The tale of a tormented creature created in a laboratory began on a rainy night in 1816 in the imagination of a nineteen-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Since its publication two years later, Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus has spread around the globe through every possible medium and variation. Frankenstein has not been out of print once in 200 years. “Frankenstein” has become an indelible part of popular culture, and is shorthand for anything bizarre and human-made; for instance, genetically modified crops are “Frankenfood.”Conversely, Frankenstein’s monster has also become a benign Halloween favorite. Yet for all its long history, Frankenstein's central premise—that science, not magic or God, can create a living being, and thus these creators must answer for their actions as humans, not Gods—is most relevant today as scientists approach creating synthetic life.In its popular and cultural weight and its expression of the ethical issues raised by the advance of science, physicist Sidney Perkowitz and film expert Eddy von Muller have brought together scholars and scientists, artists and directions—including Mel Brooks—to celebrate and examine Mary Shelley’s marvelous creation and its legacy as the monster moves into his next century.
Sidney Perkowitz is a professor emeritus at Emory University. He is the author of Empire of Light and Universal Foam and has written for The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Discover, Physics World, Aeon and more. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.