Top Ten Fictional Female Geniuses

This was kind of a fun excercise. I was thinking about what lists to compile and I found a few ‘genius’ lists and of course, the women were largely absent. I don’t mind doing a male list as well (lists are so much fun) but I did have to address this with a top ten female fictional genius list.

What was striking was all of them with one exception are single.  I thought that was rather amusing. Obviously writers think genius’ won’t hook up or they think hooking up reduces your chances of genius.  Another interesting similarity was the amount of personal protection or revenge themes came up in the genius list. It seems we think brilliant women are socially dysfunctional  – that is a given – and we think they all intuitively brilliant. Where the ‘mad scientist’ motif exists for men, for women, they are all brilliant at reading people and ‘working them out’. usually they will then exploit that information.

One thing they all are, without exception, is fiercely independent. I guess that goes with the single thing. Let me know below if I have left any out. I know at least there are a few super heroes that could be added to the list.


10. Lisbeth Salander

In my opinion, Lisbeth Salander is one of the best characters created in years.  Apparently she is supposed to be a grown up Pippi Longstocking. I didn’t have PL as I was growing up, so I can’t comment on that one, but he did make several references in this characters past that link Salander with Pippi.  Salander is just one really cool chick. She suffers rape and abuse as a child (and an adult) and comes back swinging – even to the point that she will set her abusive father on fire. She is a brilliant computer hacker and private investigator, and has a photographic memory.  Like almost all the women on this list she has a perverse and uncanny ability to see through people and can tell in an instant if they are going to do her harm and what their vulnerabilities are.

9. Emma Peel

The character was notable for a number of characteristics. She is a feminist heroine, eschewing traditional “damsel-in-distress” portrayals of women (she is rarely bested in any fight and rescues Steed as often as he rescues her). She is a master of martial arts and a formidable fencer. A certified genius, she specializes in chemistry and other sciences. She is often seen in episodes engaging in artistic hobbies and had success in industry at the helm of the company of her late father, Sir John Knight. Her husband, Peter Peel, was a pilot whose plane disappeared over the Amazonian forest. He was presumed dead for many years, and Peel went on to work with Steed. She drove a convertible Lotus Elan at high speeds, and convincingly portrayed any series of undercover roles, from nurse to nanny. Her favorite guise was that of a women’s magazine reporter, trying to interview big business tycoons and rich playboys.

8. Lara croft

Lara Croft is a fictional character and the protagonist of the Square Enix (previously Eidos Interactive) video game series Tomb Raider. She is presented as an  intelligent and athletic British archaeologist-adventurer who ventures into ancient, hazardous tombs and ruins around the world. Created by Toby Gard during his employment at UK developer Core Design, the character first appeared in the 1996 video game Tomb Raider.  When exploring, she often carries two pistols, but has used other weaponry throughout the series. Lara Croft is fluent in several languages.

7. Beatrix Kiddo

The Bride, codenamed “Black Mamba”, is a former member of the “Deadly Viper Assassination Squad”, an elite, shadowy group ofassassins. A formidable, ruthless warrior trained under martial arts master Pai Mei (Gordon Liu), she served at the right hand of Bill(David Carradine), her boss and lover, a position that provoked the furious envy of Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah). She is fluent in lord knows how many languages and a favorite of Pai Mei who usually hates women who he thinks are only good for spending men’s money. Kiddo, a master of the Tiger/Crane style of kung fu, is the only Viper to learn the “Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique”, a method of killing a person by quickly striking five pressure points around the heart with the fingertips. After the victim takes five steps, the heart explodes and he/she falls dead. Pai Mei supposedly refused to teach this technique, which was said to be “the deadliest blow in all of martial arts”, to Bill or anyone else. Kiddo’s determination wins his respect, however, and he teaches her the forbidden technique – a secret that Kiddo withholds from Bill until they meet for their final showdown.

6. Violet Baudelaire

Violet is an amazing inventor, inventing various items such as: a grappling hook that gets her up Count Olaf’s tower in The Bad Beginning, a lock pick that enables her to open up Count Olaf’s suitcase in The Reptile Room,a signaling device in “The Wide Window”, a climbing device made from ties,curtains,and old socks in “The Ersatz Elevator”a invention that frees her and her siblings from the jail in the Village of Fowl Devotees in The Vile Village, some fork-assisted climbing shoes that help her and Quigley Quagmire get up the frozen waterfall of Mount Fraught in The Slippery Slope and many more. She is thirteen and turns fourteen during the series.

5. Miss Marple

Miss Marple sometimes comes across as confused or “fluffy”, but when it comes to solving mysteries, she has a sharp logical mind, and an almost unmatched understanding of human nature with all its weaknesses, strengths, quirks and foibles. In the detective story tradition, she often embarrasses the local “professional” police by solving mysteries that have them stumped. This is the quintessential female genius according to the stereotype in that her incredible brilliance comes from being able to memorize history and recognize human behavior through previous events.

4. Modesty Blaise

Modesty Blaise is a British comic strip featuring a fictional character of the same name, created by Peter O’Donnell (writer) and Jim Holdaway (art) in 1963. The strip follows the adventures of Modesty Blaise, an exceptional young woman with many talents and a criminal past, and her trusty sidekick Willie Garvin.

3. Dorothea Brooke

An intelligent, wealthy young woman who aspires to do great work. Spurning signs of wealth in the form of jewels or fancy clothes, she embarks upon projects such as redesigning cottages for the tenants of her miserly, careless uncle. She can seldom get anyone to take her ideas seriously and she decides to marry the Reverend Edward Casaubon, many decades her senior, in order to help him with the writing of his great research. The marriage is quickly revealed to be a mistake, as Casaubon does not take her seriously and resents her. She finds in the Reverend’s second cousin, Will Ladislaw, a kindred spirit and the two become friends. After Casaubon’s death, the two fall in love but fight their attraction due to the scandalousness of their relationship — Casaubon included in his will the provision that, if she were to marry Ladislaw, she would be disinherited. She may be a strange choice for this list, but I have added her to show what happens to very brilliant women when they are not taken seriously. Dorothea ends up being a bit of a waste on the whole, but it does not mean she is not a genius.

2. Miss Havisham

Humiliated and heartbroken, Havisham had all the clocks stopped at the exact point in which she had learned of her betrayal by her swindling fiance Compayson. From that day on, she remained by herself in her decaying mansion, Satis House, never removing her wedding dress (as a result of being in the process of getting dressed when she receives the letter, she only has one shoe on), leaving the wedding cake uneaten on the table and only allowing a few people to see her. Miss Havisham later had her lawyer, Mr. Jaggers, adopt a daughter for her. Miss Havisham is very vengeful against all men, and that is why in the beginning she makes Estella break Pip’s heart. She may seem a surprise in this list (like Dorothea Brooke) but quite frankly there is only one word for a person this obsessive, this ruthless, this committed and this driven – genius.

1. Sophie Carrefax

Serge grows up amid the noise and silence with his brilliant but troubled older sister, Sophie: an intense sibling relationship that stays with him as he heads off into an equally troubled larger world. Communication comes in many forms, from within as well as without, and Sophie Carrefax,  receives signals that no-one else does. She can ”see things. What’s coming. … It’s all connected. I feel it inside me.” Sophie is a true genius. When the children conduct brilliant experiments at home, it is always Sophie who constructs them with Serge as the witness. She is deeply connected to science, natural history particularly.  Like so many of the geniuses in this list, she is feisty, independent and ruthless with a strong revenge streak in her. Despite her sad demise, she become smarter and more gifted as she grows older.
Have I missed any important ones?

Add them in the comments.