Dr. Beverly Hofstadter, Ph.D., M.D., is the mother of Leonard Hofstadter, Michael Hofstadter and a daughter and ex-wife of Dr. Hofstadter. Beverly is a neuroscientist as well as an award-winning psychiatrist and author.
Beverly first visits in "The Maternal Capacitance" Season 2 Episode 15, visiting her son. Leonard is clearly uneasy about it and it becomes apparent when she arrives: she is as strict and logical as Sheldon, if not more so. She instantly upsets Penny by talking with her about her (Penny's) childhood issues with Wyatt (Penny's father), refers to Howard and Raj as an "ersatz homosexual couple", and repeatedly belittles Leonard. However, she gets along perfectly with Sheldon and spends more time with him than anyone else. At the end they sing "Any Way You Want It" together, as a confused Leonard looks on.
She reappears in "The Maternal Congruence", where she visits Leonard for Christmas. She does not know that, by this point Leonard and Penny are dating - Leonard had not told her for fear of how she would disapprove because of Penny's lack of a tertiary or quaternary education. It turns out that Beverly stays in touch with Sheldon, even telling him more than she does Leonard. Things only become worse when Leonard is told about his parents' pending divorce, his mother's surgery and the death of his dog - all of which which Sheldon has known for weeks. Fed up with his mother's lack of compassion, Leonard leaves.
Penny takes Beverly drinking at The Cheesecake Factory to get her loosened up and they bond. Penny reveals her relationship with Leonard, and Beverly is confused on why he did not tell her (even though she neglects to tell him anything). When they get back to the apartment, she gives Leonard a genuine hug after she realizes why he distances himself. She then kisses Sheldon passionately, but rejects him for a busboy she saw at the Cheesecake Factory, confirming there is no romantic tension between the two (as Sheldon was not happy about it). Being driven to the airport by Leonard, she gives her blessing to his relationship and they decide not to tell Leonard about her kissing Sheldon, wanting this time to work on their familial relationship and feeling that telling him might make it harder for him.
She appears via Skype in the premiere episode, "The Skank Reflex Analysis". Leonard tells her his recent frustrations with his current girlfriend Priya and his anger towards Penny. She only responds "Buck up, sissy pants," and later goes on to advise Leonard that if he needs any further advice from her he should purchase her psychology books on Amazon.com rather than actually call her again: showing she has not changed much.
In "The Raiders Minimization", Penny purchases a psychology book that Beverly has written about all Leonard's problems growing up called The Disappointing Child. Leonard uses his embarrassment as leverage to get Penny to do things with him that he likes to do. After Penny learns about his behavior, she dresses up for sex, tempting him, and then for revenge makes him Skype with his mother. She wants to discuss why Leonard keeps involving her in his sex life. When he was six, Leonard walked in on his naked parents while his mother was spanking his father with his new ping-pong paddle - which Leonard had thought had just been a nightmare.
In "The Status Quo Combustion", Leonard contacts his mother and has an announcement for her. Sheldon has already told her about his engagement to Penny. He hates that she talks to Sheldon more than him, but declines to communicate to his mother on a more frequent basis. She has had her misgivings about Penny, but because of Sheldon's admiration, she is good enough for her. Leonard is annoyed that his mother's focus is on herself, and not on who might be good enough for him. Beverly wonders why Leonard has to have her approval, and tells him that he should work on getting over his need for her approval.
In "The Maternal Combustion", she visits Pasadena to see Sheldon (and Leonard) get an award. She meets Mary Cooper and wants to know about Sheldon when he was growing up. Though warned to be nice to Mary, after religion is mentioned she says she forgets how much superstitions mean to some people, thus starting an argument. Later talking to Sheldon, she admits that there are other methods of raising children. She tries unconditional love by trying an awkward hug with Leonard.
In "The Celebration Experimentation", Beverly flies to Pasadena for Sheldon's birthday party. He attended her little 60th get together that Leonard didn't know about. Penny added that she didn't know about their Vegas wedding, which was fine with Beverly. She toasts Sheldon saying that they all can't wait to see what other successes he has in the future. Also, Barry Kripke keeps hitting on her all night which pleases Beverly and not Leonard.
