Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein” as Want to Read:
Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  281 ratings  ·  88 reviews
The year 1818 saw the publication of one of the most influential science-fiction stories of all time. Frankenstein: Or, Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley had a huge impact on gothic horror and science fiction genres. The name Frankenstein has become part of our everyday language, often used in derogatory terms to describe scientists who have overstepped a perceived moral l ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Bloomsbury Sigma
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Making the Monster, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  281 ratings  ·  88 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Subtitled, “The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” this is a really interesting mix of biography (both of Mary Shelley herself and her novel), combined with a look at the scientific achievements of the time. The early 1800’s were a time of great scientific advances, when science itself was beginning to break into different branches. In fact, the term, ‘scientist,’ was, in itself, new and evolved from the word ‘artist,’ to describe what someone interested in science actually was.

This bo
Tyler J Gray

I can sum up my feelings with 5 words.

I. Fucking. Love. Mary. Shelley!

Granted i'm not sure how much someone who isn't interested in Mary Shelley and Frankenstein would enjoy this book, since I seem to be obsessed with Mary Shelley and Frankenstein, I freaking loved it! Mary Shelley dealt with a lot of shit, was a bad-ass, and an amazing woman.

I learned a lot about history, science, and Mary Shelley and was fascinated by all of it. And I am so angry about all the ways her novel has been twi
Nancy Oakes
When this book is actually released in a couple of days, you will definitely want to read it.

Making the Monster, as the dustjacket blurb says, "explores the scientific background" behind Mary Shelley's masterwork, Frankenstein: Or, Modern Prometheus, first published in 1818 and then again in 1831. The book examines the "science behind the story," but it also pieces together the "political, social and scientific world" in which Mary Shelley grew." The question that the author poses at the outse
Steve Wiggins
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Long before I joined Goodreads I began reading books on Frankenstein. The tragic and triumphant life of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley was remarkable by any standards. What does in Making the Monster: The Science behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is graft the science behind the story into the narrative of the life and times of Mary. The book begins with a chronological overview of how the novel came to be written, the famous night when Lord Byron, Percy and Mary Shelley, William Polidori, a ...more
Jul 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Kathryn Harkup weaves the life of the creator of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, and the science that surrounded the creation of a monster.
Mary Shelley was young when she wrote what would become a classic of literature.
Kathryn writes of Mary Shelley's life but also explains the science that would have been available when the novel was written.
This book definitely gives one a better understanding of so many aspects of electricity and medical advancement, just to name a few areas of science that ar
Caidyn (NO LONGER ACTIVE; he/him/his)
This review and others can be found on BW Book Reviews.

I was provided an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my rating. Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the advanced copy!

When I saw this book on NetGalley, I basically jumped at the chance to read it because I, admittedly, really enjoy Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I wasn't raised watching the original Boris Karloff movie, but I loved Young Frankenstein and anything horror related. I was in high school by the time I
Missy (myweereads)
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
“I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation lifeless matter.”

Making The Monster - The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Kathryn Harkup is a fascinating read for fans of the classic story and even those who haven’t read it yet. The book takes us through Mary Shelley’s life prior to her writing her iconic novel. As we know the story of Frankenstein began at a gathering with Lord Byron and other close family and
Mar 23, 2018 rated it liked it
When I saw another book by Harkup I immediately requested it, as A is for Arsenic made it to my top reads of 2016.

The title is a little misleading as it goes quite a bit in-depth into Shelley's life, as well at a look starting from the Enlightenment era to the beginnings of alchemy and chemistry. The bulk of the book is, of course, the inspiration behind the classic novel of Frankenstein.

I found this to be a very interesting read and thought that Harkup did a great job at making this interestin
Kristy K
Feb 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Whether or not you’ve read or liked Frankenstein, this is an extremely interesting book about Mary Shelley, her life, and the science of her time. I enjoyed the detail Harkup went into and how she was able to make it so informative while keeping it interesting.

