• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic
File:Motherly-scientist splice 4240.jpg

Not "it." Her.

"This will only sting a little."
Phrase often used at hospitals

She's the mother you always wanted. She gives you a candy when you take your medication, warns your brothers about messing around with you, gives you a shoulder to cry on when you feel lonely, and occasionally gives maintenance to your prosthetic leg. Of course, she's the first to give you a hug after you go through the tax-paid psychiatric treatment because you're told you're a "special kid with great potential" (whatever that's supposed to mean).

Meet the Motherly Scientist: Frequently feeling compassion for the test subjects (sometimes not always embracing that compassion until it's too late), the motherly scientist is usually the first to ask that the test subjects be given a humane treatment.

Note that regardless of the gendered implications of motherly, the Fatherly Scientist is also not uncommon, as the focus is largely on the scientist's conscious decision, with or without struggle, to reject treating the creature, creation, or just plain human being as a mere test subject for experimentation, choosing instead to forge and nurture a familial bond with them once it is acknowledged that the subject is capable of experiencing a range of emotions like any other. For the sake of consistency, however, the scientist will, for the large part, heretofore be referred to as female.

The trope can contain one or more of the following scenarios, depending on the scientist's personality and background. (And as evident within these scenarios, the role isn't limited to a scientific researcher, but also doctor, technician--and even farther flung, priest or magic-user--as long as there is a strict set of rules, obligations, expectations or beliefs that the motherly figure turns her back to in order to treat the subject with care.)

'They're like my own children' scenario:

Most of the time, the plot starts with a brilliant doctor participating in an Evil Experiment on human test subjects, most of them young children (and perhaps an older Wendy) or students in a conveniently-placed high school. Everything, of course, in the name of Science, or for the Greater Good. It could also happen that the doctor in question was deceived or coerced into performing said experiment - or maybe she just was hired to keep the kids quiet.

Sooner or later, an experiment goes horribly wrong (or horribly right), or the truth is finally revealed, making the doctor realize the error of her ways. After rescuing them, she decides to become the test subjects' adoptive mother, forming a Secret Project Refugee Family and living Happily Ever After.

In other cases, she just feels responsible for the guys now that they've grown up - or maybe there's some pending business to finish so she can redeem herself and move on with her life. And if you think a normal Mama Bear or Papa Wolf is fucking scary, Hell Hath No Fury like a Motherly/Fatherly Scientist with access to One-Man Army levels of weaponry, technology, money, or superpowers to protect his or her children.

There's also the other Doomsday scenario. She dies; and her charges decide that there's nothing holding them back from taking revenge on everyone.

'Free Willy' scenario (Mad Scientist not required)

After researching a non-human subject for a while and giving it a name, the doctor's nurturing instincts finally kicks in, causing the doctor to form a mother/father-child bond with the poor little thing until the eventual decision to free the subject. If she met the creature in the jungle, and there are more of them, she could become a Nature Hero. Can turn into "Tarzan And Jane" if the subject is biologically and age-compatible with her. If by contrast, the subject isn't biologically compatible and the scientist needs to separate, it ends up with a Tear Jerker goodbye.

Pinocchio scenario:

  1. If the doctor's an expert in genetics, cybernetics, arcane magic, or alchemy, the plot starts when she creates a new life form or Artificial Intelligence with a ridiculously human body. The young child then begins to develop emotions in such a way that the doctor's heart's is moved into raising the child as her own. In this scenario, it's common that the doctor serves as parent, psychologist and physicist for the Robot Kid who wants to Become a Real Boy.

    The extremely rare inversion of this trope happens when the A.I. becomes the adoptive mother. Usually happens with a supercomputer storing mommy's memories.
  2. It could also happen that the child was created specifically to be the child the scientist always wished for.
  3. If the scientist creates a nearly-exact copy of a deceased child, either for him/herself or for someone else, it's called Replacement Goldfish.

Whatever the plot is, the common denominator is the parental and protective feelings of the scientist towards the test subject.

If a scientist just happens to be a nice parent, this trope doesn't apply (see Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter) unless her child was genetically engineered and carried inside her own womb or experimentally transformed into something else.

Tend to overlap — depending on the circumstances — with Mad Scientist or Reluctant Mad Scientist, Psychologist Teacher, Kindly Vet, Team Mom / Team Dad, Mama Bear / Papa Wolf, and in some extreme cases, Anti-Villain.

Subtrope of Parental Substitute. Compare Magical Nanny. Contrast Guinea Pig Family and Evil Matriarch / Archnemesis Dad.

Examples of Motherly Scientist include:

Anime & Manga

  • Professor Harumi Kiyama from To Aru Kagaku no Railgun was originally an uninterested scientist left with the job of watching over a group of esper orphans, only to gradually start caring for them like a mother. Then things go horribly wrong when the dangerous experiment they were a part of (which Harumi had been told was something safe) sends them all into comas, to Harumi's shock and her boss's utter indifference. With a corrupt administration refusing to help the students and instead covering up the incident, Harumi takes desperate measures trying to find a cure.
  • Dr. Ochanomizu for Astro Boy; a colleague of Astro Boy's creator who adopts the titular robot after after said creator couldn't get past how Astro Boy wasn't a proper Replacement Goldfish for his dead son.
  • In the backstory of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Subaru and Gingka Nakajima were products of a lab creating magical cyborgs and they were rescued by the people who would be their parents. While the other products of that experiment were the villains in season three, Mr. Nakajima offered to adopt any of them that accepted the offer.
  • Professor Kisaragi, Cutey Honey's creator/dad.
  • Lorelei from Saber Marionette JtoX — she is, in more than a way, the mother of all the marionettes.
  • To a little extent, Washu from Tenchi Muyo! towards Ryoko (she's partially her child as she was created using her own eggs), but Washu's attitude towards her is not quite motherly.
  • A male (well, more or less) example is Nanami from Sukisho ; he's a scientist who was involved in some unethical experiments on children, but eventually rescued and formed a family with them.
  • Another male example is Kotaro Kannagi from Code E: He starts the research on Chinami's Type-E power, and eventually falls in love with her.
  • Doctor Slump creates Arale and raises her as his child.
  • Kanami from Darker Than Black cared a lot about catatonic Dolls in jars and learned their individual quirks, which became evident in the episode when CY-463 trapped them. In her observatory they are more tools than subjects, but it's not like she could do for them any more even if she had any real power.
    • When in Shikkoku no Hana the Astronomy Bureau "doll system" was about to be closed, Kanami decided to quit. And go Hawaii, to "live as far away from things like the Gate and Contractors as possible" — an interesting statement, Dolls being an effect of the Gate as much as Contractors.
  • Cher Degré from Wolf's Rain. She is fascinated by Cheza and desires to understand her and her purpose. When Cheza escapes, she tries to follow her. Later she learns about the wolves and helps them escape, at the cost of her own life.
  • Subverted in Soul Eater: Doctor Medusa plays the nice doctor, but she's secretly experimenting on her patients. Plus in an outright aversion she's absolutly despicable in her treament of her main experiment/minion Chrona who actually is her child.
  • Winry in Fullmetal Alchemist, who is overprotective at times with Ed, especially when he breaks his automail.
    • In the 2003 anime adaptation, it's averted with Izumi (she takes care of a young homunculus in a really motherly way - but only because he's actually her real son!).
  • Satomi Hakase in Mahou Sensei Negima gradually became this to Chachamaru. It's seen more clearly when she consoles and comforts her after she barely "survives" a massive fight.
  • Dr. Mimori Kiryu from S-Cry-ed. Feeling compassion for how Kazuma is tortured, she lets him escape, and later gets interested in the Inners, eventually forming a community with them.
  • To a minor degree, Julia Silverstein from Blood Plus: She takes care of Saya and uses her blood to make a Serum that can stop the effects of the Delta 67 agent.
  • In the non-canon Halo Legends episode "Odd One Out" (inverted): She tells her kids to wash their hands and has enough intelligence to completely control an U.N.S.C. frigate , but the A.I. are not her children - it's her. Meet "Mama". And one heck of a mama, indeed: If you dare mess with her kids, she'll kick your ass into a rift in space-time. Yes, literally.
  • Zigzagged in .hack//Sign: Tsukasa finds a mother in the A.I. Morganna. Later he realizes she's not his real mother, but actually an Evil Matriarch. But then it turns out that
    she WAS designed to have a mother role for the Key of Twilight, but as she wasn't programmed with any role afterwards, she just went mad and decided that the Key should NEVER awaken at all.
  • Male example: Dr. Isaac Gilmore from Cyborg 009 is the Team Dad of the Cyborg group. And in is case, he has to, since he used to be one one of the Mad Scientists that cyborg-ized them in the first place.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion Ritsuko, her mother Naoko, and Shinji's mother Yui are all initially presented as being examples of this trope, of course this is Eva so they don't stay that way and the darker side of what they were doing quickly came to the fore.
  • A sweet yet sad example in El Cazador de la Bruja, with the Professor slowly becoming the Fatherly Scientist to Ellis before his death, as shown through flashbacks.
  • It's heavily implied that Dr. Kamiya acts as a male version of this towards Shiro in Afterschool Charisma.
  • In To Love Ru Darkness, Tearju Lunatique is shown to be this to Yami during the time they still were together.
  • Important part of the alleged backstory to Akumetsu, where a female scientist involved in the evil genius' attempts to clone himself a perfect new body winds up bonding with the Perfect Copy. They fall in love, kill the guy, and burn everything, but he dies...leaving her with about a hundred infant clones. Somehow she gets them adopted all over Japan, all with the first name 'Shou,' and keeps one to raise herself, dying before he turns eighteen but apparently training him to use all the tech she'd helped invent. Of course, we hear this via a Shou, and all of them are fundamentally Unreliable Narrators.
    • They are also Trope Overdosed; most of Akumetsu's shticks are pulled straight from Japanese TV, and the Shou telling the story is clearly very conscious of this trope as he tells it. He also cheerfully casts doubt on its accuracy himself; they're all insane, after all. Doctor Shou appears to have been raised by the Motherly Scientist, though.

