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Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature

The Birth of Frankenstein

Head and shoulders, right pose painting of Mary Shelley. Reginald Easton(d.1893) Courtesy of The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Shelly relics(d).
Mary Shelley. Reginald Easton(d.1893) Courtesy of The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Shelly relics(d).

Hollywood did not give birth to Frankenstein; Mary Shelley did. More than a century before actor Boris Karloff, helped by make-up artists, made the monster in his image, came Shelley and her creation.

The mother of Frankenstein came from the rarefied reaches of the British artistic and intellectual elite. While Mary Shelley drew her inspiration from a dream, she drew her story's premises about the nature of life from the work of some of Europe's premier scientists and thinkers. The sophisticated creature that billowed up from her imagination read Plutarch and Goethe, spoke eloquently, and suffered much.