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Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature

Restored to Life?


A man stands with his arm outstretched with blood pouring from his arm through Blundell's Gravitator and being injected into the patient lying on a bed via a tube suspended from a vessel held high above the patient. Blundell's Gravitator. Reproduction of an illustration from The Lancet, II (June 13, 1828): 321. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine Collection.
Blundell's Gravitator. Reproduction of an illustration from The Lancet, II (June 13, 1828): 321. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine Collection.

In March 1815, Mary Shelley dreamed of her dead infant daughter held before a fire, rubbed vigorously, and restored to life. At the time, scientists would not have wholly dismissed such a possibility. Could the dead be brought back to life? Could life arise spontaneously from inorganic matter? Physicians of the day treated such questions seriously — as the treatises they wrote, the methods they employed, and the contrivances they built all testify.

James Blundell, a London physician troubled by the many women who died after childbirth from massive bleeding, introduced blood transfusion between humans, using the simple apparatus shown here. Reproduction of an illustration from The Lancet, 1828-1829.