Comic Books

  • Poison Ivy from Batman. Her "children", in this case, are the plants she takes care of.
    • Becomes more literal during the No Man's Land arc, where Gotham is leveled by an earthquake and subsequently cut off from the rest of the U.S. She takes over Robinson Park and unofficially adopts sixteen orphans.
  • Professor Trevor "Broom" Bruttenholm adopts Hellboy after he was summoned into this world.
  • Professor X from the X-Men, of course!
  • Doctor Sarah Kinney (X-23's surrogate mother), also from X-Men.
  • Inverted in Superman: The A.I. in the Fortress of Solitude contains the memories of Superman's biological father.
  • Aaron Stack the Machine Man was raised by Dr. Abel Stack, the only scientist in the X-Robot program who saw the robots as living, feeling beings.
  • Depending on the Writer (and on his meds), Dr Will Magnus, creator of the Metal Men, is sometimes a fatherly scientist, but sometimes sees his creations as simply machines.


  • Sara from Cocoon: The Return is a textbook example of the "Free Willy" scenario (just look at her touching the isolation glass - aaaaw).
  • In Avatar, Dr. Grace comes to fit this role, becoming a bit of a mother figure for the protagonist and caring for the natives whom her employers are pretty much trying to exterminate.
  • In Awakenings, Robin Williams plays a research physician who uses an experimental drug to "awaken" the catatonic victims of a rare disease, becoming friends with many in the process, including Robert De Niro's character who had fallen into catatonia as a child. Based on a True Story.
  • In D.A.R.Y.L., Doctor Stewart, Daryl's creator, is the first one to accept his humanity and decides to free him so he can return with his adoptive family. A female colleague of his, Dr. Lamb, at first was reluctant but later embraces the child's humanity and collaborates with the unfortunately-failed escape.
  • In Edward Scissorhands, the poor professor makes new hands for his creation, Edward. Unfortunately he has a heart attack just before he can install them. Too bad.
  • In the movie Twins, Arnold and his non-identical twin search for their Missing Mom, who they believe had abandoned them. She was the surrogate mother for the genetic experiment that brought them to life.
  • In The Matrix, the Oracle not only gives Neo advice - she also bakes cookies for him.
  • In the first Planet of the Apes movie, Chimpanzee Zira, notable psychologist and zoologist, calls Taylor "Bright Eyes", at least until he manages to write his own name, to her surprise. She ends up kissing him goodbye - even though, as she tells him, "You're so damned ugly."
  • In E.T. the scientist starts out as a shadowy and possibly naive agent for the Government Conspiracy that the boys are afraid just want to cut up E.T. But by the end of the movie, thanks to The Power of Love, he falls in with the family to wish E.T. farewell as a Fatherly Scientist instead of revealing their location, making it a Free Willy scenario.
  • Splice features Elsa starting out as Pinocchio Type 2 and Clive as the Free Willy type. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Elsa has My Beloved Smother tendencies and Clive has a bad case of I'm a Man, I Can't Help It.
  • Marg Helgenberger in Species II.


