With Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation set to return to our screens in a New Year’s Day episode of Sherlock, it was refreshing to attend a symposium on 9 December dedicated to his much less well-known character, Professor George Edward Challenger.
Most readers, if they have heard of him at all, will know Professor Challenger from his first appearance in the novel, The Lost World (1912).
Narrated by journalist Edward Malone, the novel sees the irascible professor lead an expedition to a South American plateau to prove the existence of dinosaurs there, accompanied by Malone, fellow scientist Professor Summerlee and Lord John Roxton, a hunter and adventurer.
Challenger’s adventures continued in two further novels, The Poison Belt (1913), The Land of Mist (1926) and two later short stories, When the World Screamed (1928) and The Disintegration Machine (1929).
The symposium, ‘Challenger unbound’ – ably convened by UCL PhD student Tom Ue (UCL English) – explored all five works and brought together scholars from across the UK and North America including UCL’s John Sutherland, Lord Northcliffe Professor Emeritus of Modern English Literature.