Frankenstein and The Secrets of Life
When she wrote Frankenstein (1818), Mary Shelley drew on the latest scientific research to create a wonderfully ambiguous commentary on science’s multi-faceted nature and the ethical problems it raises.
More than a century later, untangling the double helix of DNA promised to reveal the secret of life, yet Frankenstein posed fundamental questions that still perplex us today. Can living matter be created? Is evil learnt or innate? Are humans fundamentally different from animals? Does progress come with a heavy moral
Speaker Patricia Fara is an Emeritus Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge; she is also President of the Antiquarian Horological Society and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She writes and lectures widely on the history of science, is a regular contributor to In Our Time and other radio/TV programmes, and was awarded the 2022 Abraham Pais prize by the American Physical Society.
Patricia’s books include Science: A Four Thousand Year History (2009) (translated into nine languages), A Lab of One’s Own: Science and Suffrage in World War I (2018) and Life after Gravity: Isaac Newton’s London Career (2021).
Image: an illustration depicting the creature coming to life, which was part of the frontispiece of the 1831 edition of the book.
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