  • In Isaac Asimov's robot stories, robopsychologist Susan Calvin is notorious for being detached and unemotional. But in the short story "Lenny," she studies a robot whose brain has been accidentally programmed in a way which causes it to behave similarly to a human baby. She becomes very attached to Lenny under the pretext of studying his learning capabilities, and the end of the story reveals that she has taught him to call her "Mama".
  • Edith Fellowes in Isaac Asimov's short story "The Ugly Little Boy" High torque Tear Jerker.
  • In the Replica series of YA novels, Amy's mother was one of the scientists working on a project to create genetically-enhanced Super Soldiers, but after realizing the evils of the project, she rescued/kidnapped one of the clone babies and raised her as her own.
  • The golden age pulp robot Adam Link and his father are a perfect example of the Pinocchio Scenario.
  • In a variation on the Pinocchio Scenario, Douglas Preston's novel Jennie is about a chimpanzee raised like a human being. Almost everyone who gets to know her feels a deep parental love and desire to protect her. The ending is one of the most high-octane Tear Jerkers you will ever read.
  • Leo Graf in Lois McMaster Bujold's Falling Free is a Fatherly Scientist to the Quaddies. In the Vorkosigan Saga set decades (centuries?) after his death, he's a folk hero to their descendants.

Live Action TV

  • Maggie Walsh, head scientist of the secret government demon-hunting project, the "Initiative" in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Dr. Helen Magnus of Sanctuary. In addition to being an actual mother, she is fiercely protective of the abnormals in her sanctuary and will do anything to help/save them. On the other hand, she's not afraid to kick more than a little ass when necessary.

Video Games

  • * In the newest version of the hit iPod app, Cut the Rope, little Omnom winds up on a, to quote the game, "mad (but not evil) scientist's" doorstep. This scientists performs loving experiments with Omnop, all of which lead to little Omnom gaining the candy he loves ever so much.
  • Dr. Catherine Halsey of Halo, creator of the SPARTAN-II program, was much of a mother figure towards the Spartan children while at the same time administering the augmentations that killed or permanently disabled most of them. Worthy of note, however, is that her motherly treatment of them when not subjecting them to painful augmentations is believed to be a major contributor to the emotional stability of the SPARTAN-IIs compared to the SPARTAN-IIIs. She's also the mental template for the "smart" AI Cortana.
    • Things get a little weird when Cortana tells Halsey that she thinks John (Master Chief) is attractive. Halsey realizes that this means that John is her type too since Cortana is based on Halsey's thought patterns.
  • Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum from Bioshock is the creator and protector of the Little Sisters, though she started off as an Evilutionary Biologist doing it For Science! before becoming The Atoner.
  • Ariel Hanson from Starcraft II — she does the research to save the lives of the infected colonists.
  • Dr. Mizrahi from Xenosaga was MOMO's adoptive mother. Even Shion had her Motherly Scientist moments towards KOS-MOS, but that was quickly substituted by Les Yay.
  • Dr. Light from the Mega Man series, especially in the Mega Man Megamix manga, where he tries to be a Papa Wolf, even though there's really not much an old man can do against powerful robots or the government except provide tech support. He's still doing that for Mega Man X a hundred years later, in the form of Infinity Plus One Armors.
    • Dr. Wily refers to Zero as his son in the ending of one of the crossover games although his idea of a father-son activity would probably be killing Zero's best friend.
    • Ciel in Mega Man Zero is motherly towards Alouette, perhaps out of guilt for what she did to her own creation, who ended up the Big Bad.
    • In Mega Man 4, Dr. Cossack shows Papa Wolf tendencies towards his daughter, Kalinka. a chapter of the Mega Man Megamix manga revolves around his belief that robots should also be regarded as part of people's families and his failure to be a Fatherly Scientist towards Skullman.
    • The son of Dr. Light's Alternate Universe counterpart in the Mega Man Battle Network universe is this towards MegaMan.EXE, who in the game is one of his twin sons. In order to save his life, he turned him into a navi. Unfortunately, that project meant he didn't spend a lot of time with Lan.
      • From the same universe, Dr. Cossack seems to be a subversion: he was very kind to his creation, Bass.exe, until suddenly deciding to have him destroyed when he grew too powerful. In fact, the scientists out to destroy Bass.exe went so far as to stick Dr. Cossack in jail so he couldn't do anything to warn Bass.EXE or prevent it. Not that Bass.EXE believes this.
  • Dr. Gustav Brackman from Supreme Commander sees all Cybrans as his children.
  • Lemon Browning of Super Robot Taisen Original Generation 2 generally treats her androids as tools, albeit valuable ones. But when Lamia Loveless starts to develop human emotions and betrays her to save the protagonists, she starts to act like a proud mother, and even helps Lamia escape captivity. This is because Lemon is an android herself, and was rejected by her own parents for not being a suitable replacement for their dead daughter.
  • Fallout: New Vegas has Dr. Whitley, the inventor of ED-E. Despite being an Enclave scientist, it was clear that Whitley cared deeply for his creations and protested heavily against having ED-E scrapped to make Power Armor. In the end, he sent ED-E to Navarro (unaware that it's been razed at this point) and was likely killed by the Lone Wanderer.
  • Tekken has the late Dr. Emma Kliesen, who was very motherly to a certain boy who was used in cruel experiments (and who'd grow up to become Steve Fox). Her child Leo also remembers her fondly, and enters the tournament to find out the reasons behind her murder.


