Mad Scientist Archetype

Learn all about the mad scientist archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to the Creator archetype.

What is the Mad Scientist Archetype?

The Mad Scientist archetype is a villainous archetype, with a strong emphasis on similarities to the archetypal Magician of Jungian psychology.

This link means that the archetype is associated with qualities such as the desire to understand how and why things function and to develop the ability to make this happen.

However, where in the Magician this desire is usually fostered for the common good, in the Mad Scientist it is usually exploited by the individual for selfish, villainous or evil purposes.

Mad Scientist Archetype Characteristics & Traits

  • The Mad Scientist prides themselves on their specialist knowledge and skills, usually as the name suggests, within the scientific field.
  • However, they are not confined by moral or ethical boundaries in their use of such knowledge where other scientists or people would be.
  • This means they are willing to go beyond the normal bounds of science in order to pursue the next discovery, not willing to abide by the constraints which normal scientists follow.
  • The Mad Scientist finds the conventional methods in which humanity comes by its knowledge slow, frustrating and arduous.
  • They find the idea of bowing to such conventionality restrictive and as a result rebel, willing to use unconventional methods to achieve quicker and more spectacular results.
  • As a result, the Mad Scientist puts others around them at risk in their single-minded pursuit of knowledge and success.
  • Their influence can be corrosive on those in immediate contact with them, but also on wider society, should their wider excesses not be successfully hemmed in.
  • However, if the Mad Scientist can be moulded to work with society and for it’s benefit then they can achieve great good.
  • They are tremendously creative individuals, able to harness knowledge and energy which can be used to drive humanity forwards rather than to do harm.

Mad Scientist Archetype Examples

An example of the Mad Scientist archetype in literature is Victor Frankenstein in the 1818  ‘Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus’ by Mary Shelley.

The novel tells the story of Dr Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates and gives life to a monstrous, human-like creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment.

Having lost his mother to scarlet fever, young Victor has spent much of his life obsessed with science and how to impart life to matter, using this as a way to cope with the grief of his loss.

When Victor succeeds in giving life to his creation it’s appearance repulses him and he flees. Eventually Victor’s creation and his rejection of it causes him to lose everything and everyone he loves before he himself dies, and the creature himself commits suicide.

An example of the Mad Scientist archetype with a more positive outcome is the character of ‘Doc’ from the Back to the Future trilogy.

Whilst his creations and experiments cause chaos for Marty in the end his friendship with the Doc allows him to experience adventure and change the life of his family for the better.

Further Reading

Further reading on the mad scientist archetype includes:

  • Mad Scientist, Impossible Human: An Essay in Generative Anthropology – by Andrew Bartlett
  • Hollyweird Science: From Quantum Quirks to the Multiverse – by Kevin R. Grazier, Stephen Cass
  • Genius on Television: Essays on Small Screen Depictions of Big Minds – edited by Ashley Lynn Carlson
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