Electricity's Spark of Life  Looking to the past


    One way to help keep the medical field speeding into the future might be to cultivate an appreciation for the past.At least,that's what the folks at the Bakken museum think.

    When I recently visited the museum,Rhees and Kathleen Klehr,the museum's public relations manager,took me down to a huge padlocked room in the basement called "The Vault."Row upon row of shelves were crammed with rare,old books about electricity,early versions of pacemakers and hearing aids,and all sorts of weird devices.One was a shoe-store X-ray machine,powered by electricity,that showed you whether your foot fit comfortably into a new shoe.

    Upstairs,the exhibits included a tank of electric fish and Hopi dolls dedicated to the spirit of lightning.

    There's also a whole room dedicated to a monster made famous in a book titled Frankenstein.Made from assorted human parts,the monster was brought to life by an electrical spark.When Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in 1818,electricity was still a relatively new idea,and people were fascinated by the possibilities of what they might be able to do with it.

    Even today,the Frankenstein room,with its scary multimedia presentation,remains one of the Bakken's most popular exhibits,Klehr told me."It's been centuries,"she says,"and everyone is still excited about Frankenstein."

    That's something you might keep in mind the next time a blackout strikes.Without electricity,those monsters under your bed might have a lot less power over you!