  • Parodied in the Xkcd strip "Network": Somehow the computer guy's virtualized viruses invoke some kind of Cuteness Proximity towards him. "Who's a good virus? You are! Yes, you are!"
  • Dr. Lee in Skin Horse would be this trope if not for certain conditions; she does care about her creations, but those creations are made out of kidnapped human beings.
  • Dr Sciuridae from El Goonish Shive is a rare fatherly scientist. Not only does he treat the subjects of the lab where he works much better than his colleagues, but he also eventually takes advantage of an opportunity to free them, and helps them adjust to normal society. Bonus Points for making a Replacement Goldfish of his dead daughter in the process.
  • Jean's relationship with Molly in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob is the Pinocchio Scenario. Slight variation in that Bob was the one who raised her from infancy, since Jean didn't realize her experiment had produced her until Molly was already grown, but Jean is now completely devoted to raising her right.
  • Dr. John Bowman of Freefall has produced Uplifted Animals as a "proof of concept". To prevent them from being scrapped, he arranged for their release in public.
  • Tabitha in Far Out There definitely qualifies. Her crowning achievements are a pair of super-powered zombie children, of whom she is extremely protective.
  • Lindesfarne of Kevin and Kell conducted an experiment on some mice (who, in this fictional universe, are as sapient as she is) for a school project. Kevin at one point expresses concern that she might get overly attached to them, and this is proven correct when she cancels the experiment and does an alternate project, keeping the mice around in her room and often having conversations with them.

Western Animation

  • Professor Utonium from The Powerpuff Girls, who creates the title characters and winds up adopting them as his children.
  • After carving a body for Pinocchio, Gepetto brings him to life with the Power of prayer.
  • Dr. Noreen "Nora" Wakemen for XJ-9, aka Jenny, in My Life as a Teenage Robot. Jenny calls her "Mom."
  • On Invader Zim, Word of God says Professor Membrane's "son" Dib was originally created as some sort of experiment (possibly a clone, since the two look alike).
  • Inverted in Defenders of the Earth: The crystal that powers the Dynak X computer holds the memories of Flash Gordon's deceased wife. Her son Rick is extremely fond of her, even if she remains in computer form.
  • An interesting subversion from Adventure Time. Princess Bubblegum is a scientist who created a son, Lemongrab, to rule the kingdom if she ever became unable to rule. However, he turned out to be a mean, bitter person. She's literally his mother, but the two don't seem to like each other at all. However, they don't hate each other, and the princess seemed dismayed and alarmed when she discovered that Lemongrab had turned out wrong.
  • Dolores and Jonathan Vale from Static Shock, who created a genetically engineered superbaby partially to fill a void from being unable to have children of their own. When they realized the lab planned to turn her into a Super Soldier, they rescued her and spent life on the run, raising her as their own daughter.
  • Implied to be the case with Max Sawyer in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. Max was a scientist on the Supertrooper Project, and pretty much the father figure in Goose's life. Max's dying words to Goose are very paternal, complementing the young Ranger on the fine man he's become.
  • Dr. Erika Slate of Big Guy and Rusty The Boy Robot designed and built the titular boy robot and basically treats him as a son, often going to extremes in order to aid him if he's in danger despite the fact that he's a walking weapons platform. Though she was extremely surprised to hear Rusty ask if she actually was his mother.

Real Life

  • Dian Fossey from Gorillas in The Mist: First she goes to Africa to study the gorillas, and then fights to protect them (bonus points for being a real person).
  • Same with Jane Goodall.
  • Christina Maslach, who brought about the early end of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment by objecting to the subjects' suffering as she was preparing to help with the experiment as a graduate student. Philip Zimbardo, who ran the experiment, noted that she was the only person out of more than fifty people who had observed the experiment to question its morality.