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Professor Calculus

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  Summary  

Professor Cuthbert Calculus is a fictional character in The Adventures of Tintin, the series of classic Belgian comic books written and illustrated by Hergé. He is a distracted, hard-of-hearing scientist who invents many sophisticated devices used in the series, such as a one-person shark-shaped submarine, the Moon rocket and an ultrasound weapon.

Calculus first appeared in Red Rackham's Treasure, and was the end result of Hergé's long quest to find the archetypal mad scientist or absent-minded professor. Although Hergé had included characters with similar traits in earlier stories, Calculus developed into a much more complex figure as the series progressed.

  Biography  

Calculus is a genius, who demonstrates himself throughout the series to be an expert in many fields of science, holding three PhDs in nuclear and theoretical physics, planetary astronomy and calculus. He is also an experienced engineer, archaeologist, biologist and chemist. Many of his inventions precede or mirror similar technological developments in the real world . He seeks to benefit mankind through his inventions, developing a pill that cures alcoholism by making alcohol unpalatable to the patient, and refusing under great duress to yield his talents to producing weapons of mass destruction. Much of Calculus's more dangerous work is criticized by Captain Haddock, although Calculus usually interprets this the other way round: his deafness often leads him to misinterpret Haddock's words, preventing him from hearing his real opinion.

Calculus's deafness is a frequent source of humour in his interactions with other people, as he often repeats back what he thinks he has heard, usually in the most unlikely words possible. Additionally, he often diverts the subject of a conversation by responding to a misinterpreted remark. For example, "But I never knew you had..." leads Calculus to respond "No, young man, I am not mad!". In the same book he believes that Tintin and Haddock are talking about his sister, before remembering a few moments later that he does not have a sister. He is not perturbed by his handicap, even if it is a source of deep frustration to his friends. He himself does not admit to being near-deaf and insists that he is "only a little hard of hearing in one ear."

In the course of the Moon books, however, Calculus leads a team of scientists and engineers working on a major rocket project, motivating him to adopt an ear trumpet, and later a hearing aid, and for the duration of the adventure he has near-perfect hearing. This made him a more serious character, even displaying leadership qualities which had not been shown before or since. However, after completing the journey to the Moon, Calculus discarded his hearing aid, forcing his friends to readjust to his hearing impairment (aside from one panel in The Castafiore Emerald, when Tintin is seen speaking to him through his ear-trumpet); this restored the humour surrounding him, though it could be that he finds his deafness useful since it enables him to focus on his work.

Calculus maintains a laboratory at Marlinspike Hall, in which he conducts various experiments. He is fairly protective of his work, on occasion hiding his scientific endeavours from Tintin and Haddock . His lab is also stripped of all its apparatus in the same book. On an earlier occasion, during his efforts to find an antidote to Formula Fourteen in Land of Black Gold, Calculus almost destroyed half of Marlinspike in an explosion.

Although generally a mild-mannered figure, Calculus flies into an uncharacteristic rage if he feels insulted or ridiculed. He is especially provoked if he ever hears the Captain call him a "goat". On one famous occasion in Destination Moon, he displays uncontrollable ire ("Goat, am I?") when an irritated Haddock accuses him of "acting the goat" ("acting like a goat" in the Golden Press American English translation) by attempting to build a Moon rocket. His subsequent tirade and blatant disregard for security terrifies the usually ebullient Captain; he even lifts the director of security barring his way onto a coat hook. Another occasion is in Flight 714 when, due to some misunderstanding, he physically assaults Laszlo Carreidas and has to be held back with great effort by Haddock and Tintin. In the same book, despite his deafness, he hears Captain Haddock tell him that he's "acting the goat", but Haddock quickly prevents the severe reaction from occurring quickly. Despite his gentle nature, Calculus is rather sensitive about his work and does not appreciate being ridiculed or belittled for his scientific efforts.

In spite of all this, his friends stick by him come what may. Haddock invited him to stay at Marlinspike Hall after Calculus discovered it is the captain's ancestral home and bought it in his name thanks to money he had earned through selling the patent for his shark-submarine. He did this because Haddock and Tintin had provided him with the opportunity to test the submersible when they were searching for Red Rackham's treasure. Tintin and Haddock crossed the world on at least two occasions in order to save him from kidnappers.

He occasionally comments that he was a great sportsman in his youth, with a very athletic lifestyle. He is a former practitioner of the French martial art savate, although a demonstration in Flight 714 shows him to be a bit rusty.

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  Sources

Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Professeur Tournesol", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.