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Chapter III.

Published onJun 17, 2019
Chapter III.

Chapter III.

From this day natural philosophy, and particularly chemistry, in the most comprehensive sense of the term, became nearly my sole occupation. I read with ardour those works, so full of genius and discrimination, which modern inquirers have written on these subjects. I attended the lectures, and cultivated the acquaintance, of the men of science of the university; and I found even in M. Krempe a great deal of sound sense and real information, combined, it is true, with a repulsive physiognomy and manners, but not on that account the less valuable. In M. Waldman I found a true friend. His gentleness was never tinged by dogmatism; and his instructions were given with an air of frankness and good nature, that banished every idea of pedantry. It was, perhaps, the amiable character of this man that inclined me more to that branch of natural philosophy which he professed, than an intrinsic love for the science itself. But this state of mind had place only in the first steps towards knowledge: the more fully I entered into the science, the more exclusively I pursued it for its own sake. That application, which at first had been a matter of duty and resolution, now became so ardent and eager, that the stars often disappeared in the light of morning whilst I was yet engaged in my laboratory.

As I applied so closely, it may be easily conceived that I improved rapidly. My ardour was indeed the astonishment of the students; and my proficiency, that of the masters. Professor Krempe often asked me, with a sly smile, how Cornelius Agrippa went on? whilst M. Waldman expressed the most heartfelt exultation in my progress. Two years passed in this manner, during which I paid no visit to Geneva, but was engaged, heart and soul, in the pursuit of some discoveries, which I hoped to make. None but those who have experienced them can conceive of the enticements of science. In other studies you go as far as others have gone before you, and there is nothing more to know; but in a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder. A mind of moderate capacity, which closely pursues one study, must infallibly arrive at great proficiency in that study; and I, who continually sought the attainment of one object of pursuit, and was solely wrapt up in this, improved so rapidly, that, at the end of two years, I made some discoveries in the improvement of some chemical instruments, which procured me great esteem and admiration at the university. When I had arrived at this point, and had become as well acquainted with the theory and practice of natural philosophy as depended on the lessons of any of the professors at Ingolstadt, my residence there being no longer conducive to my improvements, I thought of returning to my friends and my native town, when an incident happened that protracted my stay.

One of the phænomena which had peculiarly attracted my attention was the structure of the human frame, and, indeed, any animal endued with life. Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed? It was a bold question, and one which has ever been considered as a mystery; yet with how many things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquiries. I revolved these circumstances in my mind, and determined thenceforth to apply myself more particularly to those branches of natural philosophy which relate to physiology. Unless I had been animated by an almost supernatural enthusiasm, my application to this study would have been irksome, and almost intolerable. To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death. I became acquainted with the science of anatomy: but this was not sufficient; I must also observe the natural decay and corruption of the human body. In my education my father had taken the greatest precautions that my mind should be impressed with no supernatural horrors. I do not ever remember to have trembled at a tale of superstition, or to have feared the apparition of a spirit. Darkness had no effect upon my fancy; and a church-yard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived of life, which, from being the seat of beauty and strength, had become food for the worm. Now I was led to examine the cause and progress of this decay, and forced to spend days and nights in vaults and charnel houses. My attention was fixed upon every object the most insupportable to the delicacy of the human feelings. I saw how the fine form of man was degraded and wasted; I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; I saw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain. I paused, examining and analysing all the minutiæ of causation, as exemplified in the change from life to death, and death to life, until from the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me—a light so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simple, that while I became dizzy with the immensity of the prospect which it illustrated, I was surprised that among so many men of genius, who had directed their inquiries towards the same science, that I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret.

Remember, I am not recording the vision of a madman. The sun does not more certainly shine in the heavens, than that which I now affirm is true. Some miracle might have produced it, yet the stages of the discovery were distinct and probable. After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.

The astonishment which I had at first experienced on this discovery soon gave place to delight and rapture. After so much time spent in painful labour, to arrive at once at the summit of my desires, was the most gratifying consummation of my toils. But this discovery was so great and overwhelming, that all the steps by which I had been progressively led to it were obliterated, and I beheld only the result. What had been the study and desire of the wisest men since the creation of the world, was now within my grasp. Not that, like a magic scene, it all opened upon me at once: the information I had obtained was of a nature rather to direct my endeavours so soon as I should point them towards the object of my search, than to exhibit that object already accomplished. I was like the Arabian who had been buried with the dead, and found a passage to life aided only by one glimmering, and seemingly ineffectual, light.

