My original decision to devote myself to science was a direct result of the discovery which has never ceased to fill me with enthusiasm since my early youth—the comprehension of the far from obvious fact that the laws of human reasoning coincide with the laws governing the sequences of the impressions we receive from the world about us; that, therefore, pure reasoning can enable man to gain an insight into the mechanism of the latter. In this connection, it is of paramount importance that the outside world is something independent from man, something absolute, and the quest for the laws which apply to this absolute appeared to me as the most sublime scientific pursuit in life.
Do the day’s work. If it be to protect the rights of the weak, whoever objects, do it. If it be to help a powerful corporation better to serve the people, whatever the opposition, do that. Expect to be called a stand-patter, but don’t be a stand-patter. Expect to be called a demagogue, but don’t be a demagogue. Don’t hesitate to be as revolutionary as science. Don’t hesitate to be as reactionary as the multiplication table. Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong. Don’t hurry to legislate. Give administration a chance to catch up with legislation.
He depicts himself watching in rapture the two adult grey-tailed eagles in the bright sunlight, followed by their young offspring. This moment is transformed into an image of Davy the man of science, hoping to inspire his young scientific protégés to ever greater discoveries.
The mighty birds still upward rose
In slow but constant and most steady flight.
The young ones following; and they would pause,
As if to teach them how to bear the light
And keep the solar glory full in sight.
So went they on till, from excess of pain,
I could no longer bear the scorching rays;
And when I looked again they were not seen,
Lost in the brightness of the solar blaze.
Their memory left a type and a desire:
So should I wish towards the light to rise
Instructing younger spirits to aspire
Where I could never reach amidst the skies,
And joy below to see them lifted higher,
Seeking the light of purest glory’s prize.
The actual writing of Mary’s novel can be followed fairly closely from her journal in Switzerland, and then back in England at Great Marlow on the Thames. What is less clear is where she gathered her ideas and materials from, and how she created her two unforgettable protagonists: Dr Frankenstein and his Creature. One is tempted to say that the Creature – who is paradoxically the most articulate person in the whole novel — was a pure invention of Mary’s genius. But in Victor Frankenstein of Ingolstadt she had created a composite figure who in many ways was typical of a whole generation of scientific men. The shades of ‘inflammable’ Priestley, the deeply eccentric Cavendish, the ambitious young Davy, the sinister Aldini and the glamorous, iconoclastic William Lawrence may all have contributed something to the portrait.
What [man landing on the moon] is doing up there is indulging his obsession with the impossible. The impossible infuriates and tantalizes him. Show him an impossible job and he will reduce it to a possibility so trite that eventually it bores him.
The 1939 New York World's Fair - that so transfixed me as a small visitor from darkest Brooklyn - was about 'The World of Tomorrow'. Merely by adopting such a motif, it promised that there would be a world of tomorrow, and the most casual glance affirmed that it would be better than the world of 1939. Although the nuance wholly passed me by, many people longed for such a reassurance on the eve of the most brutal and calamitous war in human history. I knew at least that I would be growing up in the future. The sleek and clean 'tomorrow' portrayed by the Fair was appealing and hopeful. And something called science was plainly the means by which that future would be realized.
The concert pianist Glenn Gould characterized the Romantic conception of art most vividly when he wrote, "The justification of art is the internal combustion it ignites in the hearts of men and not its shallow, externalized, public manifestations. The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline, but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity."