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How did monsters help unlock the secrets of life?

Monsters have existed in literature and science for centuries, but they’re more than just a source of fear. They also act as a crucial key to unlocking the mysteries of life.

Join Professor of Victorian Literature, Andrew Mangham, as he traces the development of the idea of monsters from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to Comte de Buffon’s natural history, and Hugo de Vries’ mutation theory.

Discover how these ground-breaking thinkers challenged traditional notions of normality and helped lay the foundation for modern biology and genetics. Uncover the connections between literature, science, and the changing perception of monsters, and how this sheds light on the significance of body difference and diversity in the natural world. And do it all in the very same Theatre where Mary Shelley got ideas for her seminal book!

Through his in-depth analysis of the works of these innovative thinkers, Andrew reveals the transformative power of monsters and their role in shaping our understanding of life.

Copies of Andrew’s latest book, We Are All Monsters: How Deviant Organisms Came to Define Us, are available to purchase after the talk.

Book via the Royal Institution website.


24th August 2023
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm


The Royal Institution
21 Albemarle Street
London, W1S 4BS United Kingdom