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the working of some powerful engine

Inevitably, language like this calls to mind the, by now, obligatory laboratory equipment so characteristic of cinematic versions of the novel. That is all the more reason, then, for us to recognize that Mary Shelley is deliberately evoking not mere instrumentation but rather what we would now call a dynamo to infuse the creature with what she called at the close of the previous paragraph "vital warmth." Since the first successful electric generators were demonstrated only in the 1860s, Mary Shelley's vagueness ("some") reflects her sense that such an engine is a necessary technological development of current scientific knowledge but has not yet been invented.