Her personality is rather cold, robotic and, perhaps influenced in part by her professional life, overly analytical. She tends to diagnose the behavior or neuroses of those to whom she's speaking. Her matter-of-fact analysis of Penny's relationship with her father prompts Penny to burst into tears within minutes. Rather than attempt to console Penny, Beverly merely continued to psychoanalyze her. Her behavior seems driven by the fact she tends to force clinical analysis on people around her, distantly insulting and abrasively mocking people around her before using psychological jargon to distance herself from the antagonism which she has created.
Despite herself, Beverly can be extremely arrogant, narcissistic and incredibly ignorant. Her relationship with Leonard is hugely haphazard, but she does not blame herself for that. In fact, when she observes Leonard's childhood, she deduces that he has unresolved - repeat, unresolved - childhood issues as well as an Oedipal complex that she cannot understand the origin or cause of. She doesn't seem to understand that she was the sole catalyst for practically all of his childhood issues and resulting social problems, and that his 'Oedipal complex' was just him trying to have a mother-son relationship with her, which she saw as absurd and unnecessary. Beverly also insensitively rebukes Leonard's attempts at conversation with her, or attempts to impress her, with demands for him to calm down or something as degrading as that. Not only that, but she saw absolutely no problem or even any moral faults in humiliating or belittling him.
She constantly looks down on him, and straightforward denies the request to not criticize him when he is emotional. She regards him as an anticlimactic disappointment, if not a non-entity, in comparison to his siblings and herself. Not only this, but Beverly is completely blind to his feelings and opinions and doesn't view either as important: when he reveals that he and Penny are engaged, she disregards his joy at the event and calmly remarks that 'if she is good enough for him (Sheldon), then she is good enough for her', indicating that she sees his welfare and opinion as immaterial to an extreme
She diagnosed Raj with selective mutism and considered Raj and Howard's relationship to be an "ersatz homosexual marriage," often to their considerable discomfort. For example, her primary interest is making accomplishments in her fields. At times, she seems to see other humans as merely test subjects and will ask those she finds particularly interesting if they would be willing to have their brain scanned. While Leonard does not feel that his mother truly appreciates him, she takes a liking to Sheldon: whom she also tells more about what's happening to her than her own son (like in Season 3, after picking Beverly up from the airport, Sheldon asks if she liked the flowers he sent her after her carpal tunnel surgery which Leonard didn't even hear about).
Family and Relationships
As a by-product of her personality, Beverly's relationships with others tend to be non-traditional in nature.
Beverly's relationship with her son is decidedly unmaternal. She frequently critiques various aspects of his life, utterly oblivious to the fact that she might be hurting his feelings, although she is perfectly aware of his childhood issues with her. Once as a child, Beverly made Leonard return an award at the ceremony because of its similarity to an earlier project of his brother, Michael. Beverly mentioned at one point that Leonard's brother and sister are more successful than he is. Leonard's childhood with her can best be described as a series of neurological experiments. At one point Leonard indicates that he created a "hugging machine" in order to feel some sort of warmth and companionship. Leonard was not even told that his brother was getting engaged, when his dog was put to sleep or when his favorite Uncle Floyd died. It is likely that she may have been more interested with Leonard as a test subject rather than her own child. Beverly made a brief appearance in "The Skank Reflex Analysis" via Sheldon's laptop to comfort Leonard and listened to his problems and simply told him to "buck up", then signed off. In return, Leonard is spiteful towards Beverly and blames a majority of his childhood issues on her. As a result of this upbringing, Leonard is desperate to impress women. In the seventh season, Beverly writes another psychology book based on Leonard's childhood and shortcomings. Leonard also once says "I have been in therapy ever since my mother accused me of breastfeeding co-dependently".
Sheldon noted at one point that her other children (Leonard's younger brother Michael and his, probably older, sister) are far more successful than Leonard both professionally and personally. There is no indication that she feels any differently toward them on an emotional level, so she is just the same with them as she is with Leonard and wasn't proud of them, even though they both have successful careers. For example, when Howard asked her if she was proud of them because of their success, she said, "Why? They're not my accomplishments." And when Leonard remarks that she must be happy about her son Michael's engagement to a successful young judge in New Jersey, Beverly replies "Why? I'm not marrying her."
