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In the world of fiction, physical impairment = scientific credibility. The world is actually a RPG Mechanics Verse, and when this Munchkin rolled up their character, they were Min-Maxing. Anyone in a wheelchair will possess super intelligence to compensate for his disability. This allows the character to remain a vital part of the cast without being expected to do anything physical.
If you're stupid and in a wheelchair, man are you outta luck!
A form of Disability Superpower. Many of these are inspired at least partially by Stephen Hawking, although the trope predates him. See also Evil Cripple for when a Genius Cripple turns out to be evil.
The "plus side" of being a Squishy Wizard when Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards applies. An athlete or a warrior who is crippled is pretty much screwed for life, but a genius or a wizard can keep on truckin'. The Blind Seer is another version of the archetype.
Anime & Manga
- Mashiro from Mai-HiME is confined to a wheelchair throughout most of the series, but is otherwise very capable both as a school principal and spiritual leader to some of the HiME. It helps that in the anime version, she's supposedly way older than her 11 years of age.
- While not a genius on the level of her brother Lelouch, blind and wheelchair-bound Nunnally vi Britannia joined Schneizel, successfully convinced him to hand over the key to the F.L.E.I.J.A. warheads, and came up with a plan that was eerily similar to Lelouch's, focusing all the world's hatred on a single target (in this case, Damocles). Being a child of the Emperor, she was undoubtedly quite intelligent, and showed more insight than normally attributed to her by the end of the series. And after the end of the series, she makes a pretty good Brittannian Empress...
- Subverted in that this was all part of Schneizel's latest Xanatos Gambit, which he started off by lying to Nunnally about Pendragon and his own motives, and later on intended to abandon Damocles with her on it after setting it to self-destruct in order to thwart Lelouch, and later on build another fortress and stockpile even more FLEIJAs, this time, with no one else to stop him or claim sovereignity over Britannia. So Nunnally had basically become an Unwitting Pawn. Though she does wise up and then becomes a decent Empress after the Grand Finale.
- Wiz Kid and Professor Xavier from X-Men.
- Oracle from Batman. Especially interesting in that she started out as Batgirl and was shot and paralyzed by the Joker; she became Oracle because she refused to stay helpless.
- Arguably, she's done more good with a computer than she could have ever done as Batgirl.
- Even in-universe, it's considered pretty much a given that she has.
- She's arguably the poster girl for this trope, as she was presented as varying from ditzy to reasonably-but-not-exceptionally sharp (depending on the era's views on women) as Batgirl ... but once she became wheelchair-bound, she suddenly remembered she had an eidetic memory and world class hacking, strategic, and oganizational skills!
- Harold Allnut was a mute hunchback who served for years as Batman's mechanic and was a genius with gadgets and technology.
- Arguably, she's done more good with a computer than she could have ever done as Batgirl.
- Niles Caulder from Doom Patrol. Also an Evil Cripple depending on who you ask.
- Lionel Canter from The Surrogates is Stephen Hawking crossed with MacGyver. He's the original creator of the surrogates and even modified his own to use lightning in combat.
- Josie Beller / Circuit Breaker from the Transformers Generation 1 comics. After being paralyzed in a Decepticon attack, she built herself a suit of surprisingly clingy Powered Armor that allows her to fly and shoot lightning.
- Alistair Smythe, the inventor of many a Spider-Slayer, at least until he turned himself into a cyborg. Probably best remembered as the Kingpin's snarky, Super Wheelchair-driving second-in-command in Spider-Man the Animated Series.
- Roger Bochs from Alpha Flight, who invented a robot called Box and controlled with a mental interface helmet; a later version allowed him to physically merge into it, making him a Genius Bruiser.
Films — Live Action
- Doctor Strangelove, although he regained the ability to walk a second before the world ended.
- Mostly subverted with Eugene in Gattaca. While he's intelligent enough to fit the trope, he's also a former Olympic-level swimmer and genetically engineered "perfect" man, and whatever potential he might have isn't strong enough to withstand all his regrets and depression.
- Samuel L. Jackson's character Elijah Price in the movie Unbreakable fits this rather well, in the villain sense.
- Subverted in The Big Lebowski, when the title character spends most of the movie posing as a bad-tempered, handicapped disabled self-made millionaire ("I didn't blame anyone for the loss of my legs! Some Chinaman took them from me in Korea!"), and turns out to be a phony. Although, as Walter learns the hard way, he genuinely is crippled.
- Dr. Ashford of Resident Evil Apocalypse, creator of the T-Virus
- Kuato in Total Recall is a genius deformed siamese twin.
