Hergé, creator of Tintin, introduces Professor Calculus: the deaf inventor

Professor Calculus, also known as Cuthbert Calculus, was one of the funniest characters in the world of Tintin. Known as Professor Tryphon Tournesol (meaning: Sunflower) in French, his character was hard of hearing, causing much hilarity as he misread conversations. For example: “fasten your seatbelt” is repeated as “a smear of paint?” (a paint stain). Calculus never admits to being deaf and insists that he is only hard of hearing in one ear in Destination Moon. In the Moon series of books, Cuthbert acquires a hearing aid that causes a change in character as he becomes more serious.

However, in later adventures, Professor Calculus loses his hearing aid and once again reverts to his old deaf self. Where he is often distracted but who invents many objects in the series. The most famous of these inventions are the one-man shark-shaped submarine, the moon rocket (it looks a lot like a V-2 rocket!), and an ultrasonic weapon (now used in modern warfare today) . Professor Calculus has a human side and tries to benefit the world with inventions such as a cure for alcoholism that makes alcohol taste horrible to the patient. In recognition of the contributions made by Cáculus anti-drinking tablets, General Alcázar named Cuthbert Knight Grand Cross of the Order of San Fernando with Oak Leaves in Tintin and the Pícaros.

Captain Haddock often hates these inventions (he’s a bit of a drinker himself!), though Calculus often gets this the wrong way around due to his deafness. The professor has a weakness: if someone (especially Haddock) calls him a goat. Or as Captain Haddock famously said in Destiny Moon “acting like a goat”, the mild-mannered Professor Calculus flew into a rage, giving rise to the famous reply “Am I a goat?”, which for Tintin fans is the stuff of legend.

Cuthbert Calculus is a strong believer in dowsing and carries a pendulum for that purpose. It’s hard to believe, but Calculus occasionally comments that he was a great sportsman in his youth, with a very athletic lifestyle. In Flight 714 he pretty badly demonstrates his former love for the French Savate martial art, which leaves the reader very amused.

Calculus first appears in Red Rackham’s Treasure and brought to an end a long search for a mad professor of sorts that had led to the creation of earlier characters such as Dr. Sarcophagus in Cigars of the Pharoh and Professor Alembick in King Ottokar’s Sceptre. The character was inspired by the famous inventor of the bathyscaphe, Professor Auguste Piccard.

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