by Greg Mayer
My second entry for favorite science-y movie scene is from the 1986 remake of The Fly, starring Jeff Goldblum as modestly-mad scientist Seth Brundle, and Geena Davis as Veronica Quaife, his journalist-love interest. (The 1958 original starred Vincent Price, but not as the scientist.) The scene occurs fairly early in the film. Seth and Veronica meet at a press event, and go to Seth’s lab/loft apartment. Seth hangs up his coat, opening up a closet that reveals several sets of the same clothing that he is wearing. He explains to the surprised Veronica that, by always wearing the same type of clothes, he never wastes any time deciding what to wear, thus leaving more time for his scientific work.
I couldn’t find a video of this scene, but the following clip shows Seth wearing the outfit in his lab/loft apartment.
The kernel of truth here is that scientists really do deliberately limit their clothing choices, as a way of eliminating distraction– they’re dedicated to what’s truly important. There’s a story of a famed herpetologist, the lower portion of whose tie was stained with alcohol and snake scales, because he wore the same tie every day, and it would periodically get dipped in the trays and bottles of the snake specimens he was examining. Dick Lewontin, Jerry’s esteemed graduate advisor, always wears khaki pants, a blue work shirt, and, if it’s chilly, a brown sweater. He kept a tie in the office, in case some formal situation demanded it. Here’s Dick at last year’s Darwin festivities in Chicago; then take a look at these other photos, taken years apart.