The Science of Dracula

Dracula is associated with fantasy and horror, so I thought the presence of scientific representation in Dracula was interesting. In particular, blood seemed to be a recurring theme in Dracula. Blood is a highly symbolized concept in much literature representing ideas of kinship, death and sacrifice. In Dracula, blood plays a large role in being and becoming a vampire. Biting the victim to obtain blood is the method of transmission of the “disease” of being vampire. I thought the idea of transmission of disease was interesting considering that Dracula was written around the time germ theory of disease becoming accepted as a mainstream theory. Germ theory was developed by Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch around the 1850’s and 1880’s respectively , which precedes the writing of Dracula. Before germ theory, the predominant theory was the miasma theory which was that diseases were caused by “bad air”.

Another interesting concept relating to blood is the presence of blood transfusions. While blood transfusions had been attempted as early as the 1600’s, the first successful blood transfusion took place in 1818. Blood transfusion at the time was considered a risky procedure because blood types had not been discovered yet. Despite their risk, many scientists were interested in the possibilities of blood transfusions and blood types were discovered around just four years after Dracula was published. The presence of blood transfusions in Dracula also illuminates how Stoker includes novel medicine of the time into Dracula.

One interpretation of Dracula is that the logical medical solutions are not as adequate as Van Helsing’s more ancient mystical thought. However, Dracula could also be read as a novel promoting a paradigm shift. Just as there was a shift from miasma theory (which was considered scientific at the time) to germ theory, understanding vampires requires a paradigm shift to include the presence of vampires.

One note is that other more misguided theories may be present in Dracula. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published in 1859 causing another huge paradigm shift in scientific thought. Drawing off of Darwin’s theories, Francis Galton in 1883 coined the term ‘eugenics’. Eugenics is the incorrect idea that human character is entirely determined by genetics. The idea of “good blood” is somewhat present in the transfusion scene. Lucy is given blood by four well educated gentleman from the upper class. The idea of “good blood” could be connected to the ideas of eugenics.

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