“With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.” Such is the account Victor Frankenstein gives of the fateful night when he awakens the “monster” that is to bring death and destruction to all the things he holds dear.
Mary Shelley’s most famous novel “Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus,” turns 200 years old in January 2018. While being Shelley’s first novel, it remains one of her most notable works and one of the greatest horror stories ever written. The book chillingly captures the unforeseen terror of playing God and the heart-stopping fear of being pursued by a powerful, relentless killer.
Since Shelley published her novel, the Frankenstein characters have morphed and changed into pop culture icons that have appeared in plays, movies, TV shows, comic books and many other places. You may recognize Frankenstein’s creature as a Halloween costume, a classic Hollywood monster or the complex character in Shelley’s story.
Despite being frequently parodied and 200 years old, “Frankenstein” is a modern myth that explores the unchanging themes of human creativity, societal responsibility and scientific ethics. The frontiers of science push ever forward into fields like artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, raising questions that were once the stuff of science fiction writings but are now fodder for the evening news. As citizens with access to incredible tools for creation and transformation, understanding the fundamentals of science and technology will help us develop the skills to actively participate in social, ethical and political discussions related to these emerging technologies.
Throughout 2018, the Science Zone, along with the Natrona County Public Library, will be participating in an international celebration of the publication of Mary Shelley’s momentous novel. As part of the celebration, the Science Zone, along with 150 other science centers around the country, will be hosting a Frankenstein200 event to highlight some of the themes in the book that still resonate today.
The Science Zone will be hosting its Frankenstein200 event on Jan. 20 and will examine the scientific advances and oddities of Shelley’s time including the discovery of the voltaic cell, or battery, and traveling scientific demonstrations that utilized corpses as part of their act. These fascinating and somewhat morbid discoveries and experiences combined in Shelley’s mind to inspire her to create a timeless and cautionary tale in Frankenstein. Using hands-on, family friendly activities, this special event will take on the challenge of supporting learning related to responsible innovation and explore three important and enduring questions: What is life? Why do we create? What are our responsibilities as creators, scientists and engineers?