Reading progress update: I've read 1%.

Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - Kathryn Harkup

I don't usually anticipate the release of a new book, but this one I have been looking for. I really loved the author's A is for Arsenic (currently in the running for our Flat Book Society read in May), and I am confident that this new one will be equally as enlightening (ha!), fun, and just a little bit ... dramatic.


Here's the opening to the book:

On 4 November 1818, a scientist stood in front of the corpse of an athletic, muscular man. Behind him his electrical equipment was primed and fizzing with energy. The scientist was ready to conduct a momentous scientific experiment.

The final preparations were made to the cadaver – a few cuts and incisions to expose key nerves. No blood ran from the wounds. At that moment the thing on the table in front of the young scientist was just flesh and bone, from which all life had been extinguished. Then the corpse was carefully connected to the electrical equipment.

Immediately every muscle was thrown into powerful convulsions, as though the body was violently shuddering from cold. A few adjustments were made and the machine connected a second time. Now full, laborious breathing commenced. The belly distended, the chest rose and fell. With the final application of electricity the fingers of the right hand started to twitch as though playing the violin. Then, one finger extended and appeared to point.

The images conjured up by this account may seem familiar. Perhaps you have seen them on the silver screen when Boris Karloff’s iconic creature twitched and stumbled into life. Or maybe you have read something like this in the pages of a novel written by the teenage Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. But the description above is not fiction. It happened. Two experimenters, Aldini and Ure, made the dead move using electrical devices.