Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen

Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, Ph.D., LL.D., F.R.S., M.D., M.D.S. is a fictional character in a series of detective short stories and two novels by Jacques Futrelle. Some of the short stories were originally published in The Saturday Evening Post and the Boston American.

Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen
First appearanceThe Problem of Cell 13
Created byJacques Futrelle
Portrayed byDouglas Wilmer
Paul Rhys
In-universe information
OccupationScientist, Amateur Detective


In the stories, Professor Van Dusen solves a variety of different mysteries with his friend and companion, Hutchinson Hatch, reporter of a fictional newspaper called The Daily New Yorker. The professor is known as "The Thinking Machine", solving problems by the remorseless application of logic. This nickname was given to him after his winning of a match against the fictional chess champion of the day, Tschaikowsky, in a demonstration to show the power of applying pure logic. He was able to win against the reigning champion having only been taught the game the morning of the match. Many of his titles are actually honorary degrees awarded to him serving only to amuse the universities and scientific institutions that crown him with those titles. His catchphrases include, "Two and two always equal four," "Nothing is impossible" and "All things that start must go somewhere." Futrelle died at age 37 on April 15, 1912, on the RMS Titanic. He refused to board a lifeboat, insisting that his wife board instead.


  1. The Chase of the Golden Plate (1906)

Short storiesEdit

  1. The Problem of Dressing Room A. Associated Sunday Magazines e.g. (Minneapolis) Sunday Journal, 2 September 1996
  2. The Problem of the Auto Cab. Associated Sunday Newspapers e.g. (Washington) Evening Star, 14 April 1907
  3. The Problem of the Broken Bracelet
  4. The Brown Coat
  5. The Case of the Life Raft
  6. The Case of the Mysterious Weapon
  7. The Case of the Scientific Murderer
  8. Convict #97
  9. The Problem of The Cross Mark
  10. The Crystal Gazer. Associated Sunday Magazines e.g. Minneapolis Journal, 23 September 1906, as 'The Problem of the Crystal Gazer'
  11. The Disappearance of Baby Blake
  12. The Deserted House. Associated Sunday Magazines e.g. Washington Evening Star, 7 July 1907, as 'Parable of the Deserted House'
  13. The Fatal Cipher. Associated Sunday Magazines e.g. New York Tribune, 3 February 1907, as 'The Thinking Machine Looks into the Cipher Message'
  14. The Flaming Phantom (Hatch is sent to investigate a "haunted house" where a flaming ghost chases off any intruders, but he is forced to summon Van Dusen)
  15. The Ghost Woman
  16. The Golden Dagger
  17. The Great Auto Mystery
  18. The Green Eyed Monster. Associated Sunday Magazines e.g. Minneapolis Journal, 28 October 1906
  19. The Haunted Bell. The Saturday Evening Post, 17 November 1906
  20. The House That Was (Part 2 of a story published as "The Grinning God". May Futrelle wrote Part 1, 'Wraiths of the Storm')
  21. The Problem of The Hidden Million
  22. The Interrupted Wireless
  23. The Jackdaw Girl
  24. The Knotted Cord
  25. The Leak
  26. The Lost Radium (Takes place in a laboratory at the fictional "Yarvard University", a pastiche of Yale and Harvard). Associated Sunday Magazines e.g. Minneapolis Journal, 7 October 1906, as 'The Problem of the Lost Radium'
  27. The Man Who Was Lost
  28. The Missing Necklace. Associated Sunday Magazines e.g. Minneapolis Journal, 21 October 1906, as 'The Problem of the Missing Necklace'
  29. The Motor Boat. Associated Sunday Magazines e.g. Minneapolis Journal, 9 September 1906, as 'The Problem of the Motor Boat'
  30. The Mystery of a Studio
  31. The Mystery of Room 666
  32. The Opera Box. Associated Sunday Magazines e.g. Minneapolis Journal, 14 October 1906, as 'The Problem of the Opera Box'
  33. The Organ Grinder
  34. A Perfect Alibi. Associated Sunday Magazines e.g. Minneapolis Journal, 4 November 1906, as 'The Perfect Alibi'
  35. The Phantom Motor. Associated Sunday Magazines e.g. Minneapolis Journal, 11 October 1906, as 'The Phantom Auto'
  36. A Piece of String. Associated Sunday Magazines e.g. Minneapolis Journal, 16 September 1906
  37. Prince Otto
  38. The Private Compartment
  39. The Problem of Cell 13 (Van Dusen accepts a challenge to escape from a death row cell within a week, and Hatch publicizes it in the newspaper)
  40. The Ralston Bank Burglary
  41. The Red Rose
  42. The Roswell Tiara. Associated Sunday Magazines e.g. Minneapolis Journal, 30 September 1906, as 'The[clarification needed]
  43. The Scarlet Thread
  44. The Silver Box (A businessman asks Van Dusen's help when his industrial secrets are instantly leaked to a competitor from a closed office)
  45. The Problem of The Souvenir Cards
  46. The Problem of The Stolen Rubens
  47. The Superfluous Finger (A doctor comes to Van Dusen with an ethical quandary: a woman wants a perfectly good little finger amputated, but won't say why). Associated Sunday Magazines e.g. Minneapolis Journal, 25 November 1906
  48. The Thinking Machine Investigates
  49. The Three Overcoats
  50. The Problem of The Vanishing Man
  51. The Yellow Diamond Pendant


  • The Thinking Machine (1907)
  • The Thinking Machine on the Case (1908)
  • Best "Thinking Machine" Detective Stories (1973), edited by E. F. Bleiler
  • Great Cases of the "Thinking Machine" (1976), edited by E. F. Bleiler
  • Jacques Futrelle's Thinking Machine (2003), edited by Harlan Ellison 21 stories
  • The Great Thinking Machine: "The Problem of Cell 13" and Other Stories (2018) (Dover Mystery Classics) 12 stories

In other mediaEdit


The professor appeared in two episodes of the 1970s Thames Television series The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. Douglas Wilmer portrayed Van Dusen in "Cell 13" and "The Superfluous Finger." The 1981 Australian Broadcasting Commission series Detective dramatised "The Brown Coat" with John Hannan as Dusen.


Between 1978 and 1999 the German radio station RIAS produced and broadcast 79 radio plays based on the character. A few of them were based on original stories by Futrelle, but most of the scripts were new creations by German author Michael Koser. The role of Hutchinson Hatch is a lot more prominent in the radio plays than it was in the original; Hatch was made into the fictional narrator in the radio version.

In 2011, the BBC Radio 4 series The Rivals featured Paul Rhys as Professor Van Dusen in Chris Harrald's adaptation of "The Problem of Cell 13", which was directed by Sasha Yevtushenko. He returned for the first episode of the second series in 2013, in Chris Harrald's adaptation of "The Problem of the Superfluous Finger", produced by Liz Webb. In the fourth episode of the fourth series in 2016, "The Mystery of the Scarlet Thread", Van Dusen was played by Tony Gardner.


In 2013, the character appeared in Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's graphic novel Nemo: Heart of Ice; the character aids explorer Janni Nemo in 1925 when she encounters H. P. Lovecraft's Elder Gods in Antarctica. He returns in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest, the final part of the series; set in 2010, he has been resurrected as a sentient A.I., becoming a literal 'thinking machine.'

External linksEdit