We learn in the "The Maternal Congruence" that Beverly is divorcing Leonard's father as he had an affair with a waitress from the Princeton University cafeteria. This time is one of a few we see anything resembling emotion from her as she indicates she "did feel something akin to grief and perhaps anger" and further characterized Mr. Hofstadter as a "loathsome son of a bitch". We also learn that they did not have a close romantic relationship with Beverly explaining that she had been responsible for her own orgasms since 1982 and only had intercourse for the purposes of reproduction (perhaps a root cause for Mr. Hofstadter's affair). He also used to borrow Leonard's hugging machine to compensate for the lack of love too. Leonard caught his mother swatting his father's rear end with his ping-pong paddle.
Between her neurotically strict speech patterns, lack of social conventions, and attention to detail, she is basically Sheldon's female equivalent, aside from Amy Farrah Fowler (although in many ways she surpasses him, as Sheldon can and does, admittedly rarely, show affection to others, while she never has). Sheldon did keep in touch by Skype, much to the confusion of Leonard.
Indeed, her inability to understand social conventions seems if anything to be somewhat more extreme and has to have some social concepts explained to her by, of all people, Sheldon (though his explanations typically reflect his own, at best, incomplete understanding). It is therefore unsurprising that Sheldon and Beverly share an odd non-romantic attraction to each other. They have a mutual interest in having their brain scanned and have even sung a duet of the Journey song "Any Way You Want It"; however, she did once kiss him passionately while intoxicated (declaring afterwards that she'd "rather have the busboy"). She apologized the following morning and Sheldon accepted as she was intoxicated (he blamed Penny).
Beverly doesn't seem to be too fond of Penny, especially when the former upsets the latter when Penny tells about her father treating her like a boy. She comes to later accept Penny due to Sheldon being fond of her.
The rest of the group
Howard and Raj both particularly dislike Beverly because she is such an annoying cold woman. They are not happy with her thinking that they are in an ersatz homosexual relationship and not believing the fact that Howard has a girlfriend. It is unknown whether Beverly knows that Howard is married to a woman. Also, Beverly seems to be the reason Raj had selective mutism (inability to talk to women outside his family) which appeared from the first episode until the Season 6 finale.
Beverly hadn't been seen with Bernadette, Amy and Stuart until "The Celebration Experimentation" and didn't talk to any of them. She also didn't meet Emily because she was absent. It's likely that they would all dislike her. It seems obvious that Bernadette would be the only one brave enough to stand up to her, Amy would have a civil relationship, but due to Amy being warm-hearted it might be strained and Stuart and Emily would find her disgusting as everyone except Sheldon does.
Beverly seemed to be civil to Sheldon's mother at first, but when Mary mentioned religion, she offended Mary with an offensive comment and said she (Beverly) forgets how much superstitions mean to some people and this started an argument between the two mothers, but eventually they seemed to make up later.
Beverly published multiple scholarly papers and books about her son Leonard and her personal life. She is enthusiastic about promoting these publications, even to Leonard.
- An unnamed paper, presumably arguing that parents should "focus on celebrating achievements" instead of celebrating their birthday or hollidays when they raise the child - mentioned in "The Peanut Reaction" (S1E16) by Sheldon, who thinks this argument is "based on very sound theories". Penny thinks "that's so silly" and mocks it.
- An unnamed paper, written "from the neuroscientific point of view", presumably arguing that people should "only had intercourse for the purposes of reproduction" - mentioned by herself in "The Maternal Capacitance" (S2E15). She also mentioned that Leonard's father also published a paper on the same topic "from an anthropological" (point of view). She then states that hers "was the only one worth reading."
- An unnamed publication, describing her sex life, that can be "ordered from the Princeton University Press" - also mentioned by herself in "The Maternal Capacitance" (S2E15). She also has a presentation about this subject.
- An unnamed paper "disproving quantum brain dynamic theory", mentioned by herself in "The Maternal Congruence"(S3E11), for which Sheldon makes notes and praises her with saying "for a non-physicist, you have a remarkable grasp of how electric dipoles in the brain's water molecules could not possibly form a Bose condensate."
- In "The Skank Reflex Analysis" (S5E01), Sheldon calls Beverly to "help" Leonard with his puzzles in his relationships and Beverly tells Leonard "If you need any more help from me, my books are available on Amazon."