I own Harkup’s other novel (A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie) and it will be moving up on my tbr after reading this.
Natalie (CuriousReader)
This year marks the 200 year anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel ‘Frankenstein’, and with the anniversary came a plethora of titles about the author and the novel in question, as well as a brand new Penguin Black Spine edition of the original 1818 text. Among this multitude of new releases, this one is perhaps the most scientifically leaning, as the title implies: "Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein". It is written by the author whose first book gave the same trea ...more
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I've read and loved the author's previous book A is for Arsenic on Agatha Christie's use of poison and I will certainly pick up more of her work in the future. Here she tackles the science that inspired Mary Shelley's Frankenstein but also Mary Shelley's life, from her parents to her upbringing and afterwards her and her husbands's nomadic lifestyle and financial troubles. The book explores various scientific theories of the time such as Galvanism, an early research on the influences of electric ...more
Helena Nicholls
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 - 4 stars
A very interesting look into the creation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. A lot of it is focused on the people who influenced this book and is quite easy to follow but there is some parts that are much more heavily science based, which could make it a little more hard to follow if you didn’t have some prior understanding to it. It’s explained very well though, less of an issue of actually understanding it and more that it could take you a little while to wrap your head around. Overa
Salla (Booksonal)
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Full review at
*ARC kindly provided by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*


Like Harkups last novel A is for Arsenic based on Agatha Christie and the poisons she used (link to my review), this book was filled with science.

This book went through lots of aspects including science at that time and to my great interest: things that might've inspired her.

The thing is though, Frankenstein has such a rich history because though it's science fiction,
Mar 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I confess, I still haven’t read Frankenstein. It’s on my list – especially after how much I loved Romantic Outlaws about Mary Shelley and her mother Mary Wollstonecraft. But I admit I’ve spent most of the last 18 months reading fluff and I’m not ashamed. In the future though – Frankenstein and Anna Karenina – I’m coming for you! So, back to Mary Shelley, when I received a message about Making the Monster I was completely intrigued. How closely did she follow the science at her time?

I admit I tho
A special thank you goes to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Sigma for the eARC of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This book was a monster. (haha, did you see what I did there??) It took me over a week to read this book and it wasn't even that long, which is unheard of for me. The last time I took that long to read a book, I read Roots which took me a month and was back when I was in high school.

Basically, the premise of this book was conveyed in two fold. First, we have the somewhat bio
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
2018 marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's gothic masterpiece-- Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus. Widely recognized as one of the first works of science fiction, this revolutionary novel has truly withstood the test of time (and continues to haunt middle school literary criticism to this day!). Some may already know the broad strokes of how this story came to life: on a dark and stormy night (of course), 18 year old Mary joins her friends in a competitive game to see who can write ...more
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found Making the Monster to be a really interesting book. It is both a biography of Mary Shelley, as well as an exploration of the scientific achievements of that time. The book also explores Shelley's famous novel, Frankenstein. This book goes into all of these aspects in trying to explain how such a young woman wrote a book in the early 1800's that is still very popular today. Anyone familiar with pop culture knows that this book has not only inspired other books, but television characters, ...more
Brian Clegg
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Subtitled 'the science behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein', what we get here is a mix of a biography of Mary Shelley and historical context for the various aspects of science that feature in Frankenstein, from electricity to preserving organs after death. I found this a much more approachable work than the annotated Frankenstein - in fact the perfect title would probably have been a combination of the two, with annotation based on Kathryn Harkup's words plus the text of the original.

I have given
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, ebook
Kathryn Harkup doesn't seem to have missed much in this thoroughly researched and insightfully arranged work. *Bonus: the Timeline of events appendix is a glorious addition rather than a necessary element to help readers understand the vast amount of information that is packed into the pages, which is not always the case when a book is as dense with dates, names, and scientific exploration.*

"Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" explores the life of Mary W. G. Shel
LAPL Reads
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
2018 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein: Or The Modern Prometheus. In the intervening two centuries, Shelley’s novel, originally published anonymously, has become her most famous and well-known work and an international icon. The name Frankenstein has become shorthand for both mad scientists running amok and their monstrous creations (which also tend to run amok!). So, it is fitting that during this bicentennial year, Dr. Kathryn Harkup, a U ...more
Katherine P
Aug 14, 2018 rated it liked it
I don't think I realized just how little I knew about Mary Shelley and her husband, Percy Shelley or what was going on around Mary when Frankenstein was being written. Shelley's childhood was chaotic and lacking in any kind of formal education yet she was incredibly curious and well read. What little I knew about Mary Shelley I knew even less about what was going on in scientific world at the time and was very surprised about the number and scope of experiments involving electricity.

