In Red Rackham’s Treasure, Hergé introduces an endearing character who becomes close friends with Tintin and Captain Haddock for the rest of the adventures: Professor Calculus.
Professor Calculus is an eccentric scientist, engineer and inventor who is as clever as he is absentminded. Despite his very slight physique, he claims to have been a sportsman in his youth, leading Captain Haddock to mockingly refer to him as the “Olympic athlete.”
Although he is a capable scientist, Professor Calculus also practices the unproven method of divining using a pendulum. This mainly succeeds in infuriating Captain Haddock; however, though his odd approach does prove to have some merit in Red Rackham’s Treasure.
Hergé’s model for Professor Calculus was a Swiss scientist named Auguste Piccard, who was a professor of physics at the University of Brussels from 1922 to 1954. Professor Piccard became famous in 1931, when he took off in a balloon of his own design and traveled 10 miles up into the atmosphere, higher than anyone else had reached before.
Professor Calculus shares many character traits with the Swiss scientist, and even wears the same style of clothing as Piccard. The main difference between the men is in size: Professor Calculus is much shorter. As Hergé himself said, “I made Calculus a mini-Piccard, otherwise I would have had to enlarge the comic strip frames!”
Fun Facts about Professor Calculus
- Calculus is a secret romantic and pursues opera star Bianca Castafiore.
- Professor Calculus invents a rocket that can fly to the moon, but he has never learned to drive a car.
- The usually mild-mannered professor is prone to the occasional odd fit of anger, particularly when told he is “acting the goat” in Destination Moon.