- Dr. Leonard Gillespie, in the Doctor Kildare films.
- Also an example of Written in Infirmity, as the actor who played Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore) was wheelchair-bound due to severe arthritis.
- Dr. Arliss Loveless in the film version of Wild Wild West did not have congenital dwarfism like his TV counterpart - he was literally half a man, missing from about his hips downward, in a steampunk whellchair. That sometimes sprouted legs. And not just two - sometimes four.
- Spy Kids 3D: Game Over: Juni chooses to have his disabled grandfather accompany him on his journey inside the video game Game Over, deducing that while he's been unable to walk for 30 years, his remaining strength has gone to his upper body and mind. Not long after arriving, his grandfathers gets a Mega Legs power-up that fixes the "unable to walk" problem.
- Eli Glinn in the Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child novels.
- In Dan Brown's novels Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code, both had characters with disabilities and were also highly respected professors. The guy in the wheelchair was probably a reference to Stephen Hawking.
- Doran Martell from A Song of Ice and Fire fits this to a tee. Arguably, also Bran Stark. And dwarf Tyrion Lannister is at least the second most intelligent person in the series.
- Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan: Stunted, hunchbacked, with brittle bones that break at the drop of a hat, but always comes out on top by being the smartest guy on the planet. Any planet.
- After he gets all his bones replaced by synthetics by around age 25, he's not so fragile.
- Of course, by his early 30s, he's picked up several other potentially debilitating health problems: Seizures, extensive vascular damage, . . .
- Quadriplegic forensics expert Lincoln Rhyme from the novels of Jeffrey Deaver.
- Waldo Farthingwaite-Jones of the Heinlein novella Waldo. He might be the inspiration for most of the later versions. He was a super-genius with myasthenia gravis that left him 1/10 as strong as an average human. He invented many incredible devices and is best known for the actual devices known as Waldos and named for the invention of the book.
- In the Halo prequel novel, The Fall of Reach, John (the Master Chief) notes that the SPARTAN-II candidates who don't make it through the dangerous physical augmentation processes fully intact (some die, others are blinded, and a few are wheelchair-bound) will fulfill such a role in the UNSC as strategists and the like, as the candidates for the program were selected for their intelligence and instructed in history, science, math, and tactics in order to be both physically perfect soldiers and brilliant field strategists.
- While not a scientific genius, Lady Emily Alexander, senior wife and political advisor of Lord Hamish Alexander, 13th Earl of White Haven and First Lord of the Admiralty, from David Weber's Honor Harrington, certainly qualifies. Crippled by an aircar accident and bound to an advanced life support chair (and flying to boot) for the rest of her life, she's easily the most shrewd and cunning single politician in the whole Kingdom of Manticore. It might be argued, though, that it was the injury that forced her to switch from acting to writing, and that it's her extremely long and successful career as a playwright and producer that gave her the understanding of a human character and scheming skills prerequisite for a good politician.
- Less obvious is Honor's own treecat partner Nimitz. Due to an injury sustained in In Enemy Hands, Nimitz was rendered telepathically mute. He could hear other treecats telepathically, and his empathic sense was fine, but he could not communicate beyond that. However, with a bit of help he was instrumental in adapting human sign language for 'cat use.
- Hile Troy, from The Illearth War, was a congenitally blind genius at military strategy who gained his sight after being transported to The Land.
- It's Troy's gaining of sight, which he'd never had, which leads him to believe The Land is real (in contrast to Covenant, "The Unbeliever").
- Inquisitor Gideon Ravenor at your service. Not just crippled but reduced to a sack of melted flesh and in a state of And I Must Scream... and still a genius philosopher with phenomenal psychic powers.
- Sand dan Glokta of The First Law: crippled and disfigured, the Inquisitor is easily the most intelligent of the three main protagonists, and consistently demonstrates a higher level of cunning and insight than almost any other character.
- Garrett's partner in the Garrett, P.I. novels might qualify, in that he's a physically-immobile genius who could out-think most people in his sleep. Unusual in that he's not just paralyzed, but dead and haunting his own corpse.
- Melody Brooks from Out of My Mind is a girl who has cerebral palsy. As she says, it's not her brain that doesn't work, but her body. She has a photographic memory and is like a living encyclopedia (though her weak point is math). She is even called her school's own Stephen Hawking.
- Beldin in The Belgariad is a disfigured hunchback. He also has the sharpest mind in the whole series and Belgarath readily acknowledges that Beldin is much more clever than him.
