The Anachronistic Genius

 
Last weekend's exposure to Rip Hunter comics from the 1960s left with with a bizarre observation, though maybe observation is not the right word.  In two separate issues the group of heroes must travel to the past, and specifically to seek out a genius from another time.  One of these was Da Vinci and the other was Galileo.  When the heroes encounter Da Vinci he has been able to use Renaissance knowledge of chemistry to create a weapon of mass destruction.  Galileo on the other hand is being visited so that he can provide extensive information on Jupiter which he didn't leave in his notes and he is shown using a robot which he can ride in.  The problems with this logic are kind of glaring.  Galileo would not have been able to build a functioning robot, especially so that modern scientists have a significant amount of trouble with this with a knowledge of modern science.  Equally so, while Galileo was a great astronomer, the telescopes he was using then could probably be replicated now with less than $100.   So as the modern scientists need his detailed sketches of Jupiter, it does not fit just how detailed they could be.   Equally while  da Vinci did have some chemistry training, it is not something which he was ever famous for.  Of course this is a campy comic book series and not very serious, but da Vinci still does show up in limited exposures as well in the modern day.  This can be in the Dan Brown book, as a member of the Illuminati in the Tomb Raider movies (I think this was the case) or in certain video games.  The idea seems to persist that da Vinci or others figured out stuff centuries ago which has laid dormant to the prying minds of modern science.  It is maybe an effective plot device, but one which comes down to a belief in science as something which it is not.  

4 Comments
4 Comments
Posted by DoomDoomDoom

Da Vinci and Galileo both pushed the boundaries for their time but I don't believe we've missed any profound aspects of their work.

I'm guessing your exposure was to Showcase Presents: Rip Hunter? I know nothing of the character really but I'm still considering picking this up, any good?

Posted by RazzaTazz
@DoomDoomDoom: It was actually the 29 issue series that came out of Showcase.  It is ok if you want campy style adventure, if you want something like modern stuff better to stay away I think. 
Posted by Delphic

I believe the use of historical figures in modern day fiction is more so for the conspiracy factor, rather than the campy style which is used in Rip Hunter. For example, In today's fiction figures like Da Vinci are always a part of some mysterious order. One example is that he provides designs and modifications to weapons used by a group of Assassin's striving to protect the free will of man kind, or he was a part of an order that knew the truth behind the life of Jesus Christ and in order to keep the world aristocracy from falling apart and people panicking he kept the secret. So now it's less of "they didn't share all their science", and more so, "he knew stuff he didn't tell anyone, let's find out what."

Posted by RazzaTazz
@Delphic: That could be considered to be equally an anachronism