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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 01:01 GMT 02:01 UK
Scot's monster role played up
Frankenstein monster and laboratory graphic
Mary Shelley's classic has been immortalised in film
An eccentric Scottish natural philosopher was a greater influence than previously thought on the classic horror novel Frankenstein, according to new academic research.

Dr James Lind's scientific work was hugely admired by Percy Shelley, whose wife Mary wrote the story at the age of 18 during the summer of 1816.

A paper published by The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine says critics have noted references to the work of Darwin and others in the book's preface, which was penned by Percy Shelley.

My thesis is that she [Mary Shelley] got what science she knew from Percy Shelley, who got it from James Lind

Chris Goulding

It goes on to say: "But a closer examination of the medical themes... strongly suggests a more obscure influence at work, arising from Percy Shelley's friendship with a Scots doctor whilst he was still a schoolboy at Eton."

The paper, entitled "The Real Doctor Frankenstein?", has been produced by Chris Goulding, a post-graduate student at the University of Newcastle, who specialises in the overlap between science and the arts.

Mr Goulding said that without the influence of Lind, the novel would have been "very different and possibly wouldn't have had quite as much of an impact as it did".

Nautical relative

Lind, who was born in Edinburgh in 1736 and died at the age of 76, was a widower living in semi-retirement at Windsor, near Eton, and was a mentor to Eton schoolboys.

His more famous cousin and namesake became known as "the father of nautical medicine" with his "Treatise on the Scurvy".

Shelley: Knew little of science

An accomplished astronomer and geologist, he took a keen interest in all the emerging fields of science that attracted Percy Shelley. He was, however, seen as an eccentric within the polite society of Windsor.

Mr Goulding says that the part of Waldeman in the Frankenstein novel owes much to Lind.

"But an examination of Lind's own experiments reveals he was even closer to the world of Frankenstein than has hitherto been acknowledged," he writes.

Correspondence with an Italian physicist refers to Lind's successful experiments with the use of electricity to make a severed frog's leg move.

'Shine a sidelight'

Mr Goulding told BBC News Online: "The central core of the story is about electricity being the force that brings life to a corpse.

"My thesis is that she [Mary Shelley] got what science she knew from Percy Shelley, who got it from James Lind. Her main concerns were social and moral.

Chris Goulding
Chris Goulding: Lind "close to Frankenstein"

"I'm not trying to take anything away from Mary Shelley.

"I'm trying, if you like, to shine a sidelight on the purely scientific aspects of it."

He also pointed out that in the novel, Frankenstein passes through Edinburgh and goes to the Orkney Islands, underlining the Scottish influence on the work.

Mr Goulding concludes his paper: "Notwithstanding Mary Shelley's own literary talent, and her night of inspiration in 1816, we might now give some credit to the time spent six years previously by her husband-to-be in the study of a retired Scots physician in Windsor."

Chris Goulding, University of Newcastle
"Mary Shelley is very vague on the science"
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