- Over the course of his career as an Auror, Alastor "Mad Eye" Moody from Harry Potter lost a leg, an eye , and part of his nose, and acquired a series of nasty scars. He's still an extremely skilled wizard and strategist, even though he's pretty kooky and paranoid. He's also an incredible Dark Wizard hunter, and it's said that half the cells in Azkaban are filled because of him.
- Ivar the Boneless from Ragnar Lodbrok and His Sons. Supposedly, Ivar was a 9th century Viking warlord whose legs contained only cartilage, but no bones, and therefore he was unable to walk. However, he was the most clever and cunning of his brothers and led them to many a victory, as his stratagems usually won the day when the brute strength of his brothers failed.
- The Inheritance Cycle has the High Priest (Priestess?) of Helgrind. He/she possesses incredible magical skills and Psychic Powers, and very nearly out-magicked four skilled magicians in a mental battle. Did I mention he/she is missing both legs, both arms, and part of his/her tongue? He/she also qualifies as an Evil Cripple because let's face it, leading a Religion of Evil that practices ritual mutilation  and Human Sacrifice kind of makes you a dick.
Live Action TV
- Stevie from Malcolm in the Middle. Possibly subverted in that he knows, and acknowledges, that the able-bodied Malcolm is a lot smarter than him, or anyone else, for that matter.
- Brutally subverted in Joan of Arcadia, in which a Jerk Jock ends up in a wheelchair after a car accident and discovers that he now has no useful skills whatsoever.
- Former Superman Christopher Reeve guest-starred on Smallville as genius scientist Dr. Virgil Swann.
- The recurring villain Davros from Doctor Who has apparently been reduced (whether by age or war injury) to a single functional limb; his own wheelchair-like life support apparatus and cybernetic eye are implicitly the inspiration for the "travel machines" used by his infamous creations, the Daleks. Julian Bleach, one of the actors to portray him, called the character "a cross between Stephen Hawking and Hitler."
- Doctor Judson, the wheelchair-bound computer scientist in The Curse of Fenric. Who gets very grumpy about his medical assistant treating him as helpless:
Nurse Crane: A little respect for the wheelchair please, Commander. He's an invalid.
- The Dalek Invasion of Earth featured a brilliant, but crippled scientist named Dortmund.
- The Cybus Industries Cybermen were created by John Lumic, also an Evil Cripple.
- Miguelito Loveless in The Wild Wild West, and Arliss Loveless in the movie remake, although the nature of their physical handicaps were very different.
- House is a crippled genius, but that injury more often hurts his genius rather than enables or is neutral to it. On the other hand, to the extent this trope extends to the emotionally crippled...
- Wheelchair-bound physicist Dr. Ernst Longbore in the final season of Lexx.
- Sebastian from Dark Angel can barely move and requires a computer to talk. Yeah, he's pretty much a Stephen Hawking knockoff.
- Logan would probably qualify as well.
- Dr. John Ballard from Seven Days.
- The eminently forgettable failed-series-pilot Exo Man featured a scientist who permanently lost the use of his legs, and so built a super-powered robotic exoskeleton for himself to make up for it.
- In Dollhouse, Bennett's left arm is permenantly disabled. Unlike many examples, she was actually quite a genius before the arm was damaged.
- Perhaps most notably of all, Stephen Hawking is the only person to ever play himself (or at least a hologram of himself) in any Star Trek franchise.
- Especially since he's playing poker with Data, Newton and Einstein. And beats everyone.
- Chief of Detectives Robert T. Ironside, in Ironside.
- CSI:NY used to have a wheelchair bound forensics expert in the early seasons.
- Doc Robbins, the medical examiner on the original CSI, is (and is played by) a double amputee.
- In The Avengers Linda Thorson years, their boss, called "Mother", was a stocky man in a wheelchair (who could get around briskly in his office via a series of ceiling-mounted hand grips.)
- Billy, a character in former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters' Concept Album Radio KAOS, is a Welsh boy in a wheelchair speaking via a speech computer, who hears radio waves in his head. He learns to use a cordless phone stolen by his big brother, an unemployed miner, to broadcast his voice around the world. His brother is mistakenly arrested for allegedly kicking a stone from a bridge to a car during a miner's strike, killing the driver; the stone fell from a different bridge than one he and Billy were standing on. Upset by the loss of his family environment after he is sent to live with his uncle in L.A., the corporate greed that left his brother unemployed, his brother's false incarceration and the state of the world in general, he befriends a renegade, freeform DJ (played by Jim Ladd), then hacks his way through the cordless phone into Defense Department computers. Billy programs the computers to simulate a nuclear attack, then make it impossible for missile silos to deter the "attack". The DJ (and the world) believe it has only four minutes left until the end of the world. The world is scared Straight into becoming a nicer, happier, and more peaceful and compassionate as a result.
Myths & Religion
- Older Than Feudalism: Hephaestus, the ancient Greek god of the forge (counterpart to the Roman Vulcan), is lame — according to one version of the story, he was injured as a child when he tried to intervene in a quarrel between his parents, Zeus and Hera, and was hurled off Mt. Olympus. Neverhteless, he invents robots and the ancient version of Humongous Mecha.
- Professor von Kripplespac from Conkers Bad Fur Day.
- Bentley of the Sly Cooper games becomes this in the third game after he was crippled at the end of the second. This does not hinder him from making a wheelchair fitted with gadgets as well as making him a better fighter than he was before.
- Kenny Kawaguchi of Backyard Sports.
- Touhou Project: Although Patchouli Knowledge has no specific disabilities, she is depicted to have a very fragile constitution. "It seems that she's capable of very powerful magic of all kinds, using many elements in a single spell, but due to asthma and general poor health she's often unable to recite her spells."(TouhouWiki) A popular fan observation is that she doesn't get nearly enough vitamin D.
- Jasper Gunz of House of the Dead: Overkill is a deliberately over-the-top example of this trope.
- Dr. Sellers of the Xenosaga trilogy, the games' resident Evil Genius and probably the only paraplegic left in the galaxy. In all fairness, he brought it on himself; he sassed an already mentally-unstable Joachim Mizrahi while the planet Miltia was figuratively going to Hell, so Mizrahi pulled out a gun and capped him once in each leg. Harsh.
- STEVEN from Shin Megami Tensei I is a pretty blatant example.
- Hugh Darrow from Deus Ex Human Revolution pioneered the human augmentation project, but a genetic condition leaves him unable to augment himself, and thus he walks with a cane and braces. May be some overlap with Evil Cripple.
- In the webcomic The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, the father of Dr McNinja's college friend Martin is a scientific genius confined to a wheelchair named Dr. Birding. He has some resemblance to Professor Hawking (down to the name), and can only communicate via a speaking computer (even expressing emotion through emotes). He does have an Incredible Hulk transformation mode that is utterly useless since he's still crippled even after the transformation.
- Mecha Maid from the series Spinnerette qualifies, as she designed the nerve stimulator that gives her super strength and enables her to move around. Without it, she is confined to a wheelchair and has trouble even speaking due to her ALS.
- The Whateley Universe has several examples, including Juryrig and Kludge, both deviser/gadgeteers in extremely souped-up wheelchairs that fly and such. Kludge is also working on an "Iron Man" suit of power armor so he can walk again.
- Lululu Lopez from Platypus Comix's Electric Wonderland always has to travel in some type of wheeled object because of her mermaid tail, but she does know a lot about bombs.
- As The Onion pointed out, Stephen Hawking built himself a robotic exoskeleton to replace his wheelchair.
- Dr. Wang from Minoriteam, who was a Badass Normal before he was paralyzed. The only person comparable to him in intelligence is Dr. Genius, who can only move one of his fingers.
- The Fairly Odd Parents has a Hawking send-up who drives a rocket-powered chair and makes out Crocker the idiot.
- Berto from Max Steel.
- A.T.O.M. has Garrett, who becomes the team's gear supplier after their first supplier turns evil on them at the end of season one.
- Chip Chase from Transformers G1.
- But he has courage!
- Carlos's younger brother from The Magic School Bus has a wheelchair with a parachute, an emergency raft, a crowbar, and various other useful things, and is a lot smarter than his brother or his brother's classmates.
- Dexters Laboratory has a Hawking send-up called Professor Hawk, whose software factory is a technological Willy Wonka send-up itself.
- And in a subversion, he's not actually disabled, just too lazy to walk. Once he comes under the influence of DeeDee, he sheds his jet-bird-shell-thing and takes up interpretive dance.
- Hawking appeared as a cartoon version of himself on several episodes of The Simpsons, driving a wheelchair that features a spring-loaded boxing glove and rockets. Even though it would have been really easy to get another computer to fake his voice, they got him into the studio to record his lines. According to later interviews, he loved it, and plans to build a boxing glove into his next chair.
- He also presented a BAFTA for The Simpsons on one occasion.
- In Futurama, Stephen Hawking is part of a group of nerds who travel in a school bus and use murder to solve many of their problems.
- In other episodes, Hawking shows up in a "way cool rocket" equipped with lasers. Oh, and he's at a huge science convention.
- And apparently has lasers in his eyes. Even he didn't know he was that awesome.
