Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein

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Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was the mistress of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelly. In 1816 she stayed in a cottage on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland together with Shelly and their friend Lord Byron. As a storm raged outside the cottage, they encouraged each other to write a ghost story. Shelly and Lord Byron were so impressed by Mary’s story that she turned it into a full length novel. She got the inspiration for the story of Frankenstein in 1814 after she and Percy Shelly attended one of the lectures on atmospheric electricity by scientist Andrew Crosse in London.

More than 20 years after Mary had published her novel Crosse announced that he had created life in his laboratory. In 1837 he decided an attempt to make crystals of natural glass. He made the glass out of ground flint and potassium carbonate and dissolved this in sulphuric acid. Next he let the mixture drip through a piece of porous iron oxide from Mount Vesuvius which was electrified by a battery. After two weeks small white nipples began to grow out of the stone which changed into hairy legs. When Crosse became aware that the legs were moving he examined them through a microscope and discovered that the legs were small bugs. Crosse thought that might be insect eggs in the stone and therefore he sealed his carefully sterilised mixture into an airtight container and passed electricity through it. A few months later there were new bugs. Crosse’s paper on his discovery was received as blasphemy by the Clergymen. Crosse was gravely disappointed and withdrew himself as a scientist. The rest of this life in lived a hermit like existence until his death in 1855.

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