Science, Technology, and Morality as Perceived in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

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In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley challenges the motives and ethical uncertainties of the scientific developments of her time. This critique has become increasingly relevant as modern scientists endeavor into previously unimagined realms of the natural world through the use of cloning and genetic engineering. Through careful analysis, we can see how the novel illustrates both the potential dangers of these exploits and the irony of the conflicts between science and creationism. Prior to the birth of the story, Mary Shelley had begun to learn of advancements and speculation in the scientific world of the early nineteenth century; in Frankenstein's introduction, editor M. K. Joseph asserts that "Mary Shelley wrote in the infancy of modern science, when its enormous possibilities were just beginning to be seen" (xii). Interest in electricity, premature concepts of evolution, and other post-Enlightenment developments seized the attention of Mary and her lover, English writer Percy Shelley. Scientific news and rumors provided as numerous topics for discussion between the Shelleys and their peers: "Many and long were the conversations between Byron and [Percy] Shelley . . . various philosophical doctrines were discussed, and among others the principle of life, and whether there was any probability of its ever being discovered and communicated," wrote Shelley in her 1831 introduction. Marylin Butler, in her article "The first Frankenstein and Radical Science," describes how William Lawrence, a physician, lecturer, and friend to the Shelleys, may have had a profound influence on the Shelleys' perceptions and opinions of science. Butler reports how Lawrence was a passionate student of "materialist science," a re... ... middle of paper ... ...ngman York Press, 1992. Garber, Frederick. The Autonomy of the Self from Richardson to Huysmans. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982. Kass, Leon R. Toward a More Natural Science. New York: The Free Press, 1985. Levine, George. The Endurance of Frankenstein. Los Angeles: Moers, 1974. Nelkin, Dorothy. "Genetics, God, and Sacred DNA." Society May/June 1996: 22-25. Patterson, Arthur Paul. A Frankenstein Study. Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980. Smith, Christopher. Frankenstein as Prometheus. Spark, Muriel. Mary Shelly. New York: Dutton, 1987. Williams, Bill. On Shelley's Use of Nature Imagery.

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