Although described as a brilliant scientist, Doctor Zin spends every episode after his first appearance trying to steal the scientific innovations of Doctor Benton Quest rather than innovating his own. His science is less the "mad scientist" variety and more the "spy fi" advanced technology common to 1960s popular fiction such as the James Bond film franchise and television's *The Man from U.N.C.L.E.*
In many ways, Doctor Zin in the original 1960s series was a surreally apt amalgamation of Cold War era enemies and imagery. In appearance, he looked vaguely Asian, with the classic bald head associated at the time with Communist China but originally lacking the epicanthic folds found in every other Asian character in the original animated series -- however, Doctor Zin spoke with a generic Eastern European accent, of the sort used in the original series for characters vaguely associated with countries linked to East Germany or to the Soviet Bloc, instead of using the accent associated with Asian characters in the series, such as Doctor Ashida or Doctor Chu. (At several points in his first appearance, he comes close to calling his rival "Doctor Qvest".) The surname Zin itself is German, not Asian. In addition to these Cold War images, Doctor Zin's motives almost always involved war profiteering (inciting war entirely for the profit to be made by selling weaponry to both sides) rather than agitating for any political agenda or cause: the villainous provocateur motivated by greed rather than genuine ideology was another common image in popular fiction during the Cold War era.
The character has often been described as a hybrid of two James Bond film villains, Dr. No (himself half-Chinese and half-German) and Ernst Stavro Blofeld (depicted variously as Prussian German, as vaguely European or Greek, and as British) as well as being called the Moriarty (the "Napoleon of Crime" nemesis of Sherlock Holmes) to the Quest family.
In later continuities, Doctor Zin was reduced to a less interesting "Yellow Peril" stereotype of a villainous Asian mad scientist.
His first name has been given as both Napoleon and Archimedes.