the ruler of all.

2. Professor Moriarty

A well-educated mathematical genius, the professor was the godfather of London’s crime syndicate during the late 19th century. Considered to be Sherlock Holmes most capable adversary, he possessed extraordinary mental powers, but suffered from “tendencies of the most diabolical kind.”   Arthur Conan Doyle modeled Professor Moriarty after the real-life Adam Worth. 

1. Dr. Nick Cavanaugh  

In Boxing Helena, Julian Sands plays a successful surgeon who is transfixed upon a woman whom he once had a relationship with. He cannot imagine life without her, and embarks upon a novel plan to captivate her affections, which is systematically rejected. Through a bizarre turn of events, Helena is involved in an accident very near the doctor’s home, where he absconds her to ‘nurse’ her back to health. This involves removing her legs and holding her captive. He eventually removes her arms as well. Helena, far from helpless, actually dominates their odd relationship, eventually returning his affections. There is a mind blowing twist at the end (which we won’t reveal here), but the movie is about as demented as they come.
We’ve enjoyed compiling this list of disturbed, demented, or all together crazed masterminds, but the list is certainly not exhausted. Many started as candidates, but had to whittle away to make press. Our intent was to present our top picks, and leave a little ‘meat on the bone’ for our loyal readers. So whip up your favorite potion, venture into your dark retreat, and start smacking some keys. We’re anxious to see what you Maniacs come up with.
One of our favorite entries was The Island Dr. Moreau? If you loved that book or movie, you should read 10 Other Islands Besides Shutter Island Not Worth Visiting.  When Scientist go mad and go into full diabolical mode, they cause havoc to the city. Much like  9 Cities Hollywood Makes Look Like Hell.  They're worth a read.

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Showing items 1 - 10 of 25
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dnbritt 2/25/2010 4:08:24 AM

Um...Dr. Lecter?

marcd30319 2/25/2010 4:38:35 AM

Um...Lex Luthor from the Golden and Silver ages?

Wiseguy 2/25/2010 6:02:29 AM


Norman Osborne


Henry Pym

The entire Squadron Supreme in their first maxi-series
Except for Nighthawk, he quit the the team once they embarked on their plans

cinemaman72 2/25/2010 6:04:56 AM

 No Otto Octavious??? No Victor Freeze? Come on man!!!!

ScoobyDoom 2/25/2010 6:24:35 AM

Doctor Demento...oops wrong list.  I agree with Hannibal Lector's nomination, but don't forget Vincent Price as Dr. Phibes.  Herbert West (Re-Animator), Dr. Pretorius (From Beyond), or Dr. Satan (House of 1000 Corpses) could be other candidates.  I'm sure there are quite a few more.

wraith729 2/25/2010 7:06:28 AM

#5 - Isn't being a man named Beverly enough reason to go insane? 

#3 - Not only that but he's left a permanent mark on the mustache world.

Rheul_home 2/25/2010 7:11:08 AM

I loved Boxing Helena. I remember seeing it in the theatre and people walking out because it was just too nuts for them. Ill have to rent it now... Dr Impossible for the fantastic novel by Austin Grossman "Soon I will be Invencible" deserves a nod on this list. If you havent read it check it out.

Walker 2/25/2010 7:21:25 AM

 Dr. Moreau: The Original Furry

hanso 2/25/2010 7:34:51 AM

What about the one that makes you feel alright?  He's the one they call, Dr. Feelgood!

FerretJohn 2/25/2010 8:17:13 AM

I'd think Hannibal Lecter woulda been an easy #1.  Without him anywhere on here the list is meaningless.

And what about Dr. Teeth.  That psycho always playing the piano and keeps a savage Animal barely contained on a leash!

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