Random AsidesScience

Which Scientist Would Win in a Fight?

Assume each person is in his or her prime. Each scientist can only use powers/abilities/weaponry associated with/discovered by/invented by him or her. The scientist’s known general demeanor should be considered — for instance, a feisty person would probably have the advantage over a sullen shut-in. No holds barred.

I’ll offer the match-up and you guys fight it out in the comments. I might update this post with a new duo if the discussion reaches a conclusive winner. I’ll start with some of my favorites. Ready?

EDIT: All finished! Our three winners were Franklin, Curie, and Goodall. See the comments for the details of how they won, and to continue these very important debates.

Finished Bouts:
Tycho Brahe vs. Benjamin Franklin (WINNER)

Louis Pasteur vs. Marie Curie (WINNER)

Jane Goodall (WINNER) vs. Margaret Mead

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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  1. The lightning would just bounce off Brahe’s silver and gold nose. Meanwhile Franklin would have to contend with Brahe’s elk and crazy dwarf.

  2. Yea. I would think lighting is the ultimate nemesis for someone with a metal nose.

    Of course Ben Franklin stands a pretty good chance of killing himself playing with kites during a thunder storm. That and he was somewhat of a ladies man.

    Tycho might achieve a no score win by just staying out of the way until Franklin dies of a combination of syphilis and electric shock.

  3. Supernova SN-1572. I think that makes poor Ben’s widdle bolt of wightning seem like the electric pilot in my gas cooker.

    Tycho wins.

    (Alas, even though as a Philadelphian, I should support Franklin….)

  4. I think more people have been killed by Franklin’s Frying Pan than Supernova SN-1572.

  5. Protesilaus, interesting point — I agree that each person’s total real-life death count should be taken into account.

    That said, Ampeals makes a very good point of bringing up Tycho’s midget and elk. Those are two sidekicks that would certainly come in handy during a fight, and the midget’s low height would help against the lightning.

  6. Damn, if that has to be taken into account, I would have to deduct a bit off of Franklin because the medical catheter has probably saved a lot of lives.

  7. Tycho Brahe’s elk is not strong or epic enough. Though it died in a pretty awesome way.

    “Apparently during dinner the elk had drunk a lot of beer, fallen down the stairs, and died.”

    I have to argue, however, that Tycho Brahe does NOT have the power to harness the wonders of supernovae. (Neither do current astronomers, but that’s beside the point.) His powers are mainly those of observation, which is about as useful as growing your nails at will.

    On the other hand, Ben Franklin knew how to harness electricity–and as someone pointed out, zap off Brahe’s nose. And he’d probably have lots of 100 dollar bills at his disposal to pay for many ninja assassins to help him eliminate Brahe.

  8. Well, according to Doctor McNinja, Ben Franklin’s clone invented an immortality formula. So I’m going with Ben on this one.

    But, then again, in On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Tycho Brahe shows impressive prowess with a Thompson submachine gun. But. I… I don’t think it’s the same Tycho Brahe, frankly.

  9. Well, I suppose I could be persuaded. As a Philadelphian. We all stand behind Ben.

    And besides, he has that Institute named after him. And it’s full of tesla coils, fossils, and an IMAX theatre!

  10. I think the elk and midget would be no match for Franklin’s army of firefighters.

    Inappropriate laugh of the day: The effect of a high pressure firehose on a midget.

  11. Judging by his main photo on Wikipedia, I’d say that Tycho’s stache alone is mighty enough to challenge Ben Franklin. That’s some potent facial hair…I am compelled to swear fealty to it.

  12. Not to mention Franklin’s other army of street sweepers, his Postal Hordes (he was the first Postmaster General, after all), and the members of his Leather Apron club.

  13. This thread is already bringing me great joy.

    It looks like Franklin’s winning thus far, which is surprising to me. I’m such a huge Brahe fan that I admit I was very much biased toward him, but you’re all slowly convincing me to come around to Ben.

  14. Hi there!

    I’m thinking that Tycho Brahe would show up at the designated time in a rain-soaked field just outside of Philadelphia, angrily awaiting the appearance of Franklin. His elk and his dwarf would be sitting nearby, patiently anticipating their moment of glory. A few hours later, Brahe would pack up his Supernova doomsday device and go home.

    In the following weeks, the world’s scientific journals would be abuzz with accounts of Benjamin Franklin’s shameful cowardice in the face of Denmark’s most brilliant scientist. Franklin would dismiss these accusations with jocular, pithy remarks in the Philadelphia Gazette, insisting that he was off pursuing worthier activities at the time and honestly couldn’t be bothered with anything so dreary as a duel of honor.

    Brahe would forever after boast of his victory over the cowardly Franklin, never noticing the slightest trace of smile that graced Kirsten Jørgensdatter’s lips every time she heard the name of Franklin. …

  15. You know Draconius, maybe I am putting to much faith in the fighting power of Franklin. He was a lover more than a fighter after all, but that would still be a Victory.

  16. Wait a second. Did Draconis just come down on the side of Franklin or Brahe? Because while Franklin didn’t show up, he would still win by taking the moral high ground.

