Frankenstein and Creativity

22 Sep

Dr. Frakenstein

An interesting article recently appeared in The Atlantic on the origins of creativity and whether it is innate or can be learned: “Can Creativity Be Learned?” by Cody C. Delistraty. It makes for interesting reading and raises some intriguing questions. For example, creative folks tend to have more grey matter in the right posterior middle temporal area of their brain. Is this what makes them creative or does this result from them flexing their “creative muscle”? Chicken or egg?

Temporal Lobe

The author uses Mary Shelly and her classic horror story Frankenstein to underline his points.

In a past post on this blog I briefly talked about how Mary Shelly’s classic story came about. Here is an except:

On a literary and historical note, Frankenstein might never have been written had it not been for a volcanic eruption on the other side of the world. In 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted with such force that it filled the air with millions of tons of ejected particulate matter. This rose into the high atmosphere, dropped world temperatures for many months and resulted in 1816 being called the “Year Without Summer.” Snow fell in New England in July!

During that summer, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, her lover and future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron settled into Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva. The summer was so cold and wet that they spent much of their time in the villa talking and telling stories. They decided to have a writing contest and see who could write the best short story. Mary’s story evolved into the classic Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus.

There has long been controversy over how Mary came up with such a story, She said it came to her in a “waking dream,” but some have suggested that her father had told her stories of a doctor who did such experiments and others have suggested that she and Shelley had actually visited Castle Frankenstein, the birthplace of Johann Conrad Dippel, a physician and alchemist who did indeed perform reanimation experiments on corpses. Either way she wrote a kick-ass story that has survived for nearly two centuries and will survive for many more.

The full post can be found here:


Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Forensic Psychiatry, Medical Issues, Writing


4 responses to “Frankenstein and Creativity

  1. jushaw

    September 23, 2014 at 6:40 am

    What an interesting post. Love it. Maybe the next time we lose electricity, we’ll gather creative around and write stories. Or maybe we won’t wait and will just turn off all the lights.


  2. Cate Russell-Cole

    September 24, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    Thanks for another great post, can you please turn on your share buttons so it’s easy to share your work on Twitter and Facebook? Thanks! Cheers.


  3. Searcher 12

    September 29, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    I was under the impression Mary was aware of the discussion in the European Salons about Professors Volta’s experiments with a stacked batteries and frog legs.

    Twitchy subject!


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      September 29, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      There are many who believe that is true. Also the story goes that her father had told her stories about a doctor who had tried to reanimate the living. The night they decided to do the writing contest she apparently fell asleep and dreamed many of the elements that went into Frankenstein. Whether this is the case or not is subject to debate but regardless she did write a masterpiece.



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