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The Thinking Machine was the creation of American novelist Jacques Futrelle, one of numerous ‘detective’ characters inspired during the early Twentieth Century by the popularity of Arthur Conan Doyle’s master detective, Sherlock Holmes. The Thinking Machine was the nickname of Professor Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen, a scientist turned armchair detective, who possesses a peculiar and unemotional personality – and a massive intellect – that he applies in a most logical manner to solving crimes, always assisted by an investigative reporter.
In its day, this being the early 1900’s, The Thinking Machine was a popular feature, and Futrelle wrote many Thinking Machine stories, all of which can be read online here.
The ingenuity of Professor Van Dusen’s unique thought processes combined with his relentless logic to create a brilliance of deduction rarely seen in crime fiction. As a result, Professor Van Dusen is one of the most cerebral and purely analytical of fictional detectives. Of the forty-some-odd novels and short stories featuring Professor Van Dusen, Futrelle’s most famous short story “The Problem of Cell 13” is considered to be one of the finest crime short stories ever written.
Sadly, Jacques Futrelle (and a batch of unpublished Thinking Machine stories) was lost on the Titanic at the height of his career. A real man to the end, Futrelle’s widow told the press that when she last saw her husband, he was standing on the Titanic deck smoking a cigarette with John Jacob Astor.