Science in secret

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Dr. Emmett Brown secretly develops a time machine in Back to the Future.

Science in secret is a common trope in science fiction where a single lone scientist secretly progresses science and technology far beyond what it currently known to the rest of the world. The trope will sometimes uses a small team of scientists as well. This wasn't as uncommon when the field of science was still in its infancy, but, as science became a collective endeavor with scientists sharing their work, it has become far less common. In order for a lone scientist to progress far beyond their peers today, they have to not only be more intelligent than all the other individual geniuses in their field, but all those geniuses working together. Today, because advancements in science are collaborative, advancements are made in little steps, but they're made far more frequently.


As a child, I found this trope to be especially romantic and loved the idea of a scientist that was so severely devoted to a particular subject they could surpass their colleagues by leaps and bounds. It made me imagine, as a bright loner myself, if I could just stay laser focused on a topic, I could do the same. It was only much later into adulthood that I found out how extremely rare it is for that to actually happen, but, by then, I gained an appreciation for working with my peers to solve hard problems.


These are works that are important to me which feature the science in secret trope. For the complete list, see the category.

Title Released Media Notes
Back to the Future 1985-07-03 Film Dr. Emmett Brown creates a time machine all by himself and keeps it secret from the rest of the world.
Batman 1939-03-30 Comicbook Bruce Wayne is a rich genius who frequently creates technology far beyond what anyone else is capable of which he uses to fight crime, though he never shares his inventions with law enforcement.
Futurama 1999-03-28 Cartoon All by himself, professor Farnsworth makes a large variety of comically complex devices which surpass the technology of the rest of the world, and these are rarely shared with anyone else.
Ghostbusters 1984-06-08 Film Dr. Egon Spengler, with help from Ray Stantz, creates a vast array of high-powered complex machinery to catch ghosts.
Jurassic Park 1990-11-20 Novel A small team of scientists led by Dr. Henry Wu are hired by a theme park tycoon and successfully clone animals that have been extinct for millions of years. Their progress is kept secret to make the park profitable.
Iron Man 1963-03-?? Comicbook Tony Stark is a rich genius who creates various form of technology far beyond what anyone else is capable of and never shares his technology with the world.
Stargate 1994-10-28 Film Dr. Daniel Jackson is a young Egyptologist with an understanding of hieroglyphics beyond anyone else, although, this is more because he's overlooked, but his work becomes secret when he begins working for the military.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day 1991-07-03 Film Cyberdyne Systems engineer Miles Dyson is secretly developing the technology necessary to create terminators.