Robert Langdon is a fictional character created by American author Dan Brown for his novels Angels & Demons (2000), The Da Vinci Code (2003), The Lost Symbol (2009), and the bestseller Inferno (2013). Langdon is a Harvard University professor of Religious Iconology and Symbology.
Dan Brown created the character as a fictional alter ego of himself, or of “the man he wishes he could be.” Brown was born June 22, 1964, in Exeter, New Hampshire. Likewise, the fictional Langdon is described as also having been born on June 22 in Exeter, and having attending the same school as Brown did, Phillips Exeter Academy.
Brown named the character after John Langdon, a professor of typography at Drexel University who is known for his creation of ambigrams, typographical designs that can be read in multiple ways; for example, right side up and upside down. An example of Langdon’s ambigrams appeared on the cover of the first edition of Angels & Demons.
Little background detail is provided by Brown. In The Da Vinci Code, Langdon wears a turtleneck, a Harris Tweed jacket, khakis, and collegiate cordovan loafers, and does this to all events, ranging from lectures to social events. A frequently referred to accessory is his Mickey Mouse watch, a gift from his parents on his ninth birthday. He drives an automatic Saab 900S.
Langdon was a diver at Phillips Exeter Academy in prep school and played water polo at Princeton University, where he went for college. He suffers from claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed spaces, stemming from the time he fell into a well when he was 7 years old. His father died when he was 12, and his new mentor father-figure became Peter Solomon, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
Known for his brilliant problem-solving mind and his genius, Langdon has an eidetic memory and an understanding of semiotics. As a professor at Harvard University, he teaches Religious Iconology and the fictional field of Symbology. The fast-paced thriller Angels & Demons follows Langdon’s attempts to protect the Vatican from the Illuminati, a secret society formed during the Renaissance that was opposed to the Roman Catholic Church.
Brown brought back Langdon in The Da Vinci Code, a thriller that centres on art history, Christianity’s origins, and arcane theories. Attempting to solve the murder of the Louvre’s curator, Langdon encounters mysterious organizations (Opus Dei and the Priory of Sion), discusses the hidden messages in Leonardo da Vinci’s art, raises the possibility that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and fathered a child, and discovers the Holy Grail.
The Da Vinci Code proved controversial, and many theologians and art scholars dismissed Brown’s notions. The novel, however, proved to be immensely popular with readers. In fact, by 2009, more than 80 million copies had been sold, and editions were available in some 40 languages. In 2004, all four of his novels appeared simultaneously on The New York Times’ best-seller lists.
Brown continued the adventures of his tweedy protagonist in The Lost Symbol (2009), which focuses on Freemasons, and Inferno (2013), which saw Langdon following clues related to Dante’s epic poem The Divine Comedy in an effort to stop the release of a plague.
Actor Tom Hanks portrayed Robert Langdon in the 2006 film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, reprised the role in the 2009 film adaptation of Angels & Demons, and will once again play the role in the 2016 film adaptation of Inferno.
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