Making the Monster

Making the Monster

The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Book - 2018
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The year 1818 saw the publication of one of the most influential science-fiction stories of all time. Frankenstein: Or, Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley had a huge impact on gothic horror and science fiction genres. The name Frankenstein has become part of our everyday language, often used in derogatory terms to describe scientists who have overstepped a perceived moral line. But how did a 19-year-old woman with no formal education come up with the idea for an extraordinary novel such as Frankenstein? The period of 1790?1820 saw huge advances in our understanding of electricity and physiology. Sensational science demonstrations caught the imagination of the general public, and newspapers were full of tales of murderers and resurrectionists. It is unlikely that Frankenstein would have been successful in his attempts to create life back in 1818. However, advances in medical science mean we have overcome many of the stumbling blocks that would have thwarted his ambition. We can resuscitate people using defibrillators, save lives using blood transfusions, and prolong life through organ transplants--these procedures are nowadays considered almost routine. Many of these modern achievements are a direct result of 19th century scientists conducting their gruesome experiments on the dead. Making the Monster explores the science behind Shelley's book. From tales of reanimated zombie kittens to electrical experiments on human cadavers, Kathryn Harkup examines the science and scientists that influenced Mary Shelley and inspired her most famous creation, Victor Frankenstein. While, thankfully, we are still far from being able to recreate Victor's "creature," scientists have tried to create the building blocks of life, and the dream of creating life-forms from scratch is now tantalizingly close.
Publisher: London ; New York : Bloomsbury Sigma, 2018.
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9781472933737
Characteristics: 304 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm.


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Nov 11, 2018

Even if the cover of this book is a bit scary, don't worry! There is nothing gruesome inside, although several experiments are described in detail. Very informative and very well written, I must say. It explores the status of science in the 18th century and shows how Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - far from being only a work of fantasy - is actually based on real scientific knowledge. The book is also in a way a biography of the novel, describing the extreme weather of 1816 that led to the literary contest in Villa Diodati - whose results were Frankenstein and The Vampyre - and the connection between Victor's experiments, the Creature's physical appearance, and the cultural environment in which it was written.

Oct 22, 2018

"Making the Monster" takes you into the Romantic social circle of the Shelleys and Lord Byron and lays bare the 'shocking' practices and 'electrifying' discoveries of 19th-Century scientific endeavour. Harkup compares the science in "Frankenstein" and its subsequent interpretations with the science of its time and the advances made today whilst weaving in the Romantic and tragic tale of Frankenstein's creator, Mary Shelley.


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