  17. Tycho Brahe duelled in the dark with rapiers. That’s got to give quite a few points for general demeanor.

    Lightning’s not really a good weapon. Too unreliable. But I bet Tycho could have had some of his astronomical equipment turned into a 1520’s style death ray. Or possibly 1580’s style.

    Focusing the sun’s radiation into a deathly beam is much easier than calling lightning, and more sciency.

  18. Hi There!


    Dannyness – Yes, I was definitely on the side of Franklin here. nothing against Brahe, I just like Benjy’s style. Moral high ground? Mmmm … I was thinking more of the moral LOW ground, but I’d still credit a Franklin “win” in this case. :)

    (also: Hi! I’m a long-time reader, first time responder. I actually made this account specifically to respond to this question. lol!)

  19. Not even Pasteurization can combat Radiation. In fact Irradiated milk is better than Pasteurized. No Contest here at all.

  20. I should also point out Pasteur saved a lot of lives. Doesn’t that count against him in a drawn out fight with the Curie Monster.

  21. I would say thought after using Radiation I don’t think either would be around. Could this one be a draw?

  22. I don’t think this is even a contest. Madame Curie wins, hands down. Who can say what incredible powers she acquired by being so very, very irradiated?

    Louis Pasteur could wipe out some bugs in my milk and fruit juice…he could defeat, say, the great Salmonella Scourge of Ought-Eight, but he’d be no match for Marie Curie’s Godzilla-style Radiation-Breath Attack!

  23. Curie isn’t going to be up for much of fight what with wearing a corset and having cancer.

    I hate to sound sexist but Curie looks a lot more frail than Pasteur in photo, certainly nothing approaching a “fighting weight”.

    Pasteur’s high calcium milk intake would give him the edge

  24. So here’s the dilemma: if Marie Curie doses Louis Pasteur with massive amounts of radiation, does he (a) die or (b) gain superhuman powers and become one of the X-Men?

  25. Well…on the other hand after curing a bunch of dogs of rabies, Pasteur would have an army of canines at his disposal. Then an army of chickens to pick her bones clean once she was down.

  26. Hi there!

    Yes, for this one, I’m imagining Marie giving a teary farewell to Pierre as she steps into the streets of the 5eme arrondisment de Paris, preparing to face her adversary in open combat. As he prepares the launching device for his short-range anthrax delivery system, she peers curiously down Rue Mouffletaard to see exactly what he’s constructing.

    To her own surprise, a pair of optic blasts burst forth from her irradiated eyes, incinerating everything at the end of the street, including the unfortunate M. Pasteur.

    Marie discreetly walks back to her lab, a bit unnerved by the experience.

  27. I for one am very, very glad Draconius decided to start commenting today.

    However, I’m going to give the deciding post to Expatria for “the great Salmonella Scourge of Ought-Eight.” HA!

    Okay, one more match-up for today: Jane Goodall vs. Margaret Mead.

  28. So here’s the dilemma: if Marie Curie doses Louis Pasteur with massive amounts of radiation, does he (a) die or (b) gain superhuman powers and become one of the X-Men?

    My dilemma is what would happen if Curie put Pasteur in a Shrodinger box using one of her radioactive sources? Would Pasteur die?

  29. Wow… Man vs. Ape…

    I think I have to defer to the SNL Superfans sketch “Bob Swerski’s Quiz Masters” to answer this one… In particular, I need to paraphrase the winning final Jeopardy answer regarding the hypothetical matchup of “da Bulls” and “da Bears”:

    “The senseless waste of pitting these two mighty forces of nature against each other, like matter vs. anti-matter, will be a tragedy, not only for the [scientists] involved…but for our planet. All nations must band together, to ensure that such a conflagration never takes place.”

  30. Each scientist can only use powers/abilities/weaponry associated with/discovered by/invented by him or her.

    Does this mean that Goodall gets to use her Ape Army?

    If so than Margaret Mead is toast!

  31. Any monkey can kick any human’s ass. The will go up to them and give them a beak flip. Wait I have something wrong here.

  32. I just want to let everyone know, although the decision has already been made, that Marie Curie was obsessive and probably more devoted to her discovery than Pasteur. From the biography “Obsessive Genius”:

    “Even as they warned of the dangers of radium exposure, at their bedside the Curies had kept a vial of radium salts to observe its beautiful glow before falling asleep. Marie referred to radium as ‘my child.’ ”

    Marie: My child, my child… [crawling closer to Louis Pasteur, who has stolen her radium]
    Louis: What? Uh, this…? [nervously] Why are your eyes glowing green? Marie–no–please!
    Marie: MY CHILD! [blasts Pasteur in the face]


  33. Although I think it’s wonderful Margaret Mead lent support to the pro-sex revolution, she just doesn’t have that much going for her. It’s not like she studied Amazonian women.

    Jane Goodall, however, would become so enraged if any of the human army mistreated one of her apes that Mead’s army would pretty much be doomed. End of story. Also, they’d all be covered in monkey turds.

