If you’re a fan of the Fox Network’s hot new show, Fringe, you will undoubtedly be familiar with the character of Dr. Walter Bishop. And if you’ve watched TV in the last 40 years, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the character of The Professor from Gilligan’s Island. Each of these men displays a knowledge of science far beyond that of any Nobel Prize winner, but who is the smartest? Let’s break it down into categories:
1: Ingenuity. The Professor wins this one hands down. Creating everything from allergy medication to a device that stops a volcano from erupting, the Professor shows his ability to invent practically anything (except a ship) out of coconuts and bamboo. Dr. Bishop is no slouch in this regards, but he has all the latest technology at his disposal.
2: Breadth of scientific knowledge. I call this one a tie. The Professor knows everything about virtually every field of science, from mathematics to robotics, but Dr. Bishop seems to be able to match him in this regard. Bishop also displays acumen in a wide variety of scientific disciplines, showing knowledge of mathematics, genetics, biology, and more.
3: Applied knowledge. Here Dr. Bishop wins one. On every show so far he has come up with a scientific solution to every problem presented. He explains the weird and unusual findings of agent Dunham then devises a way ferret out the answers that agent Dunham seeks. The Professor does well with what he has available, but his inability to build a ship or other rescue craft is inexcusable for a man of his purported intellect.
4: Creative genius. Again, Dr. Bishop wins this one, but only by reason of the scientific achievements that he made before being committed to an asylum. As of the most recent episode, much of his own research has been forgotten by him, but is evidenced by much of what occurs during the show. The Professor may be equal to Dr. Bishop, but not by the science he conducts on the island. There are hints in a few episodes of his many degrees and scientific genius in his pre-island days, but there is nothing substantial.
5: Intangibles. This one I would also call a tie. While The Professor boasts near-omniscient scientific knowledge and unbelievable creativity, given what he has to work with, Dr. Bishop has that pioneering scientific spirit that is always pushing the envelope and reaching out toward new knowledge.
Based on my admittedly unscientific criteria, it would seem as though Dr. Bishop is the winner in the brains category, even if his own brain is quite muddled. He also represents a fair amount of the comic relief in Fringe, whereas The Professor generally played the straight man on Gilligan’s Island. In the world of TV scientists, both The Professor and Dr. Bishop are delightfully entertaining, as well as scientifically erudite.