- In other episodes, Hawking shows up in a "way cool rocket" equipped with lasers. Oh, and he's at a huge science convention.
- Hawking showed up on the Dilbert cartoon, too. He mocked everyone viciously while zipping in and out of his wormholes like an amphetamine-crazed rabbit.
- Garret was the name of a wheelchaired bound Extreme Ghostbuster.
- He was sort of an unusual subversion, though, in that he was a jock, not a brain. And not in the "realizes he has no useful skills when he loses the use of his legs" sense, in the "the guy in the wheelchair is the most physically fit one" Murderball sense.
- The future Joker in the Batman the Brave And The Bold episode "The Knights of Tomorrow!"
- Felix, Ron's friend in Kim Possible. He built his own wheelchair that allows him to fly, and governments and militaries want to work with him and his almost legendary brainpower. He prefers to goof off and play video games with Ron though.
- Ummm... where did you get your information? Felix's mom built his wheelchair; Felix himself, while clever, is more in line with the Garret example above.
- In Zorro: Generation Z, mute Bernardo is the maker of Diego's bat-gadgets.
- The subject of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero episode, "My Brother's Keeper". Sgt. Slaughter and Sci-Fi must rescue a handicapped (and frankly, pretty dickish) scientist named Dr. Jeremy Pinser.
- Leonhard Euler: 18th century mathematician, and one of the most prolific of all time. He went blind in one eye at the age of 21; and blind in the other when he was about forty. After this, he kept turning out papers by dictating them to his secretaries. In addition to many fundamental results, Euler innovated much of current mathematical notation. Euler was able to juggle the symbols and numbers of the most difficult problems of his day entirely in his head; at one point during his blindness, he even managed to prove that a 10-digit number was prime. Around this time, he was publishing papers at the average rate of one per week.
- The inspiration for many of these entries: the late Stephen Hawking, perhaps one of the most famous scientists in the world today, who as the result of Motor Neurone Disease (also known as ALS and Lou Gehrig's Disease) was quadriplegic and confined to a wheelchair, and who, since a 1985 tracheotomy, had to use a computer voice synthesizer to speak. Somehow, though, he was able to have an extramarital affair, so apparently not everything is paralyzed.
- Hawking may have also been a real life justification of the trope as his biography states that he took his studies far less seriously before his condition was discovered. The disability didn't make him smarter but it motivated him to live up to his potential as a physicist. It presumably also gave him a lot more free time to devote to non-physical activities like reading and thinking.
- Another real life example: Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was left with his left eyelid as his only functional body part after a stroke. Using a system of blinking that eyelid, he was able to dictate an entire book about his life with Locked In Syndrome, during which he had to keep the entire book in his memory and edit the whole thing before giving instructions to his typist.
- Irish writer and artist Christy Brown, who could only move his left foot due to cerebral palsy, but still wrote several poetry books and became a very famous in the Irish literary circles. Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for portraying him in the movie My Left Foot.
- Christopher Nolan (no, not THAT Christopher Nolan), another Irish author who was also rendered quadriplegic and mute by cerebral palsy. He can only properly write with an "unicorn stick" on his head only after the effects of spasmodic medication.
- US President Franklin D Roosevelt. Confined to a wheelchair by Guillain-Barré syndrome (The Polio diagnosis was incorrect) he still managed to become one of the greatest presidents America ever had. Of course, the general public didn't know that he was crippled. That's the benefit of a respectful press and a nice combination of leg braces and sheer willpower for those occasions that mandated standing up.
- Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, The Emperor Claudius, became Emperor by surviving, faking mental illness and idiocy, and suffered lameness in his legs (as well as other physical deformities). Considered now a pretty good Emperor, and a great builder.
- Arab Syrian poet Al-Ma'arri lost his eyesight at the age of four. It didn't prevent him from becoming one of the greatest poets and philosophers of his age.
- Jorge Luis Borges, one of the most renowned writers of the 20th century, wrote many of his works when he was blind.
- According to tradition, Homer, author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, was blind.
- Alexander Pope suffered from a form of tuberculosis that deformed his body, stunted his growth to about four and a half feet, and caused a whole slew of other health problems. He's also renowned as one of history's greatest poets.
- Louis Braille, creator of the Braille alphabet, was blind.
- Helen Keller, known for her great writing and activism as well as for being both deaf and blind.
- The Puerto-Rican musician, singer and composer José Feliciano is one of the most beloved and better-respected figures in Latin-American music, and he was born blind due to congenital cataracts.
- Though this wasn't crippling at all, as he got a magical replacement that allowed him to see in all directions and through solid objects.
- which is how he/she lost all those body parts