Here's The Real Person That Inspired Sheldon Cooper

In 2017, an avid fan of "The Big Bang Theory" suggested, via Quora, that Sheldon Cooper may have been inspired by real-life physicist Sheldon Lee Glashow. For one, Glashow and Cooper both have a Nobel Prize to their name. Glashow won his Nobel Prize for his work on the electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles. Cooper won his for "super asymmetry." Potato, Potaato? According to his Boston University page, Glashow is a Harvard University graduate, like Sheldon Cooper's wife, Amy Farrah Fowler, but unlike Sheldon Cooper, who graduated from the California Institute of Technology. Tomato, Tomaato? 

Perhaps the most convincing similarity between the two is that Glashow, like Cooper, to borrow PBS' words, has "strong opinions about string theory." Says Glashow: "The string theorists have a theory that appears to be consistent and is very beautiful, and I don't understand it." Says Sheldon Cooper: "If I'm being honest, I never forgot about string theory. It's remarkable. It's the closest we've come to a theory of everything" (via YouTube). Of course, Cooper then goes onto "solve" string theory, so he has that against Glashow.

Is Glashow, then, the real-life inspiration behind Cooper? Maybe partly. But "The Big Bang Theory" co-creator Bill Prady has another story to tell.

This is who inspired Sheldon Cooper, according to Bill Prady

It turns out that Bill Prady's primary inspiration for Sheldon Cooper was not a physicist but actually a former colleague of his (via The TV Addict). "Before I was a writer I was a computer programmer and was working with guys who were amazingly bright and had a little trouble fitting into the world" he explained during Paley Fest '09. "I would tell ['Big Bang Theory co-creator] Chuck [Lorre] about a guy I knew who was a human calculator. If you programmed in Z80 assembly you had to convert from decimal to hexadecimal and you could either grab the calculator or you could shout it to this guy and he would be faster." 

As brilliant as he was, when it came to human interaction, the programmer was lost. Sounds a lot like Sheldon Cooper's difficulties with social cues, right? "He couldn't calculate a tip at a restaurant because the formula for a tip is 15-20% depending upon the quality of the service and he couldn't put a numeric value on the service. It was human," Prady recalled of the computer programmer who inspired Sheldon.

"Big Bang Theory" viewers all over the world fell in love with Jim Parsons' interpretation of Sheldon Cooper, and Parsons worked hard to make sure that they did. The actor described his preparation for the role to "Fresh Air" host David Bianculli (via NPR). "I really just [ran] rampant around my apartment saying these words, this dialogue over and over," he said of his rehearsal strategy. "I'd go outside and say it. I'd sit down and say it. I'd stand up and run while staying it. Because I thought 'I need to be able to trust myself to have these words come out.'"

Who was Sheldon named after?

Despite Sheldon Cooper's possible relationship to real-life physicist Sheldon Lee Glashow and the connection to the computer programmer, neither of these men are where the character gets his name from. According to American Profile, Sheldon's name was chosen by the creator, Bill Prady, in honor of another Sheldon you might have heard of — Sheldon Leonard. 

If that name doesn't ring a bell, Leonard was a famed actor and television producer. Per IMDb, his credits include producing shows such as "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "Good Morning World," "The Andy Griffith Show," and "From a Bird's Eye View." He also accumulated more than 100 acting credits over the course of his decades-long career, dating from the 1934 short "My Mummy's Arms" to his final acting role in a 1992 episode of "Dream On."  Other notable appearances include parts in shows and films such as "It's a Wonderful Life," "I Love Lucy," "The Duke," "Guys and Dolls," "The Cosby Show," and "Cheers." 

The decision to pick the name didn't come from Prady alone, though. As he explained, he and "Big Bang Theory" co-creator Chuck Lorre both wanted to pay homage to the late TV veteran. "Chuck and I are fans of the great television producer and actor," he said. The two decided to split the names between two characters, giving both Sheldon and Leonard their names.

"The Big Bang Theory" might be off the air, but that doesn't stop people from wanting to know every little detail about the show. That's how you know the sitcom had a great run!