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Visions of Algae in Eighteenth-Century Botany

- September 7, 2016 in algae, botany, Conferva fontinalis, Erasmus Darwin, frankenstein, Joseph Priestley, mary shelley, photosynthesis, Science & Medicine, temple of nature

Although not normally considered the most glamorous of Mother Nature's offerings, algae has found itself at the heart of many a key moment in the last few hundred years of botanical science. Ryan Feigenbaum traces the surprising history of one particular species — Conferva fontinalis — from the vials of Joseph Priestley's laboratory to its possible role as inspiration for Shelley's Frankenstein.

Frankenstein, the Baroness, and the Climate Refugees of 1816

- June 15, 2016 in Baroness de Krüdener, Culture & History, famine, frankenstein, Literature, lord byron, mary shelley, refugee crisis, refugees, year without a summer

It is 200 years since The Year Without a Summer, when a sun-obscuring ash cloud — ejected from one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions in recorded history — caused temperatures to plummet the world over. Gillen D’Arcy Wood looks at the humanitarian crisis triggered by the unusual weather, and how it offers an alternative lens through which to read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a book begun in its midst.

The Science of Life and Death in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

- November 25, 2015 in Books, death, electricity, frankenstein, galvanism, giovanni aldini, Luigi Galvani, premature burial, Science & Medicine

Professor Sharon Ruston surveys the scientific background to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, considering contemporary investigations into resuscitation, galvanism, and the possibility of states between life and death.

The Poet, the Physician and the Birth of the Modern Vampire

- October 16, 2014 in Books, frankenstein, lake geneva, Literature, lord byron, polidiri, Religion, Myth & Legend, shelley, vampire, year without summer

From that famed night of ghost-stories in a Lake Geneva villa in 1816, as well as Frankenstein's monster, there arose that other great figure of 19th-century gothic fiction - the Vampire - a creation of Lord Byron's personal physician John Polidiri. Andrew McConnell Stott explores how a fractious relationship between Polidiri and his poet employer lies behind the tale, with Lord Byron himself providing a model for the blood-sucking aristocratic figure of the legend we are familiar with today.