Mary Shelley (1797-1851) was just 19 years old when she came up with the idea for Frankenstein during a trip to the region of Geneva, Switzerland, where much of the story takes place. It came out of an evening spent with her traveling companions, which included her future husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. They started discussing ghosts and the supernatural fueled perhaps by laudanum and Byron's doctor, John Polidori, suggested they should have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. Mary couldn't think of one at the time but that night she dreamt of a scientist who created life and was horrified by the result. Percy was impressed and he got Mary to write it out in full. "I busied myself to think of a story which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror," she said.
The first edition of Frankenstein was published anonymously in 1818. Mary Shelley's name appears on the second edition, which was published five years later. After Frankenstein Mary wrote another six novels. The Last Man, a pioneering science fiction novel of the human apocalypse in the distant future, is considered by some to be her best work.