  34. All that time she spent in the jungle … I reckon Jane Goodall was one tough chick. Margaret Mead was a great thinker, and an argument between the two would be interesting. But in hand-to-hand combat, it’s Goodall all the way.

  35. I think Planet of the Apes is all the documentary evidence we need that an army of apes will crush the feeble humans. On the other hand, Mead’s army of Polynesians were only a generation away from cannibalism; their brains were full of deadly prions which would weaken and subvert the ape army as they feasted on their victims.
    So I’m giving the battle to Goodall, but the war to Mead.

  36. Further reinforcing aiabx’s comment, we saw in the second Planet of the Apes documentary, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, that humans eventually destroy all apes (and humans for that matter) using the Alpha-Omega doomsday bomb.

    So despite the obviously faked subsequent Apes “documentaries” (Time travel? Don’t be ridiculous!), this is clearly the end of the line.

    Mead wins. (if we define “win” as “kills the largest number of the enemy”. Which we should.)

  37. Hi there!

    I’m giving the match to Jane Goodall. She’s a tough old bird, intelligent, and doesn’t put up with any [cough] … monkey business. We all know that Chimpanzees, for their size, are amazingly strong, and I am certain that they would all have her back. Plus, she totally pwned that guy from Irregular Webcomic: http://irregularwebcomic.net/1290.html

    (actually based on the Irregular Webcomic connection, I’m willing to believe that she could also summon up the ghost of Steve Irwin in a dire enough situation)

    I’m sorry I don’t have anything cleverer, I just have to give this one to Jane. [nods]

  38. SteveT:
    Mead wins. (if we define “win” as “kills the largest number of the enemy”. Which we should.)

    Humans have a population of several billion and watching the documentaries I don’t think the Apes ever got to that point. So again, the Apes prevail.

  39. Working with chimps in the wild is much more dangerous work than collecting ethnography in Polynesia, imho. Goodall’s gotta win it.

  40. Protesilaus, not so fast! We can clearly see from the documentary evidence that the human population is drastically reduced by the time of the Alpha-Omega doomsday incident. The Apes most certainly outnumber humans at that point in time. So while you may be correct for the current era, our pre-destined future clearly shows us as being in the distinct minority as compared to the talking Apes. So when Taylor ignites the bomb, the relative numbers of Ape dead to Human dead must be quite large.

    I mean, facts are facts, right?

  41. I’m backing Goodall on the basis that anyone who believes in “natural” way of life as being the best one (if such thing can exsist-you look at something, you’ve changed it) is frankly barking and deserve a good hiding.

    I’m off to enjoy the “unatural” benifits of civilisation such as a hot shower and flushing toilets (while cursing Rousseau)

  42. StevenT:
    I agree with you about the last incident, but in the overall course of the war I think the evidence strongly points to more Human deaths than Ape.

  43. I’m going to have to come down on the side of Goodall seeing as how watching all that ape carnage must have taught her some nasty shit. Plus the army of flying “monkeys” she probably has stashed away with her…she must have some duct tape in the jungle right?

  44. The Curie Pasteur fight was easy to miss — practically a knock-out in Round 1. I’ll need to pair her with a more worthy opponent next time.

  45. Hi there!

    Oooh! LaVoisier vs. Leewenhoek!

    I remember absolutely nothing about either of them other than the fact that my 8th grade science teacher used to say their name with such dire emphasis, you’d you’d have thought that they’d exiled him to an alternate dimension at some time in the past and that he was merely teaching science as he plotted his revenge.

  46. Can I just say the winner of Mead v Goodall would also be Benjamin Franklin. Manaja twa FTW!!!

  47. Ooh! Ooh! TAG TEAM Scientist rasslin’!

    Einstein and Goodall vs. Hawking and Leaky!

    Turing and Dawkins vs. Oppenheimer and Huygens!

    Goddard and Dodson vs. Fossey and Von Braun!

  48. Thanks, akronnick. That’s what I get for using my phone’s web browser to make a post. I don’t get the luxury of Spell Check…And I need that luxury.

  49. Sorry if this is a little late, but as a microbiologist, I feel sort of duty-bound to lift Pasteur’s limp, defeated body and throw it back into the fight.

    I admit it’s sort of half-hearted, though. Who can fight TWO Nobel prizes?!!

    But when Madame Curie unleashes her radioactive fury, it will be a suicide bombing. As brilliant as she was, she clearly wasn’t immune to radiation herself.

    On the other hand, when Pasteur calls forth his pathogenic minions, he may very well have vaccinated himself against them. Sure, his hair will be falling out and he’ll have radiation burns, but she’ll be in the same condition PLUS suffering from rabies, smallpox, and whatever else my buddy Louis can grow.

    ..I had to try.

  50. How about Darwin Vs Alfred Russell Walace or perhaps Werhner Von Braun Vs Sergey Korolyov (a fight that took place in real life, with Rockets)

  51. I have to toss Nikola Tesla into one of these smackdowns. I’d love to see what he could come up with. Come on – it would be pretty spectacular!

    I was going to mention Turing as well but Rav Winston beat me to it.

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