Professor Challenger

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Professor Challenger
The Lost World character
Professor Challenger.jpg
Professor Challenger (seated) as illustrated by Harry Rountree in Arthur Conan Doyle's novella The Poison Belt in The Strand Magazine
Created by Arthur Conan Doyle
Gender Male
Nationality British

George Edward Challenger, better known as Professor Challenger, is a fictional character in a series of fantasy and science fiction stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Unlike Conan Doyle's self-controlled, analytical character, Sherlock Holmes, Professor Challenger is an aggressive, hot-tempered, dominating figure.


Edward Malone, the narrator of The Lost World, the novel in which Challenger first appeared, described his first meeting with the character:

His appearance made me gasp. I was prepared for something strange, but not for so overpowering a personality as this. It was his size, which took one's breath away – his size and his imposing presence. His head was enormous, the largest I have ever seen upon a human being. I am sure that his top hat, had I ventured to don it, would have slipped over me entirely and rested on my shoulders. He had the face and beard, which I associate with an Assyrian bull; the former florid, the latter so black as almost to have a suspicion of blue, spade-shaped and rippling down over his chest. The hair was peculiar, plastered down in front in a long, curving wisp over his massive forehead. The eyes were blue-grey under great black tufts, very clear, very critical, and very masterful. A huge spread of shoulders and a chest like a barrel were the other parts of him which appeared above the table, save for two enormous hands covered with long black hair. This and a bellowing, roaring, rumbling voice made up my first impression of the notorious Professor Challenger.

He was also a pretentious and self-righteous scientific jack-of-all-trades. Although considered by Malone's editor, Mr McArdle, to be "just a homicidal megalomaniac with a turn for science", his ingenuity could be counted upon to solve any problem or get out of any unsavoury situation, and be sure to offend and insult several other people in the process. Challenger was, in many ways, rude, crude, and without social conscience or inhibition. Yet he was a man capable of great loyalty and his love of his wife was all encompassing.[citation needed]

Like Sherlock Holmes, Professor Challenger was based on a real person — in this case, a professor of physiology named William Rutherford, who had lectured at the University of Edinburgh while Conan Doyle studied medicine there.[1][2]


By Arthur Conan Doyle[edit]


Short stories[edit]

By other authors[edit]

