ANU celebrates 200 years of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

From 12-15 September The Australian National University (ANU) will hold a major conference to celebrate the 200th anniversary of one of the world’s most iconic books - Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein.

The conference, Frankenstein 2018: Two hundred years of monsters, will include a range of experts speaking on how the book has impacted issues such as science, technology, genetics, artificial intelligence and medical ethics.

The event will also focus on how Frankenstein has continued to influence modern storytelling, with presentations exploring how HBO drama Westworld, the Iron Man films, and Neil Shusterman’s Unwind novel series all draw inspiration from Mary Shelley’s work.

The conference will also feature a screening of Exquisite Corpse, a film showing student projects that combine art and anatomy to creatively explore of the functions of the heart, lungs and thorax. The film will be screened in the Foyer of the National Film and Sound Archive during the opening drinks session.

The event will also include a Magic Lantern Show and a workshop where participants collaborate to create skeletal hands and feet from plasticine and sugar paste.

Media are invited to attend and can find more information here:

Conference presentations include:

Dr Russell Smith
ANU School of Literature Languages & Linguistics

Frankenstein, the Luddites, and the Birth of Automation

Examining the career of a real-life Victor Frankenstein - Scottish physician Andrew Ure.

On 4 November 1818, Ure performed a series of galvanic experiments at Glasgow University on the body of Matthew Clydesdale, hanged for murder an hour earlier. According to Ure’s lurid account in the 1819 Quarterly Journal of Science, the dead man resumed breathing, opened his eyes and appeared to gesture towards the terrified spectators.

Professor Charlie Lineweaver
Astrobiologist, ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Research School of Earth Science

Frankenstein, Artificial Life and the Definition of Life

Are we alone in the universe?

Life on Earth seems to be an evolved mixture of chemistry and information. How did the information get into our DNA? The answer must be ‘from the natural selection due to the environment’.

But how much information is needed to make something alive? Modern day Frankensteins keep asking: What is the minimum amount of information we need to put into our auto-catalytic chemistry to make it qualify as a life form?  Victor Frankenstein may have asked himself the same question. 

Associate Professor Molly Townes O’Brien
ANU College of Law

Awakening from a Coma

In January 2012, I had a bicycle accident and banged my head on the pavement. I suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for 68 days. 

I was unconscious with eyes closed for the first 12 days and then in a recovery state called Post-Traumatic Amnesia (PTA) for the following 56 days.

During this period, I was unable to form reliable new memories. I appeared to be awake and I responded to speech. I spoke a little and smiled occasionally.

After a few days of PTA, it was evident that my sense of humor was muted but intact. I had only tenuous ideas about where I was, who visited me, or what had been said. 

My parents visited me but I don’t remember it. I perseverated – repeating the words I heard being spoken. I wrote notes in a rehab book. My spelling was fine. I could spell superannuation and even diarrhoea. But weeks passed before I could remember new things from one day to the next. 

Months passed before I could make normal inferences, plan an outing, find specific items at Woolies for a rehab class, or reassume my responsibilities as a law academic. I will discuss the extent to which my awakening from a coma mirrors the subjective experience of Frankenstein’s monster becoming alive.  We both gradually gained knowledge of the world, its dangers, and its pleasures. 




Aaron Walker
ANU Media
T: 02 6125 7979
M: 0418 307 213

About The Australian National University

ANU is a world-leading university in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Our location points to our unique history, ties to the Australian Government and special standing as a resource for the Australian people.

Our focus on research as an asset, and an approach to education, ensures our graduates are in demand the world-over for their abilities to understand, and apply vision and creativity to addressing complex contemporary challenges.

The Australian National University
East Road, Acton
2601 Canberra