Study Guide

Dr. Alfred Lanning in I, Robot

By Isaac Asimov

Dr. Alfred Lanning

Dr. Alfred Lanning is like a mad scientist, except he's only mildly annoyed. He's the Director of Research at US Robots and Mechanical Men when Susan Calvin joins (Introduction.8); and he's actually probably one of the main reasons why Calvin is interested in robots since she attended a Psycho-Math seminar that he led (Introduction.3). So if you don't like Susan Calvin, blame Alfred Lanning.

Lanning pops up in a few stories, usually as a boss figure. For instance, in "Liar!" he tells the other employees how to go about investigating Herbie's mind-reading powers. He's also described as looking like "a biblical patriarch" (Liar.10), so it definitely seems like he occupies the position of boss. (Of course, the fact that he's kind of a boss leads to some friction between him and Bogert in that story.) Lanning takes a similar, boss-like role in "Escape!" and "Evidence."

So Lanning is often the guy who sends Calvin in to fix a robotic problem; or, occasionally, gets Powell and Donovan involved (Escape.68-9). He's never actually the guy who fixes the problem himself. From this we might gather that Asimov thought scientists were better than administrators and bosses.