Professor Cuthbert Calculus (Professeur Tryphon Tournesol, literally Professor Tryphonius Sunflower or Tryphonius Litmus Paper) is a fictional character in the series The Adventures of Tintin. He is a distracted, hard-of-hearing professor, who invents many sophisticated devices used in the series, such as a one-person shark-shaped submarine, the Moon rocket and an ultrasound weapon.
Calculus first appeared in Red Rackham's Treasure, and was the end result of Hergé's long quest to find the archetypal mad scientist or absent-minded professor. Although Hergé had included characters with similar traits in earlier stories, Calculus developed into a much more complex figure as the series progressed.
Calculus's deafness is a frequent source of humour in his interactions with other people, as he often repeats back what he thinks he has heard, usually in the most unlikely words possible. Additionally, he often diverts the subject of a conversation by responding to a misinterpreted remark. For example, "But I never knew you had..." leads Calculus to respond "No, young man, I am not mad!". He is not perturbed by his handicap, even if it is a source of deep frustration to his friends. He himself does not admit to being near-deaf and insists that he is "only a little hard of hearing in one ear."
In the course of the Moon books, however, Calculus leads a team of scientists and engineers working on a major rocket project, motivating him to adopt a hearing aid, and for the duration of the adventure he has near-perfect hearing. This made him a more serious character, even displaying leadership qualities which had not been shown before or since. However, after completing the journey to the Moon, Calculus discarded his hearing aid, forcing his friends to readjust to his hearing impairment (aside from a scene in The Castafiore Emerald when Tintin insists he use it in order to clarify some misunderstanding during the TV broadcast); this restored the humour surrounding him, though it could be that he finds his deafness useful since it enables him to focus on his work.
Although generally a mild-mannered (if somewhat oblivious) figure, Calculus flies into an uncharacteristic rage if he ever hears the Captain (or anyone else) call him a "goat". On one famous occasion in Destination Moon, he displays uncontrollable ire ("Goat, am I?") when an irritated Haddock accuses him of "acting the goat" by attempting to build a Moon rocket. His subsequent tirade and blatant disregard for security rules terrifies the usually ebullient Captain, and shows that despite his gentle nature, Calculus is rather sensitive about his work, and does not appreciate being ridiculed or belittled for his scientific efforts.
In spite of all this, his friends stick by him come what may. Haddock invited him to stay at Marlinspike Hall after Calculus had bought it in his name thanks to money he had earned through selling the patent for his shark-submarine which he had been able to test in the West Indies thanks to Haddock and Tintin who were searching for Red Rackham's treasure. Tintin and Haddock crossed the world on at least two occasions (Prisoners of the Sun and The Calculus Affair) in order to save him from kidnappers.
In contrast to his unquestionable scientific merits, Calculus is a fervent believer in dowsing, and carries a pendulum for that purpose. He occasionally comments that he was a great sportsman in his youth, with a very athletic lifestyle. He is a former practitioner of the French martial art savate, although a demonstration in Flight 714 shows him to be a bit rusty.
Calculus's introduction appears to have supplied Hergé with the bizarre nature he wished to portray in a man of science. Other figures of high education were shown as more stable and level-headed. The members of the archaeological expedition who fall victim to The Seven Crystal Balls show no apparent signs of eccentricity. The most prominent member of this group is Calculus's friend Hercules Tarragon, with whom he attended university. Tarragon is a large, ebullient man, possessing a jovial nature.
While he sometimes appears aloof when absorbed in his work, Calculus corresponds with other scientists and also collaborates with many of them on his projects. Notably, he works with Baxter and Frank Wolff on the Moon rocket and corresponds with ultrasonics expert Alfredo Topolino of Nyon in The Calculus Affair.
Calculus maintains a laboratory at Marlinspike Hall, in which he conducts various experiments. He is fairly protective of his work, on occasion hiding his scientific endeavours from Tintin and Haddock (which gets him into trouble in The Calculus Affair). His lab is also stripped of all its apparatus in the same book. On an earlier occasion, during his efforts to find an antidote to Formula Fourteen in Land of Black Gold, Calculus almost destroyed half of Marlinspike in an explosion.
Calculus is also distressed by Castafiore's imprisonment in Tintin and the Picaros, and is adamant on going to her defence. In the same book, he is charmed by the unattractive Peggy Alcazar (wife of General Alcazar) and kisses her hand after she bluntly criticizes Tintin and Haddock (a remark which Calculus mistakes for a warm greeting).
Calculus' original French name was "Tournesol" which is the French term for sunflower.
In the 1970s and 1980s, he starred in a series of cartoon television commercials for Fruit d'or products which included cooking oil and mayonnaise made from sunflower oil. Some of the ads would conclude with him floating up into the air to demonstrate how they kept a good healthy balance. Other characters from the books were also included
His name was used in naming an album by Stephen Duffy and the group Tin Tin, which was called "Dr. Calculus".