Pokemon Week: Pokemon Professors

Throughout the thirteen years that Pokemon has been around, we’ve been treated to a number of Professor’s in the Pokemon world who have guided Ash Ketchum and the video game protagonists through their journey to become Pokemon masters. Each one has provided information and even Pokemon to Ash and friends, making them an integral part of the Pokemon Mythos.



Professor Samuel Oak

Professor Oak is probably the most famous adult in all of Pokemon. He has been with the series since the very beginning, give the trainers in Pokemon Red/Green/Blue/Yellow their very first Pokemon. He is also the grandfather of Gary Oak, Ash Ketchum’s long time rival and the man who gave Pikachu to Ash. Professor Oak is the only person to have gotten Pikachu inside its Pokeball which is an impressive feat indeed!

From the anime series we do know that Professor Oak’s first Pokemon was a Charmander (We meet a young Sam Oak and his Charmeleon in the fourth movie) and that it was a chance encounter with the legendary Pokemon Celebi that set Professor Oak down his road to become a scientist and the inventor of the Pokedex. Other Pokemon we know Professor Oak has caught and raised as his own include a Pidgey, a Dragonite and a Seaking.

If Professor oak were a real scientist, his would most likely have his degree in Biology, with specializations in Taxonomy and Ethology. Taxonomy is the finding and categorizing living things based on a specific grouping that breaks down into: Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. Only a seasoned taxonomist could have created the Pokedex. Ethology is the stufy of animal behavior and psychology which Professor Oak seems to be the foremost expert on in the Pokemon world.



Professor Felina Ivy

There’s not much known about Ivy, save that she was the professor and adult contact for Ash and friends during the Orange Islands season of the anime. We do know that Brock falls in love with her and, for the only time in the ten plus years of the series, Brock leaves Ash to stay with Ivy. It is unknown if Brock and Professor Ivy have a actual relationship or not, but by the end of the season, Brock is back with Ash and Misty and heavily implies something bad happened between the two. Perhaps they dated and had a nasty break up?

Professor Ivy is the adult who gives Ash and Misty the “G/S Ball” that they eventually bring to Kurt in Johto. Hardcore Pokemon fans might know that the G/S Ball could be used only in Pokemon Crystal and was vital to unlocking Celebi in your game.
It is hard to say what exactly Felina Ivy is a professor of, but as she and Brock both shared a passion for Pokemon breeding, that she was probably a geneticist of some type, most likely specializing in “Mendelian Inheritance.” Mendelian genetics revolve around breeding and dominate/recessive characteristics.



Professor Elm

We never do learn Professor Elm’s full name, but he does play a huge part in the Johto season of the anime. He also serves as your protagonists guide through Johto in the second generation of Pokemon video games, Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal. In the video games, Professor Elm gives your Trainer his choice of three Pokemon in Chikorita, Totodile, and Cyndaquil.

We do know that Professor Elm is perhaps the most obsessive of all the Professors, preferring research over eating or sleeping. He was one of Professor Oak’s top students and Elm hopes one day to surpass Professor Oak as the world’s leading expert on Pokemon. Elm was the person who discovered several Pokemon we thought were base forms, like Pikachu or Clefairy, were actually evolved Pokemon and introduced us to “pre evolutionary” or “Baby Pokemon.”

If Professor Elm was a real scientist, he would probably be another Geneticist with an emphasis in Cladistics. Cladistics is the classification of living creatures based on their evolutionary ancestors. This study of earlier forms of modern day animals would have been needed for Professor Oak to discover Pokemon like Igglybuff or Magby.



Professor Birch

Professor Birch is from the third generation of video games, Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald and helps Ash, May, and Brock out during the Hohnn seasons of the anime.

Professor Birch is quite a change from the previous professors as he has a more hands on role in the anime. It is Birch who gives May her choice of starter Pokemon in Torchic, Mudkip, or Treecko. He is also shown to be a field researcher, meaning that professor Birch actually goes out into the wild to study Pokemon, where the other professors we looked at preferred to study in a lab or behind a desk.

In the third generation of video games, Professor Birch is actually the father of your rival, and your father’s best friend. It’s a good thing that your rivalry in these games is actually a friendly one! Professor Birch gives you your first Pokemon to save him from a pack of attacking Poochyena. This scene is replicated in the anime as May saves Birch from a similar incident.

Professor Birch is the only Pokémon professor where it is specifically stated what his scientific specialty is. Professor Birch is an expert in habitual distribution. This is the study of how animals decide where they will live and why. Professor Birch would look at things like ecology, the environment, food sources, and other factors that make an area particularly popular for a specific Pokemon species. For example, Grimer and Muk would probably like a highly polluted area in a heavily urbanized area, while many Flying Type Pokemon would most likely want to live in a heavily forested region.


Professor Rowan

Professor Rowan is the most recent Pokemon professor added to the franchise. Professor Rowan is your guide through the Sinnoh region in both the Pokemon Diamond and Pearl Anime season, and fourth generation of video games – Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum,.

In the anime, Rowan appears in the first episode of the D/P season, but has not appeared again since. Rowan however, has made a pretty big impact as it was he who gave Dawn her first Pokemon in Piplup.

In the video games, Rowan is trying to catch a glimpse of Mespirit, who lives in Lake Verity. You and your friendly rival go to see what he’s up to and find that Professor Rowan has left his backpack containing three Pokeballs behind by mistake. The two of you are then attacked by wild Starly, and you both must pick a Pokemon. After beating the Starly and returning the pack to Rowan and his assistant, he allows you to keep the Pokemon you chose, noticing how close the two of you have already become.

Unlike the other professors, we do know that Professor Rowan was a master Trainer in addition to being a researcher. In fact, Professor Rowan was once the Pokemon League Champion for the Sinnoh region, a feat none of the other professors can claim!
Like Professors Birch, we are told what Professor Rowan’s scientific emphasis is. Rowan is another geneticist (the third of the five) who specializes in evolution, most likely morphogenesis. Morphogenesis is the biological process that causes an organism to develop its shape. When a creature is in its embryonic state, morphogenesis regulates cell differentiation decisions which determines the eventual fate of any particular cell. A good example of this is stem cell research and how stem cells can become practically any other cell in the body.

As you can see, all five professors may serve a similar role in providing an adult mentor for Pokemon Trainers, but each has their own scientific strength as well as very different backgrounds and personalities. There are other Poikemon professors out there. such as Professor Hastings from the Pokemon Ranger games, Professor P from Pokemon Trozei and Professor Krane from Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness

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