- A Light Lunch
- Thomas Connolley
So why do we see the two pursuits as completely different? In many ways, the cultural separation of science and art is a relatively new phenomenon. Throughout history, many great scientific figures were also icons of the arts and humanities. Take Leonardo Da Vinci, he turned his creative mind to both the Mona Lisa and the flying machine. Later, we see figures like Thomas Jefferson, who excelled in architecture and engineering, and Alexander Borodin, a prominent composer and chemist. But as each field became increasingly specialised, our ideas about what constitutes a scientist or an artist became somewhat more rigid, and opportunities for crossover became fewer.
And yet, there are many ways in which science and art intersect. Take, for instance, creativity. Thomas observes that a creative instinct is as essential to designing a jet engine as it is to taking a photograph: “As a scientist, you’re exploring the world and trying to solve problems. You need to have that spark of imagination so that you can maintain your curiosity and approach old problems in new ways.” And it’s not just creativity; observation, perseverance, and attention to detail are all attributes that artists and scientists share.
So could there be any advantage to mixing it up a bit, and bringing more science into art and more art into science? There’s no doubt that scientific experiments can produce some pretty magnificent images: from crystallised viruses to fluorescing chemicals, science can be a beautiful business. At Diamond, biology experiments provided an inspiration for artists who sewed mixed media images of brain cells, cancer tumours, and HIV for an art project called Designs for Life. Musicians have composed songs based on the noises made by the synchrotron; it has featured in novels; and photographers have curated exhibitions of Diamond scientists and their results.