Screams of Reason
Mad Science and Modern Culture
By David J. Skal
(W. W. Norton & Company, Hardcover, 9780393045826, 368pp.)
Publication Date: July 1998
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From Frankenstein to Jurassic Park, the mad scientist is one of the modern world's most instantly recognizable cultural icons. Now, David Skal explores popular culture's perennial fascination with demented doctors, crazed clinicians, and technologically obsessed fiends. A prototype outsider, shunted off to the sidelines of serious discourse -- to B-movies, pulp novels, and comic books -- the mad scientist, the author argues, serves as a necessary lightning rod for otherwise unbearable anxieties about the consequences of modern science and technology. Employing a witty, highly readable style, Skal lovingly chronicles the mad scientist's quest for world domination, from nineteenth-century literature to the snap-crackle-scream apotheosis of 1930s Hollywood to the mad-science mystique that colors the cult of the computer, UFO abduction folklore, and the demonization of contemporary medicine.