Dr Julius No

Dr Julius No

When it comes to iconic baddies in film, few characters have struck a chord with fans quite like Dr Julius No from the 1962 movie adaptation of Ian Fleming’s novel, Dr. No.

With his ruthlessness and cold calculative character, the nuclear scientist set the standard for future antagonists that Bond would come up against, and has become an enduring figure in popular culture.

In this biography blog post we’ll be taking an in-depth look at Dr. Julius No, exploring his complex motivations and his development over time both on screen and in the novel.


So if you’re a fan of Bond villains, then join us as we explore one of cinema’s most notorious figures.

Dr. Julius No – The Unwanted Orphan

Played by actor Joseph Wiseman, Dr. Julius No was a Chinese-German scientist who works for criminal organisation SPECTRE in the first Bond movie. He is highly intelligent with expertise in a variety of fields including nuclear physics and robotics. He is the mastermind behind SPECTRE’s plan to disrupt the US space program and ultimately world domination.

Dr Julius No in his lair

Julius No was born in Peking, China to a German missionary father and a Chinese mother, who came from a good family. His mixed race meant he was shunned and was orphaned at a young age, moving to Shanghai to live in an Orphanage.

As a young man, Dr. Julius No did his crime undergraduate for the preeminent Chinese criminal syndicate – the Tongs, becoming the treasurer for them. He subsequently stole $10m in gold bullion from the Tongs, and escaped to America.

Dr Julius No offered both the US and USSR his skills and expertise with radiation, but both the Americans and Soviets refused to utilize his talents. Feeling unwanted again, No sought retribution by joining SPECTRE and he was sent to a secluded island in Jamaica, known as Crab Key.

While doing radiation experiments, Dr. No burned and lost both his hands, and had to have them replaced. He chose to use steel prosthetic hands as they could crush metal objects.

Dr Julius No in hazmat radiation suit

Bond’s Investigation Leads Him to Dr. No

When Head of MI6 in Jamaica John Strangways and his secretary are murdered by Dr. Julius No’s henchmen the Three Blind Mice, James Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate. Dr. No knows of Bond’s arrival and tries to have him killed, but to no avail.

Bond finally makes it to Dr No’s island Crab Key, while the crazy scientist is trying to interfere with the US space program using a nuclear-powered radio beam. He has already sabotaged several American rockets, and his ultimate goal is world domination.

Dr Julius No captures Bond and his new girl Honey Ryder and has them locked up. The next day he invites them to dinner where he explains his plan of world domination. Bond scoffs at this, and it’s clear it frustrates the doctor, who then shows him how he can crush metal objects with his prosthetic hands.

Dr Julius No can crush metal objects with his prosthetic hands

Bond escapes through a ventilation shaft and disguises himself as one of Dr No’s scientists in a radiation suit, and sabotages Dr. No’s swimming pool reactor, which was meant to disrupt America’s latest rocket launch.

Alarms start going off and panic sets in, then Dr. No notices Bond they both fight. Both men fall onto a small platform that’s slowly descending into the radioactive swimming pool.

Bond manages to free himself and climb up, and when Dr. No tries his prosthetic hands can’t grip onto the bars and he slips into the radioactive water and boils to death. And that is the end of the first Bond villain.

Dr Julius No and Bond fight which ultimately ends in the death of Dr No

How Dr. No Differs in the Novel

As with all novels, we get much more detail of a character and Dr Julius No is no different. It’s in the novel that we learn that he was born in Peking to a German Methodist missionary father and Chinese mother – but in the novel he was brought up by his aunt.

He worked in Shanghai for criminal gang The Tongs, but was smuggled to the United States. Living in New York, he then got a job as a clerk and became the Treasurer for a high-ranking American Tong, Hip-Sings.

Mob war broke out in New York, and Dr. Julius No took advantage of a police crackdown on the Tongs and stole $1m in gold bullion. The Tongs finally tracked him down and when No refused to give back the gold, they cut his hands off and shot him, leaving him for dead.

We learn that Dr No is very tall, about 6ft 6in and very scrawny. In the movie, Jospeh Wiseman, who plays Dr Julius No, isn’t that tall, but he certainly looks undernourished. In the novel, No doesn’t have prosthetic hands either, but instead pincers.

Dr Julius No with pincers and not prosthetic hands

Dr Julius No invests the $1m in rare stamps to fight off inflation, and later buys an island near Jamaica called Crab Key. He sets up guano business here, employing locals, but those who work for him are treated harshly by the Chigroes – mixed race Chinese and negroes, he employs to secure the island. Nobody who goes to Crab Key leaves there alive.

Dr Julius No gets funding from the Soviet Union to sabotage US missile launches, which he does successfully. But Dr No’s plan is to heighten tensions between US and USSR and hopefully lead them into war with each other.

The way in which Dr No dies is different, too. Where he dies in radioactive pool in the film, in the novel he’s actually killed by James Bond, who ironically suffocates him in a mound of guano.

Jospeh Wiseman

Joseph Wiseman was born in Montreal, Canada on May 15, 1918. His parents moved him to New York when he was a child and he grew up there. As a teen, Wiseman got into acting, starring in summer stock theatre and eventually went on to make his Broadway debut in 1938 with a small role from Robert E. Sherwood’s Abe Lincoln in Illinois.

Jospeh Wiseman who played Dr Julius No

Over the years he appeared in many Broadway productions, and started acting in movies, getting his big break playing a criminal in Detective Story in 1951. It was his performance in this movie that earned him his role as Dr Julius No in the first Bond film.

He wasn’t optimistic of the success of Dr No, saying he believed it would be ‘just another grade-B Charlie Chan mystery.’ He is even known to dislike the role he played in his most commercially successful acting role. He didn’t like being remembered for being Dr No, but preferred to be known as a Broadway actor.

Joseph Wiseman was married twice, his second marriage in 1964 to Pearl Lang, a dancer and choreographer, who he enjoyed a long 45 year bond before she passed away in February 2009. Wiseman sadly died at the age of 91 on October 19, that same year from an illness he had been fighting for some time.

Random Facts About Dr. No

The original Dr No character was going to be a monkey.

Author Ina Fleming wanted his cousin, Christopher Lee to play the part of Dr. No. Obviously he didn’t and did in fact become the Bond villain The Man with the Golden Gun.

Noël Coward turned down the part of Dr Julius No because he wasn’t keen on wearing metal hands.

Robert Wiseman hated being remembered for being Dr. Julius No, and instead preferred to be remembered as a stage actor.

Joseph Wiseman and Sean Connery relaxing while on set of Dr No

Dr Julius No – The Seminal Bond Villain

Dr Julius No is a classic Bond villain. He’s the archetypal megalomaniac with grandiose ambitions and a powerful, diabolical plan to take over the world.

His base of operations on Crab Key Island, complete with secret nuclear reactor pool, is one of the most iconic movie sets in film history. His death at the hands of James Bond is one of the most famous scenes in the long-running franchise.

He’s a fascinating character that continues to captivate and enthral audiences worldwide. No matter how many times you watch Dr No, it’s impossible not to marvel at his audaciousness and the sheer scale of his evil plans.

Even after all these years, Dr No remains one of the most memorable Bond villains ever created.