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29 October 2014
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Andrew Crosse
Mary Shelley attended Crosse's lectures

Frankenstein of Fyne Court?

Chris Ellis
The inspiration for Mary Shelley's gothic masterpiece, Frankenstein, may have come from a scientist working at Fyne Court on the Quantocks.

Andrew Crosse
Born:17/06/1784
Died:06/07/1855
Profession:Scientist

Born in 1784, humble scientist Andrew Crosse was fascinated with electricity and constantly experimented with it throughout his life.

One of the first to work with atmospheric electricity, he was known as the 'thunder and lightning man' by his neighbours on the Quantock Hills.

In 1836, whilst he was working in his laboratory in Broomfield, one of his experiments resulted in a creation that science has yet to explain.

Frankenstein's monster

Hoping to use electricity to create silicate crystal, Crosse accidentally dropped some solution onto a piece of volcanic stone.

Two weeks later he found mite-like creatures had appeared on the piece of volcanic rock.

Fyne Court
The lab's been re-created at Fyne Court

He sent samples off to the Natural History Museum but even they couldn't relate them to any other living creature.

When he publicised his findings to newspapers however, he was accused by religious groups and scientists as someone who wanted to rival God.

After his extraordinary experiment Crosse gave lectures which Mary Shelley was believed to have watched and which may have given her the inspiration to write her signature novel.

The events of 1836 were to have an impact on the rest of his life. After false accusations that he was claiming to have created life, he was devastated and became more reclusive as he increased in age.

The Crosse exhibition

In 1855 he died in the same bed he was born in, 71 years before. His former residence was almost totally destroyed by a massive fire in 1894 with only his laboratory hall remaining.

With the help of the National Trust and dedicated individuals, a section of his laboratory has been re-created which includes original artefacts found within the grounds of Fyne Court.

Whether or not the classic horror was inspired by Crosse's work is uncertain, but both Dr Frankenstein and Crosse share the similarity of creating life and then watching as it destroys them.

You can find out more about the life and work of Andrew Crosse by listening to the interview with Brian Wright who set up the exhibition at Fyne Court. Just click on the link at the top of this page.

last updated: 05/07/05
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