The story of how Mary Shelley came to write Frankenstein is almost as spooky as the tale itself. It starts on a stormy night in Geneva in 1818 — exactly 200 years ago. She, Percy Shelley, and the poet Lord Byron told chilling ghost stories at a lakeside villa. But Mary’s tale of a scientist whose creation went on to murder his wife and family became one of the most famous novels of all time. Its reflections on the nature of science, on humanity and on the consequences of knowledge have haunted generations of readers, and it still resonates with the most modern fears and paranoias.
Victor conceives of science as a mystery to be probed; its secrets, once discovered, must be jealously guarded. “What could not be expected in the country of eternal light?” asks Walton, displaying a faith in science. We have come a long way from the early experiments with electricity which inspired the tale of Frankenstein. What new boundaries are being tested by our most ambitious scientists?
In the last three decades, scientists have discovered around 4,000 exoplanets outside our solar system. What are these mysterious worlds, and will we find alien life on them?
How Frankenstein could save the modern world
What can Frankenstein teach modern scientists? For 200 years, the tale has gripped readers. As humans gain greater powers to control life, many say the book still contains a vital message.
Universe is expanding too fast, say scientists
Scientists have found a troubling statistic in their observations of the universe: it is expanding about 9% faster than it should. Why is this happening? And should we be worried about it?
The full title of the novel is Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. The Greek god Prometheus gave the knowledge of fire to humanity and was then severely punished for it. Victor, attempting to become a modern Prometheus, is certainly punished, but unlike fire, his “gift” to humanity — knowledge of the secret of life — remains a secret.
Scientists build ‘complete’ bionic man for TV
He may not be much of a looker, but Rex walks, talks and moves much like a human being. Every inch of his ‘body’ is artificially engineered. Will we soon build humans from scratch?
Computers could destroy humanity, experts say
The rise of the robots is a sci-fi staple, but a coalition of scientists and programmers has warned that artificial intelligence could also pose a real-life threat. How worried should we be?
Supercomputer convinces experts it is human
Artificial intelligence took a great leap forward last weekend, when a computer passed the ‘Turing Test’ by impersonating a human being. But is this an exciting or a frightening idea?
The sublime natural world, embraced by Romanticism as a source of unrestrained emotional experience for the individual, initially offers characters the possibility of spiritual renewal. Victor heads to the mountains to lift his spirits after the death of William and Justine. But eventually the natural world’s power to console him wanes when he realises that the monster will haunt him everywhere.
Life and death central to new wildlife series
The Hunt, which looks at the relationship between predators and prey in the natural world, began on BBC One last night. Should humans embrace our own killer instincts or rise above them?
Insect extinction threatens ‘collapse of nature’
According to a shock report, Earth’s insects could be wiped out in the next 100 years — with “catastrophic” consequences for humankind. Scientists say drastic action is needed to avert disaster.
Planet Earth: ‘the best TV series ever made’
The final episode of David Attenborough’s wildly popular Planet Earth II airs on Sunday night. Is it pure entertainment, or do programmes like this make a difference to how we see the world?
Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, wrote one of the earliest feminist texts. Most female characters in Frankenstein are very passive, and most die an untimely death. But their deaths — and Frankenstein’s refusal to create a female companion for the monster — is often a catalyst for change.
Europe’s women suffer ‘violence epidemic’
A shocking survey shows that a third of all European women have experienced some form of domestic violence. Mental abuse was included in the report. But is it as serious as physical attacks?
International Women’s Day: old wounds, new hopes
As the world marks a day in honour of women, the journey to gender equality is far from over. But amid the challenges lies an amazing opportunity.
7 billion and counting: women hold key to population
Millions of women worldwide still lack access to contraception or education. As the planet's seven billionth baby is born, the links between poverty and population have never been so important.
In the Christian world of Mary Shelley’s Europe, perhaps Frankenstein’s greatest crime was trying to remove God from the process of life and death. But society today is less preoccupied with religious dilemmas — what does this mean for science?
‘Fairy story’ religion under fire again
Stephen Hawking, the world's most famous living physicist, has given a rare and explosive interview. By calling the afterlife “a fairy story”, he has reignited debate between science and religion.
Cameron declares UK is a Christian country
David Cameron insists on Christianity’s value in public life, but many say he is excluding those of other faiths and those of none. Is religion a helpful guide to running a modern country?
Science hero attacks top atheist campaigner
In a clash of scientific heavyweights, the discoverer of the so-called ‘God particle’ has taken on the author of ‘The God Delusion’. And what’s their battle about? God himself.