The Probus Club Weston-Super-Mare

Click here to edit subtitle

Programme Reports

Andrew Cross and the Mite that Shocked the World - Brian Wright

Posted on May 16, 2019 at 1:00 PM

 Taunton author and historian Brian Wright has written a biography of Andrew Crosse, who was born in 1784 and grew up to be a pioneering scientist, eccentric, republican landowner and poet.

Today we welcomed Brian to give his account of Andrew Crosse.

An eccentric scientist who scared the locals with the bangs and flashes from his experiments reckoned he accidentally created a life form.

Andrew Crosse installed 3,000ft of copper wire from poles and trees at Fyne Court, Broomfield, on the Quantock Hills, where he was born.

While neighbours were terrified by the sounds and lights emanating from the house he had turned into a laboratory, it had the added benefit of keeping poachers off his estate.

His main, but by no means only, interest was in electricity and many of his discoveries in that field are still valid today.

He once startled guests at a dinner party in 1816 by telling them: “By means of the electric agency, we shall be enabled to communicate our thoughts instantaneously with the utmost parts of the earth.”

While we owe a lot to the early scientists who laid the foundations of our modern comfortable existence, we often know little about their private lives.

This is not the case with Crosse and Brian has uncovered a lot about him, including odd facts like he was involved in an armed rebellion as a schoolboy, and accompanied the great scientist Michael Faraday to a seance.

The book also explains what sparked Crosse’s interest in electricity from the age of eight, which lasted until his death in 1855 in the same bedroom in which he had been born.

However, most people know of Crosse because of the belief that he inspired Mary Shelley to write her book Frankenstein, and that he accidentally created life in the form of mites during an experiment, which brought him to wide attention in Britain, Europe and America, and shook the world of science to its very foundations.

The story of the mysterious mites is detailed for the first time, and an attempt made to explain what they were. 

The book includes the many ups and downs of his life, with much humour and a bit of scandal.

The last years of his life were his happiest after he married his second wife, who was 43 years younger than him.

Thanks to Brian for an unusual and interesting talk.

Categories: None