The real experiments that inspired Frankenstein

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The real experiments that inspired Frankenstein 5
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When Mary Shelley published her iconic novel in 1818, raising the dead seemed to be the near-future.


Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has been reimagined onscreen hundreds of times and is a staple of pop culture. The prevailing takeaway is science-gone-wrong and the dangers of pursuing the unnatural. But contemporary readers, surrounded by Enlightenment-era scientific breakthroughs that were beginning to shift the definition of death, would have read the story as frighteningly plausible.

Electricity was being used in a scientific practice called “galvanism,” which seemed to show some promise in reanimating body parts of recently dead animals and humans. Shelley even references galvanism in the 1831 edition of the book, citing it as an example of how this experiment could be a possibility.


Sources:
Sharon Ruston’s “The Science of Life and Death in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein:”

Kathryn Harkup’s “Making the Monster:”




💬 Comments on the video
Author

If you want to learn more about this story, definitely check out Sharon Ruston’s online article, “The Science of Life and Death in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, ” and Kathryn Harkup’s book, “Making the Monster.” Their amazing research helped inform a lot of this piece, and I am very grateful that they also took the time to Skype with me about this story. Stay spooky. -Coleman

Author — Vox

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"Welcome to history club. Welcome to history club. Because history repeat itself"

Meh

Author — Michael Louis

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"We might be able to resurrect people. Let's try it on a murderer."

Author — Gabriel Brennan

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So Frankenstein was just an Enlightenment-Age version of Black Mirror then?

Author — The Gr8 Poseidon

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History Club: look forward to looking back.

Author — Matthew Anderson

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History Club: We got sidetracked on Wikipedia for a few hours and 289 tabs later here we are

Author — Tyler Durr

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you know what, they weren't wrong we use electricity to restart the heart and to revive people today with defibrillators

Author — A5IP_OF_KD

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I love when you say: "1818 readers wouldn't have seen it that way". Did you know that the same thing goes for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? It had to do something with the veeery beginning of psychology. I'd love to see an episode about that too :)

Author — Antonio Graniero

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fun fact: The year Frankenstein was written there was no summer in Europe because of a volcanic eruption. That's why the arctic and snow/ice is all through the book. Also the famouse stratovarius violins were made from trees from that period because the lack of a summer season gave the wood unique properties

Author — ButterBall

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I feel like you guys were almost mocking Galvani for his understanding of an electrical life force but our nervous system is essentially electrical (just using ions as opposed to electrons).
Interesting that we see Galvanism as so distinct and different from current medical practices, though not identical, electrical cardioversion is an application of electric to revive the dead / apparently dead.

Author — Daniel Rchrdsn

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So "Frankenstein" was basically the "Ex Machina" or "Her!" of its day. "20 minutes into the future", and deeply unnerving based on the current frontiers of development. That's really cool.

Author — Enthused Norseman

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“Shelley never characterized her protagonist as crazy” wHEEZE lmao you can hardly call Victor Frankenstein a protagonist, let alone s a n e. The man nearly worked himself to death for years in college (he was a dropout tho lmao) totally isolating himself and littering his apartment with *bits of corpses*, not to mention that GRAVEYARD ROBBING was part of his delightful hobby.
((Also there was no explanation of how he actually brought his creation to life, movie adaptations made that up. Probably influenced by galvanism, but still, it’s unclear whether Shelley was influenced by it much at all.))

Author — Jasper N

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These guys are out here social distancing before everything even happened !

Author — Likhith Ravi

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Wolfenstein
Frankenstein
Dogstein
Catstein
Volkstein
"VOXSTEIN"

Author — Blender Geek

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"Topic of what again?"

"Drowning."

*"Oh okay."*

Me: Yup, that's a completely normal topic for us to talk about (The vid is great though, definitely an interesting topic)

Author — Princess Mauve

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I thought galvanizing was putting a protective layer of Zinc over Steel or iron to prevent rust

Author — ButterBall

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Technically we still do this. We call it using a defibrillator

Author — David W

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Dead man:

People from 1800: “IM ABOUT THE REVIVE THIS MAN’S WHOLE CAREER”

Author — Morkly

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History Club - Don’t throw it away, it belongs to today!

Author — Dawn Lowndes

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Someone falls into the pool:


Scientist from that time: lets go, lets go

Author — Xenna Lopeth