Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

THE Scholarly Web

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

THE Scholarly Web

Article excerpt

Weekly transmissions from the blogosphere.

Is "male, mad and muddle-headed" a fair description of the modern-day academic?

Ask a child how they imagine scholars and there is a fair chance you will be greeted with a similar vision - particularly if that child has a penchant for picture books.

Melissa Terras, professor of digital humanities in the department of information studies, University College London, has been studying academics who appear as characters in picture books, and in a post on Melissa Terras' Blog (http://ow.ly/tiXZR) concludes that they "tend to be elderly, old men, who work in science, called Professor SomethingDumb".

Professor Terras unearthed a cohort of 108 picture-book academics, comprising "76 professors, 21 Academic Doctors, 2 Students, 2 Lecturers, 1 Assistant Professor, 1 Child, 1 Astronomer, 1 Geographer, 1 Medical Doctor who undertakes research, 1 researcher, and 1 lab assistant".

"In general, the Academic Doctors tend to be crazy mad evil egotists ("It's Dr Frankensteiner - the maddest mad scientist on mercury!"), whilst the Professors tend to be kindly, but baffled, obsessive egg-heads who don't quite function normally."

They also work in a relatively small number of subject areas, the blog observes. "Most of the identified academics work in science, engineering and technology subjects. 31% work in some area of generic 'science', 10% work in biology, a few in maths, paleontology, geography, and zoology, and lone academics in rocket science, veterinary science, astronomy, computing, medical research and oceanography."

Not all the academics featured are humans, Professor Terras points out. …

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