  • "The Footprints on the Ceiling": Jules Castier in his 1919 anthology of pastiches Rather Like. In the story, Edward Malone recounts how Sherlock Holmes was called upon to locate the vanished, seemingly kidnapped, Professor Challenger. The story also was reprinted in the anthology, The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes (1944), edited by Ellery Queen.
  • Sherlock Holmes's War of the Worlds: Manly Wade Wellman and Wade Wellman. A slightly anachronistic romp, in which Sherlock Holmes and Challenger oppose H. G. Wells' Martian hordes and one of Holmes' old enemies. Holmes is the hero, but Challenger plays a major part. It is mentioned that Challenger helped Holmes solve the case of the giant rat of Sumatra.
  • Osamu Tezuka published in 1948 a manga version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World. Tezuka's manga, however, is a Lost World unlike any other. Not an adaptation, this is a complete re-imagining of the story. There have been several other comic adaptations of Professor Challenger's exploits, but not too many and none that were particularly widespread and well known. Most notable is the Dell Comics adaptation of the 1960 movie version of The Lost World, as an issue of their Four Color series.[3]
  • Return to the Lost World: Nicholas Nye. A sequel set a year later than The Lost World, which almost ignores the dinosaurs in favour of a plot involving parapsychology, an extremely odd version of evolutionary theory, and ancient technology in the style of Chariots of the Gods. While Conan Doyle's Challenger is a foe of scientific fraud, this novel begins with him preparing a scientific fake.[citation needed]
  • Challenger, alongside Nikola Tesla, plays a major role in two of Ralph Vaughan's four Sherlock Holmes/H. P. Lovecraft crossovers, The Adventure of the Dreaming Detective (1992) and Sherlock Holmes and the Terror Out of Time (2001).[4][5]
  • "Sherlock Holmes in the Lost World" (2008) by Martin Powell in anthology Gaslight Grimoire (reprinted in Sherlock Holmes: The Crossover Casebook), in which Challenger is lost in the Lost World again and rescued by Sherlock Holmes. Challenger has a daughter who is also "Professor Challenger".
  • Dinosaur Summer: Greg Bear. Thirty years after Professor Challenger discovered Dinosaurs in Venezuela, Dinosaur Circuses have become popular and are slipping out of the spotlight. The one remaining dinosaur circus makes a bold move to return their dinosaurs to the Tepuye plateau. Challenger himself never appears, but the protagonist's son attended Challenger High School.
  • Theaker, Stephen (2000). Professor Challenger in Space. Silver Age Books. ISBN 0-9537650-0-8.  In this sequel Professor Summerlee, Lord Roxton and the narrator Malone accompany Challenger on a journey to the moon, in a desperate bid to save the people of Ell Ka-Mar, who have crowned Challenger their king.
  • Challenger makes a guest appearance in the 3rd Plateau of Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari's post-structuralist philosophical text A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, in which he gives a lecture.
  • Professor Challenger and his companions are said to play a role in the upcoming The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series. According to writer Alan Moore, Challenger had a lifelong friendship with the zoologist Dr. Dolittle.
  • The Gorilla Comics series Section Zero, written by Karl Kesel, featured a scientific genius named Titania "Doc" Challenger, implied to be Professor Challenger's descendent.
  • Cult Holmes: The Lost World: In this BBC 7 Cult Holmes[clarification needed] story, Holmes is investigating the damage done by Challenger in bringing dinosaurs over from the Plateau. Interestingly, Malone's account of events is referred to as if it had been the version of events in the BBC TV adaptation of The Lost World, rather than the novel.
  • In Los Sabios en Salamanca (The Sages in Salamanca), a Spanish short novel by Alberto López Aroca, included in the book "Los Espectros Conjurados" (ISBN 978-84-607-9866-8), Challenger and his friend Lord John Roxton meet professor Abraham Van Helsing (from Bram Stoker's Dracula) in Salamanca, and attend a meeting of the Sociedad Hermética Española (a Spanish esoteric society). In the story also appear other characters, as H.P. Lovecraft's Randolph Carter, and Spanish writers Francisco de Quevedo and Diego de Torres Villarroel.[6][7]
  • In the 1960 novel World of the Gods by Pel Torro (a psedonym of Lionel Fanthorpe), a malevolent shapeshifting alien takes on the physical form of Professor Challenger, believing him to be a real-life Earth scientist, and is then forced to remain in this form for the rest of the novel.
  • The third book in the Iris Wildthyme series by Obverse Books, Miss Wildthyme and Friends Investigate, begins with a novella entitled The Found World by Jim Smith, a pseudo-sequel to The Lost World featuring Challenger, Dr. John H. Watson and Dracula, among others.[8]
  • The third supplement for the Forgotten Futures role playing game is George E. Challenger's Mysterious World (1994), based on and including the Challenger novels and stories.
  • A descendant of Professor Challenger named Darwin Challenger is a minor character in Valiant's Turok Dinosaur Hunter comics, first appearing in issue #7. He bears a strong resemblance to his ancestor and makes numerous references to events in the Lost World.
  • Professor William Rutherford, real-life model for Challenger, is portrayed by actor John Sessions in one of the series of BBC Films titled Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes. The episode by Stephen Gallagher opens with the young Conan Doyle's attendance at a lantern slide lecture by famed explorer Everard im Thurn featuring the 'Lost World' plateau of Mount Roraima. The story goes on to hint at experiences that Doyle would later draw upon for the novel.


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the first person to portray Professor Challenger, dressing and making up as the professor for a photograph he wanted included in The Lost World's initial serialized publication in the Strand Magazine. The editor refused, feeling that such hoaxes were potentially damaging. Hodder & Stoughton had no such qualms and featured the image in the first book edition.[9]


  1. ^ pxxiii in the Oxford ed of The Lost World. William Rutherford (1839–1899), holder of the Edinburgh Chair of Physiology from 1874.
  2. ^ Arthur Conan Doyle 1930. Memories and adventures. Murray, London 1930. p32
  3. ^ Four Color #1145, August 1960.
  4. ^ "Sherlock Holmes Pastiche Characters – C". 2003-03-01. Retrieved 2012-08-11. 
  5. ^ "Sherlock Holmes Story Summaries – V". Retrieved 2012-08-11. 
  6. ^ "Los sabios en Salamanca [Relato Corto] | Original | Biblioteca | La Tercera Fundación". 2004-01-01. Retrieved 2012-08-05. 
  7. ^ "Anika entre Libros". Retrieved 2012-08-05. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ Carr, John Dickson, "The Many-sided Conan Doyle," in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Poison Belt Together with "The Disintegration Machine" and "When the World Screamed", Berkley Medallion Books, April 1966 (2nd printing, October 1969), p. 11.
  10. ^ Carr, John Dickson, "The Many-sided Conan Doyle" in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Poison Belt Together with "The Disintegration Machine" and "When the World Screamed", Berkley Medallion Books, April 1966 (2nd printing, October 1969), p. 12.
  11. ^ "Alien Voices' The Lost World". Retrieved 2012-08-11. 

External links[edit]