YOU may have heard that the original Frankenstein novel was first published by Mary Shelley almost exactly 200 years ago in January 1818.

But you might not know she is rumoured to have picked up the idea for a monster created in a laboratory from an eccentric scientist nicknamed 'The thunder and lightening man' who carried out a series of experiments that scared the locals on the Quantock Hills.

Andrew Crosse (1784-1855) set up a network of copper cables around his home in Fyne Court, Broomfield, during electrical storms, using them for experiments that often caused loud bangs that alarmed his neighbours Crosse, who frittered away the family fortune on his scientific investigations, came to the attention of Mary Shelley, wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, when the couple attended one of his lectures in London in 1814 when he explained his experiments with atmospheric electricity.

Within four years, her famous novel about a scientist's efforts to create artificial life had been published.

Mary Shelley originally knew Crosse through a mutual friend, the poet Robert Southey Somerset Heritage Centre has two letters among other Crosse memorabilia in which he detailed his experiments with electricity - their subject matter ranges from the relatively mundane, such as progress in making electro-voltaic batteries, to the bizarre.

In one he talks of "some products former in a new manner", believed to be a reference to an experiment that appeared to result in the creation of new life.

During the course of the procedure with a volcanic rock, Crosse noticed the appearance of "the perfect insect, standing erect on a few bristles which formed its tail", with more of the insects appearing over a brief period.

When the findings were made public, Crosse was accused of blasphemy and he received a number of angry letters, some of them including death threats. It has since been suggested that the tiny creatures were probably cheese or dust mites that had contaminated his instruments.

Taunton author and historian Brian Wright wrote a biography of the scientist entitled Andrew Crosse and the Mite that shook the World.