2015 Undergraduate Awards

Title

Out of Bounds: The Mad Scientist Figure in the Nineteenth Century

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2015

Abstract

This paper examines the figure of the scientist in nineteenth century England. It argues that this figure encroaches upon religious territory by examining both real-life scientists (Darwin and his contemporaries) and their literary counterparts, as found in Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Richard Marsh’s The Beetle. When these sources are then put in the context of the development of Christianity and the Self/Other mode of thinking it enforces, the prevalence of paranoia around the scientist figure shifts from a concern over the consequences of scientific exploration, to the fear of a god-like figure who can unite previously divinely separated entities like man and animal. Through this figure, then, science in the nineteenth century becomes a new form of religion powerful enough to affect a paradigm shift in belief that echoes the original shift of Judeo-Christian away from the ‘pagan’ Greco-Roman and other polytheistic belief systems.