I see by your eagerness, and the wonder and hope which your eyes express, my friend, that you expect to be informed of the secret with which I am acquainted; that cannot be: listen patiently until the end of my story, and you will easily perceive why I am reserved upon that subject. I will not lead you on, unguarded and ardent as I then was, to your destruction and infallible misery. Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.

When I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands, I hesitated a long time concerning the manner in which I should employ it. Although I possessed the capacity of bestowing animation, yet to prepare a frame for the reception of it, with all its intricacies of fibres, muscles, and veins, still remained a work of inconceivable difficulty and labour. I doubted at first whether I should attempt the creation of a being like myself or one of simpler organization; but my imagination was too much exalted by my first success to permit me to doubt of my ability to give life to an animal as complex and wonderful as man. The materials at present within my command hardly appeared adequate to so arduous an undertaking; but I doubted not that I should ultimately succeed. I prepared myself for a multitude of reverses; my operations might be incessantly baffled, and at last my work be imperfect: yet, when I considered the improvement which every day takes place in science and mechanics, I was encouraged to hope my present attempts would at least lay the foundations of future success. Nor could I consider the magnitude and complexity of my plan as any argument of its impracticability. It was with these feelings that I began the creation of a human being. As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature; that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionably large. After having formed this determination, and having spent some months in successfully collecting and arranging my materials, I began.

No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success. Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve their’s. Pursuing these reflections, I thought, that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption.

These thoughts supported my spirits, while I pursued my undertaking with unremitting ardour. My cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement. Sometimes, on the very brink of certainty, I failed; yet still I clung to the hope which the next day or the next hour might realize. One secret which I alone possessed was the hope to which I had dedicated myself; and the moon gazed on my midnight labours, while, with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding places. Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil, as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave, or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay? My limbs now tremble, and my eyes swim with the remembrance; but then a resistless, and almost frantic impulse, urged me forward; I seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit. It was indeed but a passing trance, that only made me feel with renewed acuteness so soon as, the unnatural stimulus ceasing to operate, I had returned to my old habits. I collected bones from charnel houses; and disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame. In a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house, and separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase, I kept my workshop of filthy creation; my eyeballs were starting from their sockets in attending to the details of my employment. The dissecting room and the slaughter-house furnished many of my materials; and often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation, whilst, still urged on by an eagerness which perpetually increased, I brought my work near to a conclusion.

The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul, in one pursuit. It was a most beautiful season; never did the fields bestow a more plentiful harvest, or the vines yield a more luxuriant vintage: but my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature. And the same feelings which made me neglect the scenes around me caused me also to forget those friends who were so many miles absent, and whom I had not seen for so long a time. I knew my silence disquieted them; and I well remembered the words of my father: “I know that while you are pleased with yourself, you will think of us with affection, and we shall hear regularly from you. You must pardon me, if I regard any interruption in your correspondence as a proof that your other duties are equally neglected.”

I knew well therefore what would be my father’s feelings; but I could not tear my thoughts from my employment, loathsome in itself, but which had taken an irresistible hold of my imagination. I wished, as it were, to procrastinate all that related to my feelings of affection until the great object, which swallowed up every habit of my nature, should be completed.

I then thought that my father would be unjust if he ascribed my neglect to vice, or faultiness on my part; but I am now convinced that he was justified in conceiving that I should not be altogether free from blame. A human being in perfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind, and never to allow passion or a transitory desire to disturb his tranquillity. I do not think that the pursuit of knowledge is an exception to this rule. If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections, and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind. If this rule were always observed; if no man allowed any pursuit whatsoever to interfere with the tranquillity of his domestic affections, Greece had not been enslaved; Cæsar would have spared his country; America would have been discovered more gradually; and the empires of Mexico and Peru had not been destroyed.

But I forget that I am moralizing in the most interesting part of my tale; and your looks remind me to proceed.

My father made no reproach in his letters; and only took notice of my silence by inquiring into my occupations more particularly than before. Winter, spring, and summer, passed away during my labours; but I did not watch the blossom or the expanding leaves—sights which before always yielded me supreme delight, so deeply was I engrossed in my occupation. The leaves of that year had withered before my work drew near to a close; and now every day shewed me more plainly how well I had succeeded. But my enthusiasm was checked by my anxiety, and I appeared rather like one doomed by slavery to toil in the mines, or any other unwholesome trade, than an artist occupied by his favourite employment. Every night I was oppressed by a slow fever, and I became nervous to a most painful degree; a disease that I regretted the more because I had hitherto enjoyed most excellent health, and had always boasted of the firmness of my nerves. But I believed that exercise and amusement would soon drive away such symptoms; and I promised myself both of these, when my creation should be complete.

Ruth Wylie:
190814 4206927: If Victor thought of various additional outcomes to his creation might he had a second thought about going through his project?
Justice Arellano: This quote is essentially portraying how Victor Frankenstein lived through the epiphany of “ignorance is bliss”. It states that the acquirement of knowledge is dangerous and a naive man is much happier. When people are in their adolescence, they tend to believe what others tell them, only really caring about happiness. However, as they age and learn about the troubles in the world outside of their own, they become more stressed and frustrated. In this case, Victor was much happier without the knowledge of how to create life. Only after creating his “monster” does he feel an immense amount of fear and disgust, instantly regretting his decision to create him in the first place.
Yajas Shah: Chemistry has a strong presence in this chapter as it is the subject that gets Victor interested in the natural sciences in the first place. Mary uses light to help describe Victor’s discovery of creating something that can be both dead and alive at the same time multiple times throughout the chapter. Taking a look at the concept of light through the lens of chemistry reveals a similarity between the light and Victor’s discovery. In terms of chemistry, as discovered by Einstein, light is a particle and wave at the same time. A concept known as wave-particle duality. This would mean light (the energy released by electrons from their jump from their excited state back to ground state), can exist as both a particle and a wave, and this ability to exist as two things at once correlates strongly with Victor’s ability to have something be dead and alive at the same time.
Khanh Thi Nguyen: This is an example of Victor Frankenstein’s bad moral justification. To create his living creature, Victor goes out to the graveyard to collect dead human body parts, which is an execrable act that possibly no one would do. Taking a dead human’s body which once had a life shows that Victor pays no respect to the deads and risks doing anything just to attain his goal.
Josh Tokunaga: This instance is not a good idea at all. Here Victor resolves to make his creation a giant, standing about 8 feet tall. In what world would this have been a good idea. Of course something 8 feet tall would be terrifying and intimidating, especially if it was brought to life by science, not birth. This specific detail to the creatures design is partly a cause for the subsequent events in the story. His big stature is what makes him able to kill people with ease and what makes his appearance so atrocious to others. Maybe if he was a 3 feet tall cute monster, he wouldn’t be so lonely.
Cori Gillis: In this passage, Victor begins the process of creating the monster. I actually agree with his idea to create a life because although he is “playing God,” I believe that his fascination is more with the scientific side of the creatures making than anything else. I believe it is an advancement pot science in that, by creating a new life, he is able to play around with the growth of medicine and the science behind the human body and mind. It is also interesting to see the mental state of a creature that is fully grown, man-made and built, as opposed to a human who grows up into a fully grown being. I believe this would also be categorized in the advancement of science.
Angel Lara: Like they said here sometimes you can only go as far as the previous person did. Learning more about this creature would be the best option due to the fact that not much is known about it since it’s one of the first things created by man. Like they said in the text at the end of two years they discovered other things which in turn can be done with the creature as well.
Motivations & Sentiments
Joel Gereboff: Victor’s unease at dealing with body parts from the dead is overpowered by the force of his imagination propelling him to complete his work. The relationship between imagination, creativity, and conventional views expressed in this case as strongly negative emotions recurs throughout the novel. And in sticking with his project, Victor overcomes his own feelings and dismisses his father’s. At hand is the question of to what extent feelings express with accuracy what ought to be done morally.
Motivations & Sentiments
Joel Gereboff: Victor here expresses pangs of conscience as he reflects on his singular goal of animating life. To what extent he sees his conscience as a reliable guide is not clear, for in the end he continues his activities despite these reservations. A sharp emotional reaction of loathing cannot overcome his intense drive, his eagerness, to complete his task of animating life. Here the novel gives expression to the tension between emotional, morally significant reactions and human desire and drive.
Health & MedicineMotivations & SentimentsScience
David H Guston and Jason Scott Robert: Victor’s grave robbing and torture of animals raise the following questions: Do the ends ever justify the means in research or in other areas? If useful data can be gathered through unethical means, should they be? And if such data are so gathered, ought they to form part of the evidence base of science? Analysis of the history of human experimentation in the twentieth century comes solidly down on the negative answer, based on experiences like those of concentration camp inmates experimented on by Nazi doctors during World War II and of African Americans and Guatemalans experimented on by US Public Health Service researchers in the decades following the war. The principles of bioethics hold that human beings may never be used solely as experimental means to a scientific end, but human autonomy can also create an affirmative role for self-sacrifice, allowing people ethically to volunteer for dangerous experiments. Some bioethicists also argue that if a practice is physically or viscerally repugnant—“the horrors of my secret toil,” in Victor’s words (here)—then the practice is at least suspect of being morally repugnant. For a time, the ethical debate about human embryonic stem cell research focused on whether medical science should be permitted to progress based on research that was putatively unethical in its destruction of human embryos to derive human pluripotent stem cells. Is such research always spoiled as the fruit of evil exploits?
Equity & InclusionMotivations & SentimentsPhilosophy & Politics
Joey Eschrich: Victor chooses to conduct his experiments with life in secret; he isolates himself from friends, family, and colleagues at his university. The isolation is both geographical and social. During the period of feverish research and creation, he doesn’t exchange correspondence or share his ideas with anyone.Isolation makes it possible for Victor to undertake his grisly and socially unacceptable project. Certainly, his colleagues and family would have intervened to stop him. But Victor’s self-imposed isolation also makes it impossible for the creature to gain access to the social resources he needs to construct a livable life (J. Butler 2010). He is cut off from the possibility of family, friends, and membership in society. He removes himself from the structured and institutionalized relationships that we depend on for sustenance, fellowship, and relief, such as education, health care, and a humane justice system.An individual depends in countless ways on being recognized as a social being—as a person with feelings and rights, enjoying fellowship in social groups, relying on institutions to provide support, to safeguard our rights, and to care for us when we are in need. Victor’s decision to conduct his work in isolation and his abandonment of the creature at birth makes it impossible for the creature ever to achieve this social legibility and to participate functionally in society.As a result, we see the creature as a vagrant, an outlaw, and a vigilante throughout the novel. All of these identities are built on a foundation of social exclusion. Victor’s isolation means that the creature has little choice but to become a monster. He is left with no pathways into a peaceful life inside of human society.
Melissa Wilson Sayres: There is a notion that scientists become so engrossed in their own pursuits that they forget that they are “standing on the shoulders of giants,” as Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1726) put it, and instead feel overweening pride of ownership in the science they are studying and in the results of their research. Such an attitude, occurring time and again in the history of science, impedes scientific progress. In science, knowledge cannot be owned by anyone. Knowledge must be shared, must be questioned, must be built upon. Here Victor gets lost in his own ability as a scientist.He forgets that although he may create something new (be it knowledge or life), he is not truly the owner of those creations.
Health & MedicineInfluences & AdaptationsTechnology
Jonathon Keats: The religious language of this passage connects Victor’s ambitions to a long tradition of humans playing god. In Jewish folklore, for instance, several great rabbis are said to have made clay animate, much as Adam was formed from clay according to biblical legend. These animated clay creatures are known as golems, and they resemble men except for the fact that they are mindlessly obedient. Following orders literally, they inevitably become destructive, revealing their creators’ arrogance by showing those creators’ limited foresight and the perils of hubris. Similar patterns play out in many cautionary tales about technology, such as R.U.R. by Karel Čapek and Josef Čapek (1920), a play in which robots confound the expectations of their builders by becoming violently rebellious. And yet although we are philosophically attuned to our arrogance, and although hubris is a persistent theme in mythology and literature (including Frankenstein), the temptation to play god seems only to increase with the increasing power of science and technology. This phenomenon is especially evident in two fields of active research: synthetic biology and artificial intelligence (AI). Central to the agenda of synthetic biology is a literal desire to create new species: for example, bespoke organisms such as Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0, which the J. Craig Venter Institute made in 2010 by inserting a lab-assembled genome into a bacterium. The promise of synthetic biology is total genetic control of organisms that can bless us with new foods, drugs, and fuels. The peril is that the future behavior of such bespoke organisms, like that of the Čapeks’ robots, cannot be completely predicted. AI is arguably even more hubristic—and perilous—;because of the potential for machine intelligence to exceed—or be incomprehensible by—human intelligence. From a superhuman AI’s perspective, arrogant Homo sapiens might be deemed as dangerously irrational as Victor’s creature or golems.
Philosophy & Politics
