A freelance theorist who is convinced that his solution to a particularly difficult problem in physics, medicine or other branch of science, is correct and warrants recognition, a wider audience and probably (according to them) a Nobel Prize.
Cranks are to science what quacks are to medicine. Maverick theorists often have a screw loose and come in all shapes and sizes; many are paranoid schizophrenics or have other serious mental disorders.
Examples of maverick theorists
• Free-lance astronomer who connected the dots of certain pulsars in the night sky and found that they pointed to a vast alien communications network
• Self-made engineer who, through brilliant use of high-school algebra, stumbled on the unified theory of the universe, which had previously vexed Einstein and Hawking (amateurs!)
• Dartmouth dishwasher, aptly named Archimedes Plutonium, who has described the universe as a big (really big) plutonium atom
Synonyms Crank, crank scientist, science crank
Reference Discover April 2002, p67