Frankenstein: Science, Technology and Health

Introduction

Science and technology form an intrinsic part of human existence today. The health segment is one of the major beneficiaries of progress in technology and science. The novel Frankenstein played a key role in influencing the development of health-related science and technology. Written by Mary Shelley, the narrative documents the story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his desire to create life out of death. The novel exposes the elements of scientific thinking, scientific discoveries, and evolution of science overtime. Subsequently, Shelley’s work is still considered to be the first science fiction work 200 years after its creation. Like modern science, Victor Frankenstein’s inquiry was inspired by prevailing and urgent inquiries on the concepts of life and death.

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Frankenstein and Science

Modern science is predicated on specific pillars which are intended to streamline the empirical inquiry process. Some of the principles were highlighted in the novel Frankenstein. Notably, scientific inquiry is inspired by the need to discover unraveled dimensions of life. The examination of health-related topics requires the identification of specific goals, which will act as the guidelines in the study. Victor Frankenstein set the pace for future scientific experiments when he clearly defined the objective of his studies before delving into the experimental processes. Thus, Davies argues that “the 18th century saw the continued construction of foundations which all subsequent medical experimentation has been built” (32). Such an allusion reflects back on the efforts of individuals such as Shelley. The definition of a goal provides the first step in any scientific process. Thus, Frankenstein declares that he “will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation” (Shelley 46). Such an assertion offers insight into the basic principles of curiosity that underlie the experimental processes. Ideally, science is predicated on the need to discover certain truths that had previously been ignored. Today, science continues to follow the same script.

Distinctly, science is intended to be useful to the community. The findings inferred from scientific inquiries should be applicable to the general population. People should be able to derive health benefits from the inquiry. Davies suggests that science ought to be beneficial or relevant to the interests of a particular time or generation (33). Presently, the influences of science have witnessed the discovery of several treatment options for various diseases, an action that had led to a reduction in mortality rates across the world. Such beneficial power is reflected in Shelley’s analysis when she contends that “a modern system of science had been introduced which possessed much greater powers than the ancient, because the powers of the latter were chimerical, while those of the former were chimerical” (35). The goal of science presently, like in the ancient period, was to promote the sustainability of human life. Mary Shelley achieves this goal through Frankenstein. She creates life out of death (Lemley 31). Doubt cannot be separated from science. Subsequently, science can be referred to as an attempt to address human doubt. Frankenstein acknowledges her doubts in the inquiry process when she declares that “I doubted at first whether I should attempt the creation of a being like myself, or one of the simpler organizations” (53). Such doubt was the inspiration behind his success in the quest to create life out of death.

One of the major concerns that were reflected by Shelley in the novel is morality and ethics in scientific experiments, which have influence on human health. The study President’s Address: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and The Dark Side of Medical Science suggests that there is more to science than discovering new findings that promote health goals. According to Mackowiak, medical science has a dark side that is often ignored (9). People tend to overlook the concept of ethics in scientific inquiry in the face of benefits that are derived from such experiments. The sentiment is further reflected by Davies when he suggests that scientific experimental declarations can lead to harm (33). The novel Frankenstein warns against the dangers of science in modern times. In reference to the subject, Frankenstein instructs Walton to “learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my examples, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will show” (Shelley 53). The involvement of ethics and morality in scientific inquiries should be inclined towards the prevention of degeneration among scientists. In recent times, the dangers of science were witnessed during the Nazi era, where scientists carried out experiments on living human specimens. The initiative led to the death of thousands of individuals and also exposed the dangers of unregulated medical inquiry.

Frankenstein and Technology

Technology plays a critical role in modern-day society. It is the medium through which efficient communication, transportation, and acquisition of knowledge are achieved. The use of technology in health has enabled the discovery of several micro-organisms and subsequent treatment options, which have been pivotal in promoting human welfare. Frankenstein was the first novel to reflect upon the relationship between medical science and technology. To patch Frankenstein together, Dr. Victor was forced to make use of technological advancements in the 18th century. Through the experiences in the novel, technology is projected to be a byproduct of scientific inquiry. The simultaneous growth of technology and science in the 18th century reflects the indispensability of the two components in the promotion of human health. Some studies suggest that Mary Shelley was aware of the 18th-century technologies, which provided her with the background she needed to facilitate the efficiency of Dr. Frankenstein’s recreation. The element of technology in Frankenstein is also inferred in the study Medicine in the Arts: Karl August Weinhold and His “Science” in the Era of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Experiments on Electricity and the Restoration of Life According to Finger and Law knowledge on the influences of electricity on health provided the foundation that Shelley needed to facilitate the completion of Frankenstein (164). In the 18th century, there was little understanding of the capabilities of electricity.

In reflecting on technology, Shelley assumes a sense of secrecy in the recreation of the monster. The assembly of the monster in the novel is akin to the assembly of instruments in modern times. Thus, “I collected bones from charnel houses and disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame” (55). Such allusion points to the use of electricity in the assembly of technological instruments. It cannot be a coincidence that Shelley’s attempt at redefining science occurred at a time when the electric revolution was happening across Europe. Like modern technology, the novel accedes to the challenges experienced n mastering technology and using it to promote health benefits.

Frankenstein, the monster, can be viewed both as a construct of technology and as technology on its own. Even in modern times, technology still inspires fear, given the challenges experienced in controlling and manipulating usage. Shelley allays this fear when she dictates that “I then reflected, and the thought made me shiver, that the creature whom I had left in my apartment might still be there, alive, and walking about. I dreaded to behold this monster” (63). The statement acknowledges the impossibility and risk that is projected in the use of technology. Successful healthcare initiatives will demand the involvement of specific measures aimed at mitigating risks resulting from technology use. Overall, the use of technology in science should be regulated to ensure favorable outcomes.

Conclusion

The novel Frankenstein offers a valuable insight into the relevance of technology and science in promoting human health. Written by Mary Shelley, Frankenstein explores the scientific journey of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his commitment to the recreation of the human body. In delivering her work, the author alludes to the indispensability of scientific principles. She also reinforces the element of ethics and morality in scientific experiments. The novel further examines the concept of technology in health initiatives. Surreptitiously, Shelley alludes to the advent of electricity in the assembly of the monster. The next point of reference to technology is found in the author’s admission to the challenge experienced in trying to manipulate technology to facilitate successful health inquiries. Frankenstein provides a significant resource in the development of modern-day medical science and technology.

 

Works Cited

Davis, H. “Can Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Be Read as an Early Research Ethics Text.” Journal of Medical Ethics, vol.30, no.1, 2004, pp. 32-35.

Finger, Stanley, and Mark B. Law. “Medicine in the Arts: Karl August Weinhold and His “Science” in the Era of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Experiments on Electricity and the Restoration of Life.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, vol.53, no.2, 1998, pp. 161-180.

Lemley, Allison. “Frankenstein and “The Labours of Men of Genius”: Science and Medical Ethics in the Early 19th Century”. Grand Valley Journal of History, vol.4, no.2, 2018, pp. 1-41.

Mackowiak, Phillip A. “President’s Address: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and The Dark Side of Medical Science.” Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, vol.125, 2014, pp. 1-13.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein. Bantam Books, 2003.