Loading data.. Open Bottom Panel. Go to previous Content Download this Content Share this Content Add This Content to Favorites Go to next Content. ← →. Download Citation on ResearchGate | From Faust to Strangelove: Representations of the Scientist in Western Literature / R.D. Haynes. | They were mad, of. From Faust to Strangelove has 15 ratings and 0 reviews. They were mad, of course. Or evil. Or godless, amoral, arrogant, impersonal, and.

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The complexity and obscurity of alchemical ‘expertise’ would have seemed as inaccessible as twenty-first century astrophysics or molecular biology do today.

From alchemists to mad scientists: Part I – From Faust to Strangelove by Roslynn D. Haynes

We are pleased to present the first of a three-part essay review of a truly fgom text in the history of science in fiction, from our regular strangeelove Kirk Smith. Use the navigation buttons on the top right to access the next part. T he book From Faust to Strangelove: Haynes, an academic at the University of New South Wales, is not widely known. In my search for fiction about scienceI came across a passing reference almost by accident while searching the web for something else.

Although From Faust strwngelove Strangelove is not for everyone who enjoys reading about the private lives of working scientists, it will be of interest to anyone who is concerned about the negative image of the scientist in much of popular culture, or who would like it to be more accurate and realistic.

These in turn influence the image of scientists found in fiction and on stage — and more recently, on movie and television screens. Haynes supports her argument by showing the connections among fiction, nonfiction and historical events in each century from the Middle Ages to mid-twentieth century.

Haynes also covers a wealth of lesser-known poems, novels, caust and movies.

From Faust to Strangelove: Representations of the Scientist in Western Literature

The cultural parallels between alchemists of the Middle Ages and scientists of today in the eyes of ordinary people may seem unwarranted to many contemporary scientists. It has not one but three exemplars, and as Haynes shows, each represents a different facet of how the ordinary person regarded alchemy.


Only one is a positive image, by the way. One of the two master alchemists in this tale is clearly a charlatan, who deceives others for personal gain, especially with the promise of transmuting lead into gold. The other master alchemist is more ambiguous.

In his public persona he practices the same type of alchemy as the first, but not for personal gain. Rather, he tries to amaze and impress others with the power of alchemy. Both he and his master have become disillusioned with the promise of great wealth and lost everything in their pursuit of alchemical studies.

From this story, we see examples of diverse and sometimes conflicting agendas that motivate some scientists even today. A common element of the plot is that he sold his soul to the Devil, but in exchange for what varies widely.

Most of the poems and plays about Faust portray him as selfish and evil. But Christopher Marlowe, in his play Doctor Faustushas him asking for scientific knowledge, although what he actually gets in the end are evasive answers and a parade of the seven deadly sins.

The devil offers the knowledge to be gained in experiencing real life. Bacon argued for a more empirical, experimental approach to understanding the world and advocated wide dissemination of knowledge and its practical application.

He was influential in the formation of the Royal Society to dispel the secrecy that had prevailed. They continued to be lampooned for working on meaningless or even silly questions.

The Royal Society, its members and its Transactions came in for their share of the ridicule as well. One of the most striking figures in this period was Margaret Cavendishwhose novel The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World is a delightful illustration of the mockery of science at the time. Often cited as a very early woman writer, Cavendish was well versed in the philosophy of the time and wrote critiques of the popular mechanistic positions of Hobbs, Descartes and Boyle. The main character is a young woman who via the North Pole enters another world peopled by talking animals that include the Bear-men, who are experimental philosophers, the Bird-men, who are astronomers, the Ape-men, who are chemists, and the Spider- and Lice-men, who are mathematicians.


The characters mimic their counterparts in the real world as they engage in ludicrous debates instead of accumulating knowledge. The heroine becomes empress of this absurd world and manages to invade the real world with a futuristic navy equipped with submarines towed by Fish-men and an air force composed of Bird-men who drop fire stones.

One reason was perhaps the fact that Newton publicly professed his Christian faith. Yet some of the most eloquent critics were of two minds about science, perceiving both the good and the bad effects science had on culture and society after Newton. In some cases, their works show both in the same novel, play or poem. The complexity of historical developments also makes it difficult to connect them with the publication dates of some of the works cited by Haynes.

Her story has spawned countless variations in novels, sequels, plays, movies and television adaptations that have led to the iconic image of Viktor Frankenstein and his monster. I think many people who have read or seen only the more recent versions may be surprised to learn how the original story differs from the image they picture. Frankenstein and his creation.

From alchemists to mad scientists: Part I

I recount my fausy in a review on my blog. Viktor also came to represent for the Romantic movement the frm insensitivity of scientists and their work. Moreover, he forms the basis of the popular image of the scientist who pursues a project without regard to its consequences for others and fails to take precautions to prevent the resulting creations from escaping from their laboratories.

These years also saw the emergence of the science fiction genre.

During the period, the image of the scientist improved and characterizations in literature became more favorable. Kirk Smith, a psychologist, writer and blogger, is a regular contributor to LabLit. His first novel is Vanessa’s Curve of Mind. Episode 1 previous next index. Other articles by Kirk Smith Adventures in cognitive science From alchemists to mad scientists: Part III From alchemists to mad scientists: