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Science has always needed art - articles

Science has always needed art – articles

These days I have reviewed some of the articles that I co-author in physics journals. One of them, from the 1990s, has its drawings and sketches resulting from the interaction between the researcher and the designer, who transferred the initial pencil drawing into fine ink drawings, as required by the editing standards of the time. Physics was derived for an aesthetic discussion of sources and proportions. Another article, younger than 20, drawings and drawings made by authors involved in research with visualization software, which continues to spread and become more complex. Now the aesthetic discussion was between the co-authors, there were no longer designers in the physics departments. Scientific visualizations also won magazine covers, which is often a source of pride for a researcher if his photo becomes a magazine cover. However, when choosing a cover there is always confusion about whether the image is distinguished by its search quality or due to the ascribed aesthetic value. Be that as it may, marketing is behind it.

None of these images on the covers of scientific journals were as successful as the first “photo” of the 2019 black hole. The quotes are due to the discussion about it at the time: If an image was generated from processing data collected over a period of months it would be a true picture. This photo won the general public, but its validation came from six science articles explaining the whole process. Articles with more than two hundred writers, including Peter Gallison, a Harvard physicist, historian and filmmaker. [i]. One of his courses there is called “Scientific Visualization: From Galileo to Black Holes”, and with that advice, let’s go back to the beginnings of modern science.

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Galileo Galilei is one of the great names in science that he helped create, as we know it today, in the 17th century. He was an astronomer, engineer, and physicist, who at the time was called a natural philosopher, along with other precursors of what would later become physics, chemistry and biology, among other fields of knowledge. The list of his contributions is enormous, including being the first to point a newly invented telescope to the sky in 1609. In fact, the first was Thomas Harriot a few months earlier, who had not seen much, just a “strange” spot “on the moon. Galileo saw more. This was how he was able to interpret the lights and shadows of spots on the satellite as mountains and craters, a discovery by the astronomer, who drew the lunar watercolors that illustrate this text as well. , It was art knowing when he was born.

In the next generation, there was another multi-talented scientist, a scientist of various things, the Englishman Robert Hooke, now known as a physicist, equipped with a microscope instead of a telescope, aiming at details that were invisible to the naked eye. In 1665, he published his wonderful micrographic book with inscriptions made from his drawings of what he saw through his instrument. When observing the tiny structures on a cork board, they called them cells. But interest was in the details of plants and insects. Robert Hooke trained as painter Peter Lilly.

In the next century, thinking of another science, we have the great French chemist Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794), known to all, while his wife Marie-Anne Perret Lavoisier (1758-1836) is not much known. In addition to being gifted in the arts, she has dominated both Latin and English, in contrast to her monogamous husbands. Diligent in translating important scientific works for the French public in general and for her husband in particular. She was a partner in the lab and without her illustrations, much of Lavoisier’s research would be incomprehensible to others. Scientific communication also passed through the drawings of this artist-researcher.

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As I mentioned above, nowadays, image technologies resources allow mouse clicks to make illustrations of scientific texts. In the past, scientists needed to draw, as in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as with Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919): animal scientist, physician, professor, philosopher, marine biologist and … plastic artist. He identified and named about a thousand species and coined words like, for example, ecology. From today’s point of view, his biography is also tainted: it promoted social Darwinism and scientific racism (like many in the scientific community at the time). His illustrations of polychrome fauna and flora influenced Art Nouveau and became an art book, no longer a science, collected in “Forms of Art in Nature”.

As a contemporary of Structure, we have Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934), who shared the Nobel Prize in 1906 with Camilo Golgi for his work on the central nervous system. A Spanish scientist was the first to first glimpse the structures of the neural networks in our brain in great detail. Cajal wanted to be an artist, his father dreamed of being a doctor. The young man brought the two together, and his depictions of interlocking neurons are still impressive today. After more than a century of being recognized as a scientist, his paintings are now on display in art galleries and recognized as such.

These examples are not anecdotal, but rather are perhaps the most famous discoveries. They continued into the twentieth century, for example, with the strong intertwining of mathematics and art with Maurits Escher and the mathematician Donald Cockster. Yet the feeling today is that science and art have moved away, as biologist Jennifer Landin laments in a 2015 article on the Scientific American Blog. The introduction to the article (The Thin Line) states: “A century ago, drawing was taught as an essential tool for scientists, and its value for communicating discoveries, but also for improving observation. Biology “.

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Along the same lines, Shaaron Ainsworth, Vaughan Prain and Russell Tyler, in an article in Science, alluded that emerging research indicates that design should be explicitly recognized as a key element in science education. Here, this fundamental relationship between art and science is discussed by Tania Araujo Jorge and Anunchata Sawada.

Basic connections are often neglected in the face of accelