Today's news

May 1, 2002

Frankenstein was an eccentric Scot
The inspiration for Frankenstein – portrayed by Mary Shelley as a southern German and by film-makers as a mad scientist – was an eccentric Scottish doctor living in Windsor, claims PhD student Christopher Goulding. In the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine he argues that Frankenstein was based on one James Lind, a retired physician and natural philosopher and mentor to Shelley’s husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. (Telegraph, Independent)

Hubble pierces ‘twilight zone’
The most spectacular views of the the universe ever seen by man were unveiled yesterday by Nasa scientists, who had used a sophisticated new camera on the Hubble Space Telescope to photograph galaxies and nebulas in unprecedented detail. (Times)

Culture of enterprise takes hold
The government’s insistence that universities play a more active role in transferring knowledge to the private sector is paying off. Last year British universities spun off 200 private ventures. (Financial Times)

Academic faces death threats
Harry Merkin, a respected political scientist based at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, is facing death threats from rightwing Christian fundamentalists for suggesting that there should be a reassessment of public attitudes towards paedophilia. One state legislator has lobbied to have Professor Merkin fired and has successfully persuaded the Missouri House of Representatives to dock $100,000 (£70,000) from the Missouri University budget. (Independent)

University spin-offs face tougher times
The tech-stock meltdown has made it more difficult for academics to find funding to develop commercial applications for their more humdrum research. But venture capitalists are still keen to back what they regard as “world-beater” projects. (Financial Times)

Technology schools top league table
The first study to compare individual pupils’ results at 11 with their GCSE results five years later - published by the Technology Colleges Trust - shows that children of all abilities perform better at one of the government’s specialist schools than they do at a standard comprehensive. (Telegraph)

Heart defect may thwart operation
Obstetrician Nicholas Fisk, who delivered Siamese twins Natasha and Courtney Smith at Queen Charllote’s Hospital in London, said yesterday that Courtney will certainly die when doctors operate to separate her from her sister. Professor Fisk said that heart defects would also be threatening to Natasha, even if surgery succeeds. (Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Times)

Kidney transplant advance
A new technique for kidney transplants that allows patients to receive an organ from any donor has been developed at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. (Times)

Workers voice discontent
A study by the Economic and Social Research Council has shown a growth in dissatisfaction among Britain’s work force, mainly over long hours and intensity of work. However, the survey also showed that more people hold permanent contracts (92 per cent) than they did in 1992 (88 per cent). (Financial Times)

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