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A look at the kind of education portrayed in frankenstein by mary shelley

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the birth of modern science First published: Wednesday 14 January 2015 10: Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's Monster.

Unlike various modern incarnations, Mary Shelley's original novel tells us much about 19th century attitudes to science Universal Studios Mary Shelley wrote 'Frankenstein' when she was just 18, and it is often read as a gothic horror story and prophetic warning about the dangers of taking science too far.

The first thought that comes to most peoples' minds when you mention Frankenstein is the image of the monster played by Boris Karloff in the 1940 movie with the monobrow and industrial sized bolts through his neck.

The ancient teachers of this science promised impossibilities and performed nothing. The modern masters promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted and that the elixir of life is a chimera, but these philosophers, whose hands seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pore over the microscope or crucible, have indeed performed miracles.

The term didn't exist until nearly two decades after the book was published. Their objective was to explain or describe nature. Victor Frankenstein epitomised the changing attitude toward science in the the early 19th century. His chemistry professor, however, directed his imagination away from the classical to the fascinating new and modern world where the experiments were more pragmatic and focused on more tangible aspects of daily life and the environment.

They appeared no less magical for all that, however. Indeed they were perhaps more so, because they implied that there were far more possibilities. Shelley puts these words, which reflect the thinking of her day, into the mouth of the professor: 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.

Eerily prophetic sci-fi movies Shelley had been brought up in an atmosphere of social and political reform. Shelley was imbued from an early age with the concept of social engineering and might have been expected to write a novel that explored social and moral issues.

Percy Shelley was also a political radical and in particular a radical atheist. The idea of a man playing God was a natural extension of his ideas. He was also embroiled in the science of the day, in all aspects of natural philosophy. Percy Shelley the poet was also a new age man. He had been inculcated with a love of science when he was at Eton. In the Regency period, the Industrial Revolution had already begun to dramatically transform Western civilisation.

Science appeared to be moving at a cracking pace and gentlemen like Percy who wanted to keep up had to work hard at it. Davy was using the new science of electrochemistry to discover more and more chemical elements.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the birth of modern science

Medical science gained notable strides with the invention of the stethoscope and galvanometer. Joseph Constantine Carpue conducted the first rhinoplasty and Davy discovered the analgesic effect of nitrous oxide. In 1814, when Mary and Shelley eloped, George Stephenson built the first public steam train. The iron, coal, and cotton industries flourished during this period, propelled by use of the steam engine as a source of power.

Percy was particularly fascinated by steam and a few years later in Italy, would work with a friend, an engineer, to try and develop a commercial steam boat. In the early 19th century, the magic of science appeared to be a mystery that, with the right tools, might be exposed and controlled by man.

In the excitement, science became performance. The show was spectacular, using electricity to mimic a thunderbolt and produce fire from water. There was a phantasmagoria in which there appeared to be a lady with many heads.

It finished with a wonderful display of fireworks which produced neither smell nor smoke. Percy was riveted and went twice. The public lapped it up. These people were not necessarily men of science, often closer to conjurers, but there were many serious lectures to be had as well, especially at the Royal Institution, which became open to the public in 1811. There were theatres of anatomy giving lectures and lessons on dissection for medical students which were open to the general public.

It was in this environment of attainable wonder that Mary caused Victor Frankenstein to say: It was a bold question, and one which has ever been considered as a mystery; yet with how many things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice a look at the kind of education portrayed in frankenstein by mary shelley carelessness did not restrain our inquiries.

The year Mary began to write Frankenstein, 1816, was also known as the year without a summer. A volcano, Mount Tambora, erupted on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa.

It was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history. Almost 100,000 people died, and a massive amount of volcanic ash was sent into the atmosphere, affecting weather patterns around the world.

  • Victor studied profusely, mastering mathematics, languages, including Latin, Greek, English, and German, as well as the early theories and discoveries of science;
  • For a revenge the creature promises to be present in Victor's wedding night;
  • After his hard work pays off and the discovery is made, he describes his delight, saying, "After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life, nay, more; I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.