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On the Brain
February 2018

Reflecting on the Bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: From Novel to Film and the 2 Brains

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
JAMA Neurol. 2018;75(2):149-150. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2017.4000

Mary Shelley’s classic work, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus,1 published on January 1, 1818, has been interpreted as illustrative of physician hubris and as a bioethical tale of the first order. The novel has largely been held up as a cautionary tale for zealous scientists—amusingly, a belated institutional review board proposal is on record.2 However, now—exactly 200 years after publication of Mary Shelley’s novel—we may look at its most important film adaptations. Jonsen claimed that “bioethics began at the movies.”3 In addition to the bioethical admonition, the film maker posed the question of whether frontal brain lesions caused criminal behavior.

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