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Origins of "Mad Scientist"
Bar Harbor
alexx_kay
So, as mentioned, I've been watching a lot of classic Warner Brothers cartoons. Two of them so far have prominently featured the phrase "Evil Scientist", where I would expect to see the term "Mad Scientist". Perhaps these cartoons predate the popularity of the term? Time for some research...

The *trope* of the Mad Scientist first gains mainstream cachet (I would argue) with James Whale's 1931 film of Frankenstein. One could make reasonable claims for antecedents going as far back as Daedalus, of course. But the *term* "Mad Scientist", or at least its common usage, seems to significantly postdate that.

Some early googling turned up the page Possible origin for the Mad Scientist, which looked promising. And while it is a worthy entry in the history of the trope, an 18th century poet calling someone a "mad Mathesis" is just not what I'm looking for.

Google ngrams gave some interesting, if general, results, showing that the term started its near-asymptotic rise back around 1940.

Further searching in google books seemed fruitful, and yielded this story from a Railway magazine of 1891. Being the only appearance of the phrase in the story, this might actually be the first usage! A "mad scientist" turns up in an 1897 history of Indiana. A 1901 literary journal uses the term somewhat disparagingly, but not, I think, as a well-known cliche just yet." Some sort of Teachers publication from Columbia University gives us a "mad" scientist in 1900.

In 1908, a novel comes out: The Mad Scientist: A Tale of the Future.

By 1928, Punch can refer to "our old stage and novelette friend the mad scientist". So the phrase was clearly well-established in literary circles by then.

IMDB shows that the phrase shows a 1963 TV cartoon titled "Mad Scientist Gets Madder", but I'm sure there must be earlier examples out there. Anyone got any insights into when the phrase was fisrst used in movie or television?

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You seem to have found an earlier instance than the Oxford English Dictionary records (1893). Here's their definition and first recorded instance:

mad scientist n. a scientist who is mad or eccentric, esp. so as to be dangerous or evil: a stock figure of melodramatic horror stories; freq. attrib.

1893 Newark (Ohio) Daily Advocate 11 July 6/3 Nerving myself for the blow, I felled the mad scientist dead at my feet.

Of course, as you say, the trope is much older: Victor Frankenstein or Hawthorne's Rappaccini are obvious examples.

Oops. The OED's example IS your 1891 story from Railway magazine. Must have been reprinted--maybe it's even older.

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