Dominic Berry: With “creation,” Mary draws on some of the widest possible literary themes, and the biblical resonances are emphasized by the creature himself. But creativity and the labor of one’s hands had multiple significances within wider nineteenth-century society, as they do today. It is not often recognized, for instance, that creativity and labor play a crucial role in legitimizing the idea of “property.” How do we justify establishing ownership over something? One important argument, most directly associated with the political philosophy of John Locke (1632–1704), stated that applying one’s labor to nature through writing, crafting, and so on made that creation one’s property (see Locke 1821). For example, earthen clay, once owned by everyone, through a transformative act of labor and creativity (so the argument goes) becomes a single person’s property.Through Frankenstein, we can therefore question scientific work and its ownership. Although we might arbitrarily decide that humans are exempt from being classed as property—a decision not yet achieved in Mary’s time—what of the creature? Is it right to think of the term creation as implying ownership? Or what of the ownership of children created by parents? Or what of the ownership of any nonhuman organism for that matter? Should it be the case that merely the act of laboring on something makes it property? The existence of Victor’s potential proprietary rights in his work and his (irresponsible?) refusal to acknowledge those rights allow us to generalize the significance of his creative act. Perhaps it is not in the creation of a human that he errs but in the conceptualization of his labors.
Kevon Curry: The theme of making is prevalent in chapter 3.This shows that height of hubris for Victor. Creating human life of unnatural means is a bad idea. Especially since the being is made up of the remains of the dead.This type of arrogance leads to rash judgement and lack of planning.
Philosophy & Politics
Hannah Rogers: Although Victor begins this passage hesitant of his ability to create a creature like himself, he says that his imagination overtakes his questions. He pictures his imagination as an element of his personality motivated by its own success. The idea of imagination as internal to the self might remind the modern reader of the concept of the ego as developed by psychologist Sigmund Freud more than one hundred years after Mary wrote Frankenstein (The Ego and the Id [(1923) 1960]). Freud’s ego is that part of the human psyche modified by external forces. The success of his initial work leaves Victor unable to doubt this ability to create a human life. In a cyclical fashion, detached from material realities, this type of imagination is empowered by its own interplay internally. The ability to act based on imagination and the changing of the imagination itself in relation to those actions are fundamental to Victor’s understanding of the concept.
Philosophy & Politics
Miguel Astor-Aguilera: Victor here implies flesh-and-blood immortality because the universe inherently and automatically renews life from death. All life on Earth depends on things cyclically dying as other things, including humans, procreate, live, flourish, and eventually die as the cycle continues. Victor, due to the very emotional personal experience of having a person he loves pass unto death, desires that humans need not have to die and hence is driven to seek the “secret” to life regeneration. Life renewing from death is present in biblical scripture (Genesis 3:19, 18:27; Job 30:19; Ecclesiastes 3:20) as well as in the Anglican Christian Book of Common Prayer (Burial Rite 1:485, 2:501) and is a topic highly present, though different ontologically from Judeo-Christian-Muslim views, in indigenous cosmologies (Astor-Aguilera 2010). Some of the world’s societies have been known to practice infanticide or care for their elderly only up until they become too much of a burden on the younger population, which needs a certain amount of resources to survive. How old is old enough for a human to live and at what cost to Earth’s resources? Should humans not die at all and be perpetually regenerated through scientific breakthroughs?
Health & MedicineMary ShelleyPhilosophy & Politics
Pablo Schyfter: Victor finds himself chasing a “frame” of flesh and its union with life. His ambition reflects several forms of mechanistic thought current at the time Mary wrote Frankenstein: an understanding of biological systems as physical machines controlled solely by physical laws. Nineteenth-century biology and physiology embraced and developed mechanistic perspectives while at the same time discarding earlier kindred understandings of the body. In the seventeenth century, the conceptualization of the human body by René Descartes (1596–1650) was similarly mechanistic, but he explained the transition from physical machine to a living, thinking entity as an act of God. The deity endowed otherwise idle material with consciousness. By Mary’s time, the latter part of Decartes’s argument had lost favor, but mechanistic ideas had gained scientific prominence.Victor’s “frame” is a product of part-by-part fabrication and lacks “animation”—then a term for the state of being alive. His power makes the idle machine something living. In a sense, the story presents a separation between body and consciousness similar to the one championed by Descartes. And yet no deity is at work. Victor installs life into his constructed “frame” using only his scientific prowess.Mechanistic thought remains an important part of the life sciences, and the ambition to build frames for life is found in twenty-first-century efforts to produce so-called protocells or, in the language of some synthetic biologists, the “chassis.” The structures, built with basic chemicals “from the ground up,” are envelopes for biological phenomena. Although present-day research is unlikely to deliver anything like Mary’s creature, it holds to a similar concept of life as machine. Descartes long ago lost his place in the natural sciences, and Victor’s power has yet to be realized, but mechanistic thinking persists.
Health & MedicinePhilosophy & Politics
Miguel Astor-Aguilera: Victor engages materiality in a much different manner than his not-so-distant pre-Enlightenment European brethren. He equates “life” with animate human bodies; however, animated life is found throughout Earth in a variety of organic forms. Do not simple cells move and have life? Plants also move, though most of them quite slowly, and have frames composed of “fibres, muscles, and veins” conceptually analogous to those of animals. What of plants’ visible animation, seeming to indicate volition: vines creeping along the sides of buildings toward where there is more light, sunflowers’ “faces” following the path of the sun, predatory Venus flytraps moving quite quickly to ensnare their victims, and the Mimosa pudica, the “sleepy plant” in Mesoamerica (also found in Melanesia and Africa), shying away when touched and then recomposing itself after apparent danger has subsided? When do we, if we do, grant plants, nonhuman animals, and human animals volition and at what stage of life? Do only human animals have emotions and volition? Do simple cells shy away if they are nudged or pricked and move away if they bump into another mobile simple cell?
Influences & AdaptationsTechnology
Robert Cook-Deegan: Victor here claims to have invented a way to instill life. The narrative does not delve into questions of ownership or patenting, but future narratives building on Frankenstein do, in novels (e.g., Next by Michael Crichton [2006]), film (Blade Runner [Ridley Scott, 1986]), and television (Orphan Black [BBC, 2013–]). Patenting adds the motivation of financial reward to scientific fame and glory, and it can provide motivations for both holding something secret, until rights are secured, and publicizing it after rights are granted.
Philosophy & PoliticsScience
Miguel Astor-Aguilera: Biologists can seem godlike in their laboratory research, making decisions pertaining to animal and human life while having little immediate need to answer to anyone save their conscience. What kind of ethics does practicing applied biological science require? A personal ethics of individual morality pertaining to, for example, dishonesty and irresponsibility in observing humane practice? A research ethics pertaining to, for example, what specific “raw” material is used, what the source of the “raw” material is, and what the individual researcher or group of researchers is doing with the “raw” material? Or a social ethics pertaining to the positive and negative social impacts the biological research might have at present and in the future? Because the gradations between personal research and social ethics are rarely so distinct, how should biologists relate to them? How does Victor relate to his raw “materials” (here)?
Motivations & SentimentsPhilosophy & PoliticsScience
Carlos Castillo-Chavez: The idea of a having a single scientific mentor is not ideal, and Victor knows this well. He is mentored by two complementary, imperfect, and valuable individuals—namely, M. Krempe and M. Waldman. We see that scientific mentoring does not take place in a vacuum. Developmental psychologist Jean Piaget described the process of intellectual development with the words “intelligence organizes the world by organizing itself” (quoted in Chess and Hassibi 1978, 63). One reading of Piaget suggests that he models learning as a complex adaptive system, and so as the human body experiences stimuli, it begins to organize and anticipate stimuli, creating complex systems of mental actions and anticipated results in an effort to predict and control stimuli to generate more favorable results. As a result, collaborative interactions among individuals with different perspectives and experiences (mentor and mentee) provide conversational stimuli for developing new understandings. L. S. Vygotsky, citing Piaget, describes a similar process: “Such observations [of child argumentation] prompted Piaget to conclude that communication produces the need for checking and confirming thoughts, a process that is characteristic of adult thought” (1978, 90). Mentor–mentee dynamics create the stimuli that drive Victor’s curiosity, creativity, and learning. M. Waldman, who loves chemistry, notes that “I have not neglected the other branches of science” (here), impressing the importance of interdisciplinary learning on Victor. As this passage shows, passion for learning is also the outcome of dual mentorship: “natural philosophy, and particularly chemistry, in the most comprehensive sense of the term, became nearly my sole occupation.” Finally, the search for knowledge, regardless of direction, drives Victor’s research. Discipline, passion, focus, and effective diverse mentorship philosophies characterize Victor’s status at this time.
Motivations & Sentiments
David H Guston: Victor articulates a set of hypothesized or imagined consequences for his research should it succeed, including the conquering of death and the creation of a race of beings who would worship him. These “imaginaries” are fictions that follow, reasonably but not necessarily, from success in his research. Perhaps at this point, Victor might have explored what fictions might reasonably but not necessarily follow from failure or from a different or incomplete kind of success.