Explainer: The 10 greatest fictional inventors of all time

  • Image: The 10 Greatest Fictional Inventors of All Time
    Image courtesy Gizmodo

    Eureka has been Giz's celebration of inventors of all stripe, from Tesla to Popeil. But some of the most memorable inventors of our time were actually invented themselves. Here are ten fictional innovators near and dear to our hearts.

  • Q

    Image: Q
    Image courtesy Gizmodo

    Who: Major Boothroyd, MI6 Quartermaster, Q was responsible for keeping James Bond one laser watch ahead of the bad guys.

    Greatest invention: Every would be spy has their favorite Q contraption, but the remote control BMW 750iL, which Bond could not only start but operate from his cell phone, led to the best backseat driver chase scene of all time. The flip-open cell phone that served as the car's remote was actually a concept by Ericsson, and they used elements of its design for a real handset they sold some years later.

    Image: Lotus Espirit Submarine Car from The Spy Who Loved Me
    Image courtesy Gizmodo

    Other noteworthy Q-nnovations include the Lotus Espirit Submarine Car from The Spy Who Loved Me, the Boombox Rocket Launcher from The Living Daylights and the Wet Bike from the Spy Who Loved Me, a Jet Ski-like craft that dazzled moviegoers in an era before there were Jet Skis.

  • Dr. Robotnik

    Image: Dr. Ivo Robotnik
    Image courtesy Gizmodo

    Who: Dr. Ivo Robotnik, Sonic the Hedgehog's egg-shaped nemesis.

    Greatest invention: Metal Sonic, a robotic version of Sonic that was charged with going back in time to do dirty, destiny-changing deeds for his creator, Dr. Robotnik. Metal Sonic was as fast, if not faster, than Sonic himself and had the benefit of myriad technological enhancements, such as a abdominal laser cannon and built-in force field device.

  • Doc Brown

    Image: Doctor Emmett Lathrop Brown
    Image courtesy Gizmodo

    Who: Doctor Emmett Lathrop Brown, an eccentric physicist based in Hill Valley, California.

    Greatest invention: That huge wall-sized guitar amp that knocks Marty McFly on his ass? NO! The flux capacitor, the core component of a machine that allowed Brown to travel through time. Brown came up with the idea of the capacitor on November 5, 1955, and worked tirelessly for the next 30 years developing it into a working time machine. The capacitor, which requires 1.21 Gigawatts of electrical power to function, was first implemented in a customized DeLorean and later, or maybe earlier?, in a 19th century train.

  • Brain

    Image: Brain, or Biological Recombinant Algorithmic Intelligence Nexus
    Image courtesy Gizmodo

    Who: Brain, or Biological Recombinant Algorithmic Intelligence Nexus, a genetically modified lab rat bent on taking over the world.

    Greatest invention: Brain's schemes for world domination were manifold, though one particularly ambitious effort was based around a device called the Infindibulator. In Brain's words:

    "Once we construct a superconductive magnetic Infindibulator, the world will be ours! ... By using the infindibulator to deplete hydrogen and promote gravitational collapse, we will produce a magnetic charge from the center of the Earth so strong that every person who has loose change in their pockets will be magnetically drawn to the ground and stuck there!"

  • Wayne Szalinski

    Image: Wayne Szalinski
    Image courtesy Gizmodo

    Who: Wayne Szalinski, a struggling suburban inventor and father of two.

    Greatest invention: The Electro-Magnetic Shrink Ray, a volatile high-energy device capable of shrinking matter. Though Szalinski was unable to convince a symposium of scientists that his invention was viable, the device was triggered by an errant baseball and accidentally shrunk Szalinski's children, as well as his neighbors', to a quarter of an inch size. After that episode was resolved, Szalinski added a large red safety button to the Ray, though it did little to prevent further shrinking hijinks.

  • Dr. Horrible

    Image: Dr. Horrible
    Image courtesy Gizmodo

    Who: Dr. Horrible, an fledgling supervillain and aspiring member of Bad Horse's Evil League of Evil.

    Greatest invention: The Freeze Ray, which is not a death ray nor an ice beam, can stop time, allowing Dr. Horrible to engineer the perfect romantic encounter. That of course being an important step in his ultimate project of ruling the world.

  • Tony Stark

    Image: Tony Stark
    Image courtesy Gizmodo

    Who: Tony Stark, a wealthy industrialist whose expertise in engineering is matched only by his lovable sass.

    Greatest invention: The Iron Man Armor, a weapon-laden exoskeleton first conceived during his time spent in captivity at the hands of a terrorist organization in Afghanistan. Though, many versions of the Iron Man Armor were created, the are defined by palm-embedded repulsors and jet-boots, effectively allowing Stark to fly. Later, more advanced iterations of Stark's armor were powered by a high-yield arc reactor.

  • Jigsaw

    Image: Jigsaw
    Image courtesy Gizmodo

    Who: John Kramer AKA the Jigsaw Killer, a civil engineer who specialized in the construction of elaborate death traps late in his life.

    Greatest invention: Not applicable.

  • Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts

    Image: Self-operating napkin
    Image courtesy of Gizmodo

    Who: Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts, a mustachioed American inventor from the early 20th century who specialized in exceedingly complex machines that accomplished trivial tasks.

    Greatest invention: Butts is best known for his Self Operating Napkin, a contraption that a diner would wear around his head to facilitate automatic chin-wiping. Butts described its function thusly:

    Raising spoon to mouth (A) pulls string (B), thereby jerking ladle (C), which throws cracker (D) past parrot (E). Parrot jumps after cracker, and perch (F) tilts, upsetting seeds (G) into pail (H). Extra weight in pail pulls cord (I), which opens and lights automatic cigar lighter (J), setting off skyrocket (K), which causes sickle (L) to cut string (M) and allows pendulum with attached napkin (N) to swing back and forth, thereby wiping off your chin.

  • Tom Swift

    Image: Tom Swift
    Image courtesy Gizmodo

    Who: Thomas Swift Jr., a precocious teenage tinkerer with little formal education.

    Greatest invention: The Giant Telescope, a pioneering stargazing device made possible by a rare mineral discovered in a meteorite. Swift discovered the meteorite on an expedition in South America, and quickly observed the unique optical qualities of the mineral it contained. Swift used the green stone, which turned invisible when exposed to an electric current, in a 10 meter telescope, and the mineral made it powerful enough to read, he suggested, a telescope on the planet Mars.


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