Crazy science

They may come up with a disease that can’t be cured, even a monster. Is this the answer to Dr. Frankenstein’s dream?

So were the words of the mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, warning against a proposed DNA laboratory at Harvard University in the early 1970s. Today, we almost expect to hear references to “Frankenstein” — whether monster, scientist, novel, film, image, or myth is often unclear — whenever some powerful new technology poses risk to humankind or challenges our ideas of what it means to be human.

The atomic bomb, interspecies organ transplants, genetic engineering, and cloning, among many others, have each prompted such warnings; Mary Shelley’s hideous brainchild continues to embody and express our fears.