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Reflections On Professor Roy Hinkley Ph.D. and His Time On Gilligan's Island

Updated on January 31, 2014
Russell Johnson as The Professor on Gilligan's Island
Russell Johnson as The Professor on Gilligan's Island

Professor Roy Hinkley Ph.D. aka. "The Professor" on Gilligan's Island. For years, the running joke was "If he was so smart, why couldn't he build a boat to get them off the island?" This joke is so old it has been used at least back as far as when I was in third grade in 1972 by kids on the playground. The same joke was used in the TV show Roseanne, in the movie Back To The Beach and even Weird Al has pondered this mystery in song. I propose that The Professor did have the ability to get the castaways off of the island, but chose not to.

Books That The Professor Brought With Him

Island Survival
General Science
Rare Tropical Plants
The Criminal Law
Tropical Diseases
A World of Facts
Volcanoes and their Destructive Powers
The World of Insects
Integrated Calculus
Navy Regulations
HowTo Tell a Mushroom From a Toadstool
The History of Tree Surgery
Four-Masted Schooners I Have Known
The Carpenter's Handbook
A Million Ways to Make a Million

Evidence I

The Professor was a scientist. In the first episode when he was introduced, he was described as a research scientist and well known scoutmaster. Later we find that he boarded the ill fated voyage of the S.S. Minnow to work on his book Fun With Ferns. He spent three hours a day cataloging the flora and fauna of the island. The first reason I think that The Professor didn't want to go back is because he had found the perfect place for his studies. Even better, he was under no pressure to do anything else. When the others went to see him he was usually working on his studies. They approached him with reverence. You didn't usually see The Professor involved with any of the manual labor on the Island. He had time to work on his book. He was under no pressure to produce anything, and he had his food provided to him and prepared for him.

Who Would Want To Leave?

Dawn Wells as Mary Ann, Russell Johnson as Professor Roy Hinkley and Tina Louise as Ginger Grant
Dawn Wells as Mary Ann, Russell Johnson as Professor Roy Hinkley and Tina Louise as Ginger Grant

A Partial List Of The Professor's Inventions

  • Shark Repellant
  • Weather Stripping
  • Pain
  • Nails
  • Smoke Bomb
  • Phonograph
  • Pedal Powered Pump
  • Battery Charger
  • Pedal Powered Washing Machine
  • Pedal Powered Sewing Machine
  • Bamboo Telescope
  • Pedal Powered Clay Mixer
  • Scale
  • Phosphorescent Dye Marker
  • Anesthetic
  • Moonshine
  • Pedal Powered Fan
  • Seaweed Shampoo
  • Skin Powder
  • Blackberry Rouge
  • Pedal Powered Air Pump
  • Pedal powered Movie Projector
  • A Darkroom
  • Catapult
  • Coconut Headphones
  • Sandtimer
  • Speargun
  • Guillotine
  • Pedal powered Chainsaw
  • Blowtorch
  • Telephone Receiver
  • Food Preservative
  • Stethoscope
  • Nitroglycerine
  • Allergy Vaccine
  • Syringes
  • Blood Pressure Gauge
  • Hair Dye
  • Generator
  • Telegraph
  • Jet Pack Fuel
  • Geiger Counter
  • Dynamite
  • Knockout Solution
  • Lie Detector
  • Bamboo Pedal Powered Car
  • Dental Drill

Evidence II

I think another reason The Professor didn't want to go back was because he had a choice of two exciting women that might not even give him a second look at home. If you ask any woman who was the best looking man on the island the answer is always the same - The Professor. We don't know a lot about The Professor's social life at home, but we do know that on the island he was looked on as a respected figure. We also know that the Island contained two eligible and attractive females. One of them was a down-to-earth Kansas girl named Mary Ann Summers, the other being Ginger Grant, a well known Hollywood movie star. Back home, there would be very little chance that a man like The Professor would ever come in contact with a Hollywood starlet with a high libido, but here he interacted with her on a regular basis.

There were other men on the island. The first was Thurston Howell III. Even though it seems that he had an occasional romantic interest in Ginger, he was married to a woman of his own social stature who put up with (and even encouraged) his eccentricities. It would seem unlikely that he would ever leave his wife. The other two men on the island were The Skipper and Gilligan. The Skipper (Jonas Grumby) doesn't seem to be much competition for The Professor. Yes, the rest of the castaways all respected the skipper's authority, but his vacillation between anger and buffoonery made him much less desirable than The Professor. Gilligan was the other contender. It is unclear what age Gilligan was, but his attitude and mental age seemed to be still in a juvenile state. He seemed not notice the women of the island in any romantic way, and the occasional times that Ms. Grant did try to press herself on him, he became very nervous and uncomfortable.

Evidence III

Another thing to consider is the possibility that The Professor may not have wanted to leave the island because he had something in his past that he was wanting to run away from. It is clear that The Professor was an exceptionally intelligent man. We find out throughout the course of the series that he had his B.S., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. We also find out they he had degrees from USC, UCLA, SMU and TCU. It seemed that The Professor could be teaching anywhere he chose, but we find out that he was a high school teacher. Could there be something in his past that meant his downfall from academia and reduced him to accept a role as a high school teacher. Don't get me wrong, being a high school teacher is a great and noble profession, but seems to be incongruous with his training. In the first episode he is referred to as a "Well known scoutmaster." What was it that made him a well known scoutmaster? Was there some incident relating to scouting that he was famous (or infamous) for? There are many questions that remain unanswered about this gentleman. He never mentioned any family or any real details of his former life before the shipwreck. Is there a reason he was so silent on the issue?

With all of his advanced knowledge, I wonder if there was even the possibility that the professor somehow knew, that the storm was coming, that it would blow them off course, and that they would be stranded. It seems rather far-fetched, but he seemed to be quite prepared for that possibility. Besides, what is far-fetched in a world where a party of seven people on a deserted island have three of them (Ginger, Gilligan and Mr Howell) have their doppelgängers get stranded on the same island while they are there?

Russell Johnson, the talented actor who played The Professor, passed away on January 16, 2014 at the age of 89. He will be missed.


Bob Denver, who played Gilligan in the series, said in an interview with Larry King that The Professor "had no talent for boat-building." The Professor was obviously a smart man. Just glancing at the list of his inventions while on the island shows that he was a man of superior intellect. The professor always calm, cool and collected. For him, it never seemed a problem that he was stranded on an island. He seemed to be content with what he had. Although he did try to get them off the island, I don't think he tried too hard. A man that could create all the professor did, had the technical ability to come up with a workable solution. To me, the only explanation is that he chose to stay on the island. Maybe he did so to study plants and write his book, maybe he wanted to stay for the women, or maybe he had a darker motive for leaving civilization that he never shared with the others. Think about it, if you had the talent to make everything you needed, have your meals provided to you, could study whatever you wanted, be the most eligible bachelor on the island, be respected by your peers, and not have to work - would you want to get back to civilization?

Was This Really An Accident Professor?


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