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When the Mad Scientist gains enough knowledge of technology, genetics, or the innermost workings of the laws of the universe, as they sometimes do, and the ambition to go along with it, they sometimes go ahead and act on it, unleashing hordes of genetically engineered beings created according to their own designs of a perfect form of life, Super Soldiers created and trained by them, reality-bending physics projects, or other such means of takeover, and thus become The Emperor. The Emperor Scientist is born.
It's important to note that not all Emperor Scientists are Evil Overlords working their way on up towards becoming the next Galactic Conqueror or Dimension Lord. At least one out of every three you'll see will usually be an actual benevolent ruler, or at least a Well-Intentioned Extremist (or Knight Templar....or Dark Messiah) presiding over an empire that, while it still may be....well....Imperial (meaning it may not quite be The Kingdom)...is not evil, but instead does what it has to do to ensure the survival of humanity.
Emperor Scientists can commonly be found hanging about in various types of Post-Apocalyptic, Schizo-Tech, Future Badass, and Used Future worlds, where they will typically be the guy (or gal) in charge of one of the two warring factions that tend to be battling it out over what's left of those sorts of places. Bonus points if it was their superscience that actually caused The Cataclysm, either indirectly or unintentionally, or directly and intentionally. If their empire survives long enough to win the war and become an Empire, then they'll likely get their title changed to "God-Emperor of (something very grandiose)", like Mankind or The Universe. Expect them to become immortal by this point, if they weren't already. May make the jump (but may not) to actual A God Am I territory, using their superscience to partially ascend to a higher plane of existence while still keeping enough of their physical form around to be visible to their subjects.
Like their less successful cousin the Badass Bookworm, the Emperor Scientist can trend towards Sueism, especially of the Canon Sue, Marty Stu, and God Mode Sue varieties. Authority Equals Asskicking means they'll often qualify as a Genius Bruiser. That doesn't have to be a bad thing, though, if it provides a cool, legendary central character to build a universe around.
As a final reminder, this trope applies where a character attains supreme power through their superior knowledge or The Spark of Genius. Literal Emperors who also happen to be scientists (and there have been a couple) are Royals Who Actually Do Something.
Anime and Manga
- Perhaps the archetypal example, Jung Zorndyke from Blue Submarine No. 6.
- Lord Genome from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
- Rando from Getter Robo Go.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion, while Supreme Commander Gendo Ikari isn't an Emperor technically speaking, he's an extremely ruthless Manipulative Bastard who holds a lot of power in the already almost almighty NERV organization and has overseen/ordered many experiments to create/improve the EVA's and fight against the Angels. His actual goal is to be reunited with his wife Yui, whose soul is trapped inside EVA-01 - and if he has to damn the world and himself to do it, so be it.
- Emperor Dornkirk of Zaibach in Vision of Escaflowne. He is actually Sir Isaac Newton magically transferred to the fantasy world.
- It is likely that Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon will become one of these in Crystal Tokyo. Though it seems he will use his power for good.
- Charles zi Britannia may have some elements of this. At least, by the standards of science set in the show, since he seemed to have spent a great deal of time working on the Sword of Akasha, and had a near-complete understanding of the Applied Phlebotinum found in the show. His (technically older) brother V.V. is a much straighter example. He's the head of the Geass directorate which studies geass and would have been emperor if he hadn't received a Code when he was a kid. Since we know so little of their pasts, however, the extent to which they're understanding of the show's technology and Applied Phlebotinum allowed them to come to power in the first place is up for debate. Advanced Knightmare Frames and a desire to get ahold of the precursors' Lost Technology definitely played a big role in their conquest of over one third of the world, however.
- Caesar from Return of the Overfiend.
- In One Piece Vinsmoke Judge is not only the ruler of Germa 66, but is also this. The 'Scientist' part applied in his youth, when he was on a research team and peer to Dr. Vegapunk himself. During their research, they discovered the 'Lineage Factor', allowing Judge to subsequently pioneer the usage of cloning and gene modification. As for the 'Emperor' part, being the King of Germa, he is responsible for the Raid Suit technology, his Tyke Bomb children's superhuman powers and the Clone Army that Germa 66 employs, in order to one day reconquer the North Blue.
- Pictured above: Doctor Doom, main enemy of the Fantastic Four, with a side-order of Sorcerous Overlord - he started out as just this, but more and more stories have been building up his use of magic.
- Subverted in the original Buck Rogers comics. It turns out the Yellow Peril villain he'd been fighting was actually a nice guy who'd just got caught up in his scientific pursuits & left the running of his kingdom to corrupt advisors.