- An unnamed book, with "there's no guarantee even if you have kids that you're going to like them" right on its dust jacket, mentioned by Leonard in "The Shiny Trinket Maneuver" (S5E12) when the gang are discussing about the possibility of Howard to have a child in the future.
- A book entitled Needy Baby, Greedy Baby - mentioned by Sheldon in "The Recombination Hypothesis" (S5E13), which Leonard thinks is strongly untrue: it should be noted that finally it turns out this reference takes place in Leonard's day dream.
- A book entitled The Disappointing Child appears in "The Raiders Minimization" (S7E04), in which Penny buys one copy for her psychology class, making Leonard very embarrassed.
- Whenever having orgasms she says "yikes".
- Both Leonard and Sheldon's mothers are fit for the other. Beverly for Sheldon and Mary for Leonard.
- Due to Leonard and Sheldon's mothers being fit for the other, Leonard is jealous of Sheldon's childhood and Sheldon is jealous of Leonard's childhood.
- Her appearance in "The Skank Reflex Analysis" (S5E01) was on a Skype screen since the actress appears in another series based in New York.
- It was planned that she would meet Mary Cooper which would have caused mother envy between the two in Season 6 but that story line was postponed and moved to season 8.
- Penny ends up in tears when talking to her about her childhood, but she seems to cozy up to her during her next visit when they go out drinking together.
- Beverly is the name of Wesley Crusher's mother in Star Trek: The Next Generation. This could be a reference to how Sheldon relates to Wesley Crusher and is fit more for Beverly than Mary.
- Beverly is comparable to the character of GLaDOS in Portal and Portal 2. GLaDOS is sadistic, cold, analytic and does everything 'in the pursuit of science.' GLaDOS runs the Aperture Science laboratory and relies on human test subjects.
- GLaDOS is has the personality of Caroline Johnson in her, and one theory of the main protagonist of the Portal series's parentage is that Caroline and Cave Johnson (the former head of the science facility) are her parents. Since the main character, Chell, is a test subject this could be a reference to Leonard's dysfunctional childhood.
- While it isn't the same actress, there is a marked physical resemblance to the way Frasier Crane's academic psychologist mother is portrayed in "Frasier". In episodes where Frasier's mother appears via flashbacks and fantasy sequences, the similarity to Beverley Hofstadter is remarkable. It as as if the TBBT producers are consciously imitating a woman who named her two sons Frasier and Niles after favorite laboratory rats who showed more intelligence than the rest - and not the other way around. And of course Frasier married Lilith - another academic psychiatrist, who saw nothing wrong with putting her baby son into a scaled-up maze to see how quickly he could find his way to the bottle of milk at the centro. Frederick Crane is a highly intellectual child with a cold mother, ineffectual father, a bed-wetting problem, and an embarrassing middle name (in his case, "Gaylord"). Is this earlier intellectually high-achieving, but very dysfunctional, TV family a direct influence on the Hofstadters?
- Out of all her son's friends who are main characters, the only ones who Beverly hasn't met yet is Emily.
- S01E05: "The Hamburger Postulate", mentioned
- S01E09: "The Cooper-Hofstadter Polarization", mentioned
- S01E16: "The Peanut Reaction", mentioned
- S02E15: "The Maternal Capacitance", first appearance
- S03E11: "The Maternal Congruence"
- S03E18: "The Pants Alternative", mentioned
- S04E23: "The Engagement Reaction", mentioned
- S05E01: "The Skank Reflex Analysis"
- S05E11: "The Speckerman Recurrence", mentioned
- S05E12: "The Shiny Trinket Maneuver", mentioned
- S05E13: "The Recombination Hypothesis", mentioned
- S06E08: "The 43 Peculiarity", mentioned
- S06E11: "The Santa Simulation", mentioned
- S07E04: "The Raiders Minimization"
- S07E24: "The Status Quo Combustion"
- S08E06: "The Expedition Approximation, mentioned
- S08E23: "The Maternal Combustion"
- S09E02: "The Separation Oscillation", mentioned
- S09E04: "The 2003 Approximation", mentioned
- S09E17: "The Celebration Experimentation
- S09E19: "The Solder Excursion Diversion", mentioned
- S09E23: "The Line Substitution Solution"
- S09E24: "The Convergence-Convergence"