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Frankenstein, Scientific Context, Oral

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ENGLISH LITERATURE ORAL Scientific context of Frankenstein Mary Shelley based the novel Frankenstein on an extensive understanding of scientific developments of the time. An awareness of the scientific context of Frankenstein is critical to the development of key allusions and ideas raised throughout the novel. Shelley criticises the use of science to manipulate the elemental or "god' like forces of nature, otherwise known as the promethean nature of man. Influential scientists such as Benjamin Franklin, Humphry Davy, Luigi Galvani and Giovanni Aldini and their discoveries and opinions all shaped the novel Frankenstein. One of the central preoccupations was the potential of electricity. Luigi Galvani carried out a series of experiments on animals, one of such being on a frog, where he noticed the leg of the frog twitching when a current was passed through it, thus electricity was thought to engender life. ...read more.


During these discussions, various topics were discussed including the nature of the principle of life, and whether it will ever be discovered. This then led to the idea that a corpse may be reanimated and that components of a creature might be manufactured. These discussions were of major influence to Shelley, enough so to be mentioned in her introduction. Percy Shelley was known to have electrocuted himself until his hair stood on end, he also possessed electro-magnetic kites similar to that of Benjamin Franklin's. Percy's interest in science stemmed from earlier school days, he was fascinated by major scientific topics of the day, the solar system, microscopy, magnetism and electricity and claimed that after Oxford he began a professional training as a surgeon and attended the London anatomy lectures of a senior surgeon. The parallels between the basis of Frankenstein and the scientific topics and discussions Shelley took part in are uncanny. ...read more.


Humphry Davy made many important contributions to electro-chemistry, in 1816 Shelley read his Elements of Chemical Philosophy and A Discourse, Introductory to a course of Lectures on Chemistry. He wrote that "science has bestowed upon man powers which may almost be called creative; which have enabled him to change and modify the beings surrounding him" that science has allowed man to "interrogate nature with power" and that "who would not be ambitious of becoming acquainted with the most profound secrets of nature". The fictional character of M. Waldman, whom first introduces Victor to natural philosophy, draws upon the words of Davy, saying scientists "penetrate into the recesses of nature, and show how she works in her hiding-places. They ascend into the heavens; they have discovered how the blood circulates, and the nature of the air we breathe. They have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows". ...read more.

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