- Definitely the Archie-Sonic the Hedgehog incarnation of Warlord Julian Kintobor, AKA Dr. Ivo Robotnik. The whole "turn everyone into mindless robots" thing...
- In one issue of Superman, a potential future is shown where Lex Luthor continually lives on through cloned bodies of himself and embarks on an endless war of conquest of the galaxy/universe.
- The High Evolutionary created a race by forced evolution of animals and called them New Men. Then he created an entire planet, Counter-Earth, where they could live. Then he evolved himself into a godlike being and outgrew this trope.
- In Les Légendaires, the Big Bad Darkhell is hinted to have been this in the country of Shiar: the only army he ever used for his world-conquest projects was mostly made of creatures he Maginetically engeneered himself. Even his own daughter Tenebris is later revealed to have been conceived through his magic.
- A Sparkof Genius A Buffy, DC universe and Girl Genius crossover has Xander, thats right Xander become the ruler of Romania which he rapidly turns it into the leading scientific nation which all began with the infamous 'Halloween episode' turning him into the son of Agatha Heteordyne and Gilgamesh Von Wulfenbach, son of the man in the picture above.
- Possibly Harry Potter's life goal in Harry Potter and The Methods of Rationality.
- Shuri, Princess of Wakanda, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- Ming the Merciless was more or less portrayed as such in the old Flash Gordon movie serials.
- Another Yellow Peril example: Sax Rohmer's Dr. Fu Manchu, who aspired to become literal Emperor of the World by eliminating the white race..
- Then there's a rare female example from Sax Rohmer's The Million Eyes of Sumuru. The scientifically-savvy title character wants to eliminate love and control an Empire where women are in charge.
- The Big Bad from the second Heroic Trio film fit this trope as a mad scientist taking over Hong Kong using his scientific intellect.
- Downplayed with Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars. Although he is more well known for being a powerful Force user and a chessmaster magnificent bastard, Revenge of the Sith as well as to a certain extent the old Expanded Universe implies that he also had a bit of a scientific mind, since he was the one who oversaw and presumably commissioned and developed Vader's suit, not to mention his frequent usage of Sith Alchemy in sources such as Dark Empire.
- Leto Atreides II from the Dune novels has actually become the God-Emperor of the Universe to carry on with a gigantic genetic breeding experiment.
- Before him, Dr. Kynes became leader of the Fremen because of his attempts to terraform the planet.
- Let's not forget the cymek titans? On the other hand, let's.
- If you want to be nice, the cymeks were philosopher kings and scientists, particularly ones that dealt with robotics, cybernetics, and artificial intelligence. This would have been fairly interesting if they weren't written so badly that they held both the scepter of Cliche Villain and Idiot Ball at once.
- Though not canon, the prequels state that one former Padishah Emperor, working under a false name, was an accomplished chemist that discovered the properties that made Spice so important. The original books state it was a chemist working for that emperor, so it all depends what you want to believe.
- Muad'dib himself was known as the Mentat Emperor. Considering he was the prophesied Kwisatz Haderach, this isn't surprising. Subverted in that ultimate trajectory of events was beyond even his control, and he knew it.
- More A.E. Van Vogt novels had a character like this than didn't.
- Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee decides not to overthrow King Arthur's Court, finding it easier to co-opt them into his new order. The new title he devises for himself? The Boss.
- Mercedes Lackey's Mage Wars trilogy has both types: the evil Ma'ar, creator of the makaar, and the benevolent Urtho, creator of the gryphons (who regard him as an almost godlike being who created them as an improvement over all other sentients)
- The Island of Dr. Moreau
- The Risen Emperor of Succession invented a form of Immortality to save his dying sister, and leveraged this into becoming God-Emperor of eighty worlds.
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a carnival barker from Nebraska, comes off as a Sufficiently Advanced Alien in isolated Oz and becomes its absolute ruler through his knowledge of stagecraft and showmanship.
- The Eternal Emperor of the Sten series. A brilliant engineer, his twin discoveries of the super-efficient power source Anti-Matter Two and the means of obtaining immortality allowed him to become ruler of the known Universe for thousands of years.
- In Hannu Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief the seven Sobornost Founders are implied to have been the first group of scientists who figured out human mind uploading and quantum entanglement, and realized that this puts them above any corporation or government on Earth in terms of power if they keep it for themselves. By the time of the book is set in they rule most of the inner Solar System.
Live Action TV
- Davros from Doctor Who definitely meets ALL the definitions of this trope.
