“I’m sorry. It’s just that I didn’t want you guys to think I was stuffy. You know, no fun. All brain no penis.”-Val Kilmer, Real Genius.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away from when Sheldon Cooper and Co would roam the Cal Tech campus existed a character admired and imitated by intelligent virgins everywhere. Val Kilmer is a perfect blend of Tony Stark/Van Wilder as senior Chris Knight, attending a fictional California college based on Cal Tech, who is teamed with a fifteen-year-old freshman prodigy in desperate need of a real education. His next role as Iceman the following year was the complete opposite of the persona of Knight, showcasing his incredible range as a comedic actor in a lead role. My toughest professor in college received the same note, word for word that Knight handed to Dr. Jerry Hathaway. Well written, with clever one-liners peppered throughout, the film was based on the real laser discipline of the time and explored the line between science/philosophy, not forgetting to have fun and how being intelligent is a great thing. Below are a couple of other academics who were probably swirlied once or twice and are better men because of it.
Alan Turing: The man who now graces the Bank of England’s £50 note was instrumental in the Allie’s victory in Europe, cracking the Nazi’s Enigma code which led to the saving of an estimated 14 million souls and two more years of war. Turing and his colleagues at Bletchley Park intercepted thousands of messages intended for the Wolfpacks of U-boats, turning the tide of the Battle for the Atlantic and eventually the war in Europe.
Leonardo da Vinci: When I was 14, I took a class trip to France and saw the Mona Lisa. First time I was ever moved to tears by a work of art other than music that took me years to understand why. Incredible contributions to humanity besides his artwork included anatomy, engineering, geology, optics and architecture, his sketches of what would become the modern-day helicopter highlighted how he was truly five hundred years ahead of his time.
Nikola Tesla: Tesla not only came up (AC) alternating current but is also considered the father of wireless communications. He battled Edison for dominance of the electric market at the turn of the 20th century and was also rumored to be the true inventor of the X-ray, one of many patents stolen from him throughout his career. A biographical cameo in The Prestige, a history of racking up huge hotel bills then leaving, i.e. The Waldorf Astoria and New Yorker and Elon Musk’s behemoth company now ensure the name Tesla will last through the ages, even though most people today sadly don’t even know who he was.
Benjamin Franklin: Plenty of good reasons for this man to be on the C-note and the focal point of great hip-hop songs. Inventor, scientist, diplomat, writer, printer, publisher, statesman, baller, shot-caller, brawler. Franklin accomplished more in his 84 years here than most could even fathom in ten lifetimes.
Captain Joe Rochefort: The English weren’t the only ones with a codebreaker who changed the war as Rochefort deciphered the Japanese code that would ultimately lead to their downfall in the pacific, losing 4 aircraft carriers and hundreds of experienced pilots during one fateful day. The surprise attack dealt a blow to which they would never recover, avenged the lost sailors at Pearl and was the beginning of the end for the empire of rising sun. Often rocking a bathrobe, smoking constantly, and insisting all his subordinates called him just “Joe” at work, Rochefort proved his idiosyncrasies were well worth it as he went over the heads of his superiors and gained the trust of Admiral Nimitz. A disinformation campaign proved not only his genius, but that code name (AF) was in fact Midway Island. Sayonara Tojo.
Albert Einstein: Undisputedly one of the greatest minds and sense of humors ever as evident by the above photo taken at Princeton University after the 72nd birthday of the renowned physicist. The noble prize-winner that flipped Newtons Laws of Motion on their head was tired of taking pictures all night and the iconic shot was completely out of sarcasm to what would be considered the paparazzi of that time, proving that even kings of quantum physics can give a good raspberry when annoyed.
Galileo Galilei: The original guardian of the galaxy, the discoveries he made in astronomy were only possible because of his innovative genius in creating powerful telescopes to better understand the stars above. Put under house-arrest after refusing to not concede that the earth, not the sun, was the center of the solar system, and a stationary object, the Italian scientist couldn’t help himself and was heard as sarcastically saying after his forced recanting “and yet it moves…” Well played, sir.
Michelangelo: This dude and his awesome ninja turtle brothers Leo and Raphael were true Renaissance era icons. His Madonna, David and St. Peters still attract thousands a day, a lifetime of commissioned works displayed all over Europe. The Sistine Chapel was supposed to be an unfamiliar medium to the artist and thus a failure, as planned by a jealous rival Bramante, who recommended Michelangelo to Pope Julius II for the job. Only four years of inverted painting later, he unveiled 500 square meters of indefinable beauty proving his hands were truly touched by God. I’m not Catholic but The Creation of Adam, The Deluge and The Drunkenness of Noah make me want to be.
“When your smart people need you. You can use your mind creatively.”-Val Kilmer, Real Genius
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