Scientists in the Romantic era (late 1700s and early 1800s) were all looking to turn lead into gold. The study of alchemy was devoted to this chemical process, and it consumed the attentions of the public and academic communities alike. Today, it sounds like a get-rich-quick scheme, but then it seemed feasible. It was a kind of Midas touch. Or like trying to discover the Fountain of Youth.
So, this process crossed over into the biological sciences. The quest became trying to find the secret to everlasting life or how to re-animate life from death. It had been done with insects and small animals, I think, and so scientists and authors played with the idea of doing it with humans. As you know, this idea has become a reality today with human and animal cloning and genetic engineering.
In terms of literature, there was a resurgence in classicism. Many Romantic authors and poets fell in love with ancient Greek and Roman mythology, much of which were concerned with the creations of the earth, human life, and fire. The subtitle for Frankenstein, in fact, is The Modern Prometheus. Prometheus is the god who gave mankind the secret of fire and was forever punished by Zeus for it. So, Mary Shelley creates a new work of art from an ancient mythical concept.