Blue Mountains scientists name rare Tasmanian fossil after Doctor Who actor Tom Baker

Being a Doctor Who fan could be a lonely place for a teenager in the early 2000s.

But for Patrick Smith that teenage passion saw him garner international media attention last week as well as acknowledgment from the television show's best-known star.

The 30-year-old scientist made headlines, along with colleague Dr Malte Ebach, for naming a fossil after Doctor Who actor Tom Baker - best-known for his seven-year stint as the fourth incarnation of the time-travelling hero in the 1970s and 1980s.

The celebration that greeted the pair's scientific discovery was a far cry from Dr Smith's school days at Springwood High where his Doctor Who fandom was met with less acclaim.

"In the early 2000s Doctor Who was very uncool- particular before the revived series had even aired in 2005," said the Australian Museum palaeontologist. "I was picked on rather mercilessly for being a fan by my peers. However, one teacher specifically actually encouraged my interest, giving me his old technical manuals to things like the Tardis from the 1970s. I also had a friend who shared my interest.

"It's nice though, these days, to see that Doctor Who has been adopted by mainstream culture," he said. "As a show, it's a wonderful source of inspiration for leading kids into science."

It was Tom Baker's fourth Doctor that led Wentworth Falls resident Ebach into his science career, after he started watching the long-running BBC show in the 1970s.

The University of New South Wales senior lecturer found the newly-named fossil in the shales of the Gordon Group in northern Tasmania. The rare trilobite is dated from the Late Ordovician period, part of the Palaeozoic era, approximately 450 million years ago.

The pair's findings were published last week in Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology (TALC), making the extinct marine animal's name official: Gravicalymene bakeri.

Trilobite Gravicalymene bakeri was named after Doctor Who actor, Tom Baker.

Trilobite Gravicalymene bakeri was named after Doctor Who actor, Tom Baker.

Coming up with the television-inspired moniker was an easy decision, according to Smith.

"It was definitely quick decision compared to others species I've named before. We did discuss it a bit before settling on the idea, but it was obvious that Tom Baker was such an iconic influence to our childhoods that we really felt he deserved the accolade."

Now 86, Baker was thrilled to hear the news that an ancient and incredibly rare specimen had been named in his honour.

"I am delighted to be entitled at last. I hope the Who world will share my joy. Will I be allowed to tack 'fossil' on official correspondence? I hope the Who world will celebrate this fresh honour and will spread the news to those who live in remote places. Happy days to all the Who fans everywhere," he said from his UK home.

If Dr Ebach's 12-year-old self had been able to travel decades into the future in a Tardis, the scientist today has no doubt what he would have thought of those words.

"I would have been blown away. Tom Baker as Doctor Who was my role model. He inspired me to go out and explore the world," he said.