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Book and Media Reviews
February 7, 2007

Mad, Bad and Dangerous? The Scientist and the Cinema

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: John L. Zeller, MD, PhD, Fishbein Fellow, JAMA.

JAMA. 2007;297(5):533-537. doi:10.1001/jama.297.5.533

In news and public opinion, scientists are often considered a breed apart, arrogant, eccentric, bizarre, or godlike. Why are such depictions so compelling to a general audience? Conversely, why is the idea of the zany, absent-minded, professorial scientist so entrenched? Why does the public seem so suspicious of rapidly emerging science and technology? Taking a narrow focus through the lens of film history, Christopher Frayling examines one aspect of this complex phenomenon, reaching the unsurprising conclusion that distorted cinematic images of scientists may impede a realistic appreciation of the actual motivations and practices of scientific and technical professionals.