Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Author(s): Kathryn Harkup

Reading, Writing & Storytelling

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, and her creation has become part of our everyday culture, from cartoons to Hallowe'en costumes. Even the name 'Frankenstein' has become a by-word for evil scientists and dangerous experiments. How did a teenager with no formal education come up with the idea for an extraordinary novel such as Frankenstein?

Clues are dotted throughout Georgian science and popular culture. The years before the book's publication saw huge advances in our understanding of the natural sciences, in areas such as electricity and physiology, for example. Sensational science demonstrations caught the imagination of the general public, while the newspapers were full of lurid tales of murderers and resurrectionists.

Making the Monster explores the scientific background behind Mary Shelley's book. Is there any science fact behind the science fiction? And how might a real-life Victor Frankenstein have gone about creating his monster? From tales of volcanic eruptions, artificial life and chemical revolutions, to experimental surgery, 'monsters' and electrical experiments on human cadavers, Kathryn Harkup examines the science and scientists that influenced Shelley, and inspired her most famous creation.


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A thrilling and gruesome look at the science that influenced Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

An engaging account of the facts and fears of the 19th century that lay behind the composition of Mark Shelley's Frankenstein. A telling reminder that although science has moved on, fears about what it might soon do have scarcely changed. -- Steve Jones FRS, Emeritus Professor of Genetics at UCL, author and broadcaster A fascinating and educational journey through the shadowy twists and turns of medical history. The odours of the dissection rooms and the sounds of the public executions are brought to life just as vividly as the monster himself. -- Carla Valentine, Mortician and Pathology Museum Curator

Kathryn Harkup is a chemist and author. Kathryn completed a doctorate on her favourite chemicals, phosphines, and went on to further postdoctoral research before realising that talking, writing and demonstrating science appealed a bit more than hours slaving over a hot fume-hood. She currently writes a monthly poison blog for the Guardian and gives regular public talks on the disgusting and dangerous side of science. Kathryn's first book was the international best-seller A is for Arsenic, which was shortlisted for a Mystery Readers International Macavity Award and a BMA Book Award.

General Fields

  • : 9781472933744
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : Bloomsbury Sigma
  • : February 2018
  • : 216mm X 135mm
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 11 black and white illustrations
  • : 304
  • : Paperback
  • : Kathryn Harkup