- When his Daleks haven't turned against him, anyway. They usually do that on Thursdays.
- Rassilon, who basically made the people of Gallifrey into the Time Lords. An impressive scientist even by immortal standards, he found time to invent a bewildering number of absurdly advanced technological artifacts. Also had a bit of an ego and may have been into kidnapping beings from across space and time to fight in games for his amusement. Subsequent indolence in Time Lord society may have been a deliberate effort to curb the potential of individual members of their race from also becoming Emperor Scientist types.
- The Rani set herself up as the ruler of an entire planet just so she'd have an endless supply of test subjects.
- The Master, who is of the same race as Rassilon and the Rani, took over the Earth by using mind-altering satellites to will the British populace into making him Prime Minister. He was also responsible for the massive Airborne Aircraft Carrier over the Atlantic as his base of operations, and created a paradox machine that allowed humans from the far future to conquer their ancestors in the 21st century.
- In Stargate SG-1, Daniel Jackson became one of these in "Absolute Power." Fortunately it was All Just a Dream.
- Stargate loves this trope. The Goa'uld Omnidisciplinary Scientist Anubis and Stargate expert Ba'al also started out as scientists before ascending to the role of God-Emperor.
- In Stargate Atlantis, the commanders and scientists of the Wraith are usually the same people (always at least the same caste); most prominently, recurring Big Bad Michael and recurring Lovable Traitor Todd, both of whom had great skill in genetic manipulation. (The Wraith are normally ruled by a Queen, but the Queen of Todd's Hive died and Michael created his own armies from scratch.)
- Todd also has extensive knowledge of nanite programming, which is amazing considering the last time they had to do that was 10,000 years ago. Then again, the Wraith have a Hive Mind of sorts that allows one to tap into the collective psychic network. It's possible that this knowledge rests there.
- Dr. Chaotica, Ruler of the Cosmos! from the Flash Gordon Expy The Adventures of Captain Proton!, a holodeck program in Star Trek: Voyager.
- Walternate in Fringe is on the way there. He is the US Secretary of Defense and appears to have nigh-unlimited authority. While his goal is not world domination, it is world destruction, just not his world. He's also just as brilliant as Walter.
- In Jonathan Coulton's "Future Soon," the narrator becomes this when his warrior robot race takes over the world.
- Dr. Wily becomes this in The Protomen's Rock Opera, having near-complete control of the City, if not the world.
- While he may also be lots of other things (Dark Messiah, Crystal Dragon Jesus, etc), it is made clear in no uncertain terms that The Emperor from Warhammer 40K was, during his lifetime on Terra, first and foremost a scientist who spent his time laboring away in the vaults beneath the planet building space marine genetics, creating his "children", etc, and that this was the source of his great power. Seriously. Read those Horus Heresy art books.
- Well, that, and the fact that he was also one of the most powerful psykers in the universe probably didn't make him any weaker.
- The Chronicles of Fate's central character, Josh, is made of this trope.
- In the Magic: The Gathering universe, Yawgmoth was a sadistic biologist who believed in reaching immortality through cybernetic implants. His people eventually caught on to his plots and sent him through a portal to the plane of Phyrexia. Over the centuries, Yawgmoth morphed Phyrexia into his own ideal of paradise and became its Dimension Lord. He did later try to take over his birth plane, Dominaria, but failed.
- Before becoming a Planeswalker, Urza married the Princess Kayla bin Kroog and was appointed Lord High Artificer of the kingdom, eventually restructuring the military to revolve around war machines, then later appointed Protector of the Realm over Argive and Korlis after the Fallaji conquered Kroog. Meanwhile, his brother Mishra used his mechanical expertise (and his Weakstone artifact) to usurp control of the Fallaji tribe that had enslaved him, and then unite all the tribes into a kingdom.
- The Great Beings of Bionicle, though they tired of the day to day workings of ruling Spherus Magna and made the Element Lords to do that part of the job for them. It didn't work out well.
- Regent Cid from Final Fantasy IX is the regent of Lindblum, one of the biggest and most powerful kingdoms in the game. He also possesses a brilliant mind for engineering, being heavily involved in the creation of groundbreaking new airship technology, despite the fact that he has been transformed into an oglop (small, annoying creatures, similar to vermin) and later a frog
- His transformation isn't because of an evil curse or experiment gone wrong. It's because his wife caught him with another woman.
- King Edgar Figaro from Final Fantasy VI which is a genius gadgeteer, who created the technology which allows the castle to travel underground besides other things.
- A villainous example in the Final Fantasy series would probably be Emperor Mateus from Final Fantasy II. Although not readily apparent due to his tendency to use magic, the Dreadnought airship that gave the world a lot of trouble is heavily implied to have been developed by him, showing some engineering know-how.
- Emperor Solomon Petresun from the Tribes video game series was originally a scientist who invented Cybrids, fought them into nigh extinction when they Turned Against Their Masters, made himself immortal for that purpose, and eventually took over the Earth to protect it from the Cybrid's imminent revenge.
- It should be noted that the above example is a Retcon that first appeared in the manual to Starsiege; none of the previous games (Earthsiege, it's expansion or sequel, or Missionforce Cyberstorm) mentioned the Emperor at all.
- The Pig King in Mother 3 has aspects of an Emperor Scientist despite not being a scientist at all, and just stealing all of his technology from the aliens in the previous game.
- The Shapers in Geneforge are an entire sect of this type, using their ability to create hordes of genetically engineered monsters to conquer the known world.
- Count Raum from Primal for the Play Station 2.
- "He may be a vampire, sadist, and mass murderer but he's also quite the scientist by the look of things." - Scree
- In Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, this is essentially what Prokhor Zakharov, Aki Zeta-Five, and Shen-Ji Yang become if their factions win, if their personalities throughout the game are any indication. Probably Deidre Skye and possibly Pravin Lal, too.
- Let's face it, every faction leader is this trope, flavored by their own factional ideology. Even Miriam relies on advanced weaponry wherever she can develop it.
- The Cybran Nation in Supreme Commander is apparently ruled by Gustav Brackman (now a Brain In a Jar ), inventor of the symbiotic AI technology that defines his people. He's the least imperial of the setting's rulers, though.
- Andrew Ryan from Bioshock, the "greatest electrical engineer of our generation" and "the bloody king of Rapture"
- I am surprised no one mentioned Dr. Eggman yet. I mean his goal is to create the "Eggman Empire".
- Emperor Percival Tachyon from Ratchet and Clank.
- Larkeicus was once this in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Echoes of Time. Though the civilization fell 2,000 years ago.
- Kane from Command and Conquer is not only the leader of a militant cult whose power rivals that of every first-world nation combined, he's also a brilliant inventor (of weapons, naturally). He started the Third Tiberium War intended to lure aliens to Earth so he could reverse-engineer their technology.
- High Tinker Gelbin Mekkatorque of World of Warcraft. It counts because gnomes choose their supreme leader based on his intelligence and technological skill. Also, he will kick your ass.
- Ansem of Kingdom Hearts. Both of them. Ansem the Wise is a non-evil version (though he did become somewhat bitter after being deposed), while Xehanort is most certainly an evil version.
- Robert House of Fallout: New Vegas, autocratic ruler of New Vegas, insufferable scientific genius, and a a bit of a chessmaster as well. Prior to the war, he was one of the world's richest men, with his fortune entirely self-made through his inventions. He's also the main reason why the city and the surrounding areas survived the war relatively intact, as he anticipated the exact day of the impending nuclear apocalypse and spent over a decade of his life on planning for the event and its aftermath.
- Andross from the Star Fox games would certainly qualify, even though the method that he used to land himself into power was more comparable to Exile due to ruining Corneria.
- Dr. Weil from Mega Man Zero may have initially been a mad scientist, but via various plans and Chessmaster moves that landed himself as ruler of Neo Arcadia, he became a full blown Emperor Scientist. However, he has more interest in making everyone suffer a fate far worse than death than actually ruling over people.
- By Resident Evil 5, Albert Wesker has set his sights on this. Already a capable scientist, he decided to exterminate most of mankind, sparing only genetically superior individuals with himself as their ruler.
- Kastore and three companions in Might and Magic VII play a small version of this in that game (leveraging their superior scientific knowledge into becoming advisors to King Archibald, then leveraging that position to usurping the throne of Deyja), and had plans of becoming a full-scale version. Canonically, their plan failed and they never showed up again, but they were originally going to pull off the initial phase and become enough of a threat through Ancient-level science that the good guys has to resort to a magical doomsday weapon to stop them. Their 'Forge' town caused a massive Internet Backdraft, however, so that plan was abandoned.
- Baron Klaus Wulfenbach from Girl Genius. Many fans would prefer him over all current Real Life authorities. Klaus Defense League, Sanjo!
- In fact, most governments in the GG 'verse are ruled by Emperor Scientists; small, independent technocracies seem most common, but even most of the known royals (such as Albia of Britain and the Storm King's line) are powerful Sparks. However, there are exceptions: the more traditionally noble "Fifty Families" still exert some power, but seem to be in decline as their bloodlines peter out.
- Klaus also has a great speech about how he actually hates running his empire, and his only solace is the rare moment of scientific research that he gets to conduct in peace. Of course, his idea of scientific research involves considerable amounts of dissection.
- His empire is founded upon one principle: "Don't Make Me Come Over There". You'd think pretty much everyone would love this kind of mostly-hands-off ruling, but the political climate in Europa is a laundry list of people who are Making Him Come Over There.
- They don't call them mad scientists for nothing.
- Emperor Nicholas the Puissant from the Negaverse in the General Protection Fault webcomic. Conquered the earth (and at least one alien race) through a combination of Hollywood Hacking, reality-bending inventions, mind-control drugs, and sheer ruthlessness.
- In a Sluggy Freelance Alternate Universe "His Masterness" appears to be one of these. In the main universe, Dr. Steve and Dr. Schlock have this as their long term goal.
- Doctor Insano of The Spoony Experiment, who became President of the United States by
voters being Too Dumb to Livethe brilliant scheme of...running and being elected. Er...WITH SCIENCE!!!
- Doctor Steel wishes to take over the world and become it's emperor, by force of giant robots if necessary, so that he can turn it into a better place (for him).
- Gizmatic, the Whateley Universe supervillain and King of the Caribbean island country of Karedonia, complete with supervillain time shares.
- Doctor Horrible aspired to this, but may have gotten off track somewhere.
- While this was mostly downplayed in later seasons, Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Equestria, possesses a brilliant scientific mind.
- Vandal Savage from Justice League. In the "The Savage Time", he builds a Time Machine and sends technology and information to his past self. Past-Vandal then uses this knowledge to take control of Nazi Germany, design crazy war machines, and win World War Two.
- From the same show, Chronos becomes one, also via Time Travel.
- Overlord from Spiral Zone. Yeah, from The Eighties.
- In the Saturday Morning Cartoon version of Sonic the Hedgehog, Doctor Robotnik conquered Mobius with his machines, and held on to it for 11 years.
- Although the canon is, uh, dubious at best, Trevor Goodchild of Aeon Flux would probably count. Honestly it was the first character this troper thought of.
- Dr. Doofenschmirtz from Phineas and Ferb wants to be one of these.
- As does the Brain
- Of the benevolent (and presumably genetic title inheriting) type, Princess Bubblegum in Adventure Time.
- Peter the Great was a classic example of this, a capable engineer and shipbuilder who founded one of the first examples of a government funded science enterprise in imperial Russia. He was also scientifically curious and competent, and oversaw many of the experiments and projects that he sponsored.
- Many if not most of China's modern leaders since Mao have been trained scientists or engineers. Also, many of the emperors were skilled engineers and something like "natural scientists" (at least as far as promoting advances in agriculture and practical tools). China's first emperor, the Qin emperor Shihuang, trained almost obsessively to master field engineering and personally oversaw much of the Great Wall and standardizing of Chinese measurements and road constructing.
- Many of the USSR's leaders were also scientists or engineers, such as Leonid Brezhnev.
- Many of the USA's Founding Fathers were this, including Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin (both recognized and respected scientists and inventors) and George Washington, a talented surveyor and field engineer. In fact, much of Washington's battlefield success came from his skill in combat engineering, long before this had been formally brought into military academies as an area of specializing.
- Isaac Newton was also a politician involved in major changes in the British parliament in the late 1600's, when it was gaining power against the monarch. Apparently Johann Gutenberg also eventually gained a high position in his hometown, though as Germany was very fragmented at the time, there was no unified country to seek higher office in.
- Joan d'Arc was a very skilled combat engineer despite having no training, in fact this is thought to be one of the reasons for her battlefield success.
- Otto von Bismarck mastered several fields of scientific agriculture and field engineering, and was already very prosperous before seeking the Chancellor's office.
- Alexander the Great and a number of Roman emperors were also this, particularly the ones who led combat troops and set up fortifications at distant sites. As there was no formal field called "engineering" or field sciences at the time, in effect, these and other ancient conqueror-rulers often had to improvise and come up with the basics of what are now considered core engineering principles and testing of hypothesis on their own, and they were frequently capable mathematicians. Alexander in particular, trained by Aristotle, was very scientifically curious and contributed greatly to ancient scientific and mathematic investigations across what became his empire. Many leaders of Arab, Byzantine and South Asian empires were also this as they worked to systematically investigate vast new lands.