This book wa
Becky Loader
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am *ahem, ahem* kind of a science geek.

Harkup wrote another book which talked all about poisons. It was fascinating.

Now Harkup has turned her attention to 19th century science and how a very smart young woman used her brain to come up with a very clever idea about re-animation of corpses. I really enjoyed all the detail about science, electricity, and the experiments that led to discoveries that laid the groundwork for future developments.

Great read.
Allison O'Toole
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this survey of scientific topics related to Frankenstein, it's a fast read for such a big topic. However, it covers so much that it skims across the surface of most topics without depth.

My full review is up at Rogues Portal:
Patrick DiJusto
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Insanely detailed analysis of the background of the novel Frankenstein, celebrating it's Bicentennial this year.

The book starts by looking into the background of Mary Woolstonecraft Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. What was it like growing up in the shadow of a pioneering feminist mother who died giving birth to her? What was it like being raised by her father, William Godwin, a political radical? What was it like to be a teenage girl, hiding under the table at one of her father's salons. ju
This was the second book in my birthday haul from my mother this year. The first was... not as good as I had hoped. Happily, this did not fall into the same trap.

The idea behind Harkup's book is to look into the science that was happening around the time of Shelley writing Frankenstein, to explore what ideas influenced her. I was slightly concerned that this could go down the route that Russ identifies of suggesting Shelley was nothing but a conduit for the ideas of the time, but she does nothin
Pages & Cup
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Was sent a review copy from Bloomsbury.
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: frankenstein
This work is well done and has covered the topic well enough to have done a commendable job on tackling this topic. (Basically, the Science of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein.) If you are familiar with Mary Shelley and the book "Frankenstein" the first half of this is not going to really tell you anything you really want to know. The second half of the book delves into the entertaining idea of how the work "Frankenstein" is mirrored in science. It answers some good questions and if you are a collecto ...more
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Full review can be found here: ...more
Emma Hollen
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
My only regret with this book is how short it was. Considering the unbelievable amount of research Kathryn Harkup has been going through, it could have easily been 700 pages long and still be captivating! :)
Warren Benton
Dec 22, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is bookended by the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.  From her parents who were way ahead of their time with what could be considered hippie thinking.  They instilled a forward-thinking, and love to write in their young daughter.  Mary was a huge fan of science and her husband Percy was also an author.  Most of Mary's life was in and around author's circle.  From her time when with Lord Byron and the beginnings of Frankenstein as a friendly competition.  

The lion's share of this bo
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Murder by the Book: The Crime That Shocked Dickens's London
  • The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece
  • Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction
  • Cruel Sacrifice
  • Out For Blood: Britain's Thorney Dyke Knife Murders
  • 極主夫道, Vol. 1 (Gokushufudō: The Way of the Househusband, #1)
  • Frankenstein, Based on the Novel by Mary Shelley
  • The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience
  • Frankenstein: How A Monster Became an Icon: The Science and Enduring Allure of Mary Shelley's Creation
  • Nessie Quest
  • When We Were Magic
  • Dr. Katz: The Audio Files Episode 3
  • Dr. Katz: The Audio Files Episode 4
  • Dr. Katz: The Audio Files Episode 2
  • Dr. Katz: The Audio Files Episode 1
  • Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know: The Fathers of Wilde, Yeats and Joyce
  • The Frighteners: Why We Love Monsters, Ghosts, Death & Gore
  • What Would Freud Do?: How the greatest psychotherapists would solve your everyday problems
See similar books…
Kathryn Harkup is a chemist and author. Kathryn completed a PhD then a postdoc at the University of York before realising that talking, writing and demonstrating science appealed far more than spending hours slaving over a hot fume-hood. Kathryn went on to run outreach in engineering, computing, physics and maths at the University of Surrey, which involved writing talks on science and engineering ...more

News & Interviews

While books about anti-racism are trending on Goodreads and dominating the bestseller lists right now, some of our favorite Black authors are a...
158 likes · 28 comments