• glasgowprivatetours

Shocking Experiments

With Netflix, Amazon, and huge multiplexes at our reach we are spoilt for choice with a huge variety of movies of any genre, from comedy to horror, from melodrama to science fiction. Some of these movies are based on true stories, some are adaptations from novels and some purely from the screenwriter’s imagination.

Illustration by Theodor von Holst from the frontispiece of the 1831 edition

One of the earliest science fiction stories was written by a 20-year old Mary Shelley and published in London in 1818. Based on real laboratory experiments of the time she wrote the novel that would make her famous.

What few people realise is that this classic story came about as result of a friendly challenge. Mary, her husband Percy, writer John Polidori and Lord Byron had a bet on who would write the best horror story.

On a trip to Europe Mary heard a lot about experimenting alchemists and galvanism (electricity produced by chemical action). She conceived a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made. Thus Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was born.

If you’re Glasgow SIghtseeing on of our tours of Glasgow, you’ll come across

Glasgow University. Not long after the publication of Shelley’s novel, Glasgow University Doctor Andrew Ure and Professor James Jeffray were carrying out experiments on a murderer after his execution. As was typical of the time the Anatomy theatre was full of spectators.

Galvanic experiments on Clydsdale

The objective was to study the effect of electric impulses on the nervous system. The electric rods were applied to different parts of the corpse and impressive results were achieved. Knees bent violently in unusual directions, the chest started to rise and fall, and the ghoulish face grimaced furiously to such an extent that some people from the audience left or fainted.

In 1865 a new twist of this story emerged in the newspapers telling that Matthew Clydesdale (for that was the murderer’s name) was resurrected during the experiment and when he tried to get up, Jeffray grabbed a scalpel and cut his throat thus killing him once more.

It’s not clear where the body of the ill-fated Clydesdale was interred, but as for Ure – he ended up in a Highgate cemetery in London whilst Jeffray is buried in the Glasgow Necropolis. You’ll hear about more of Glasgow Necropolis’ residents on our ‘Glasgow Must Sees’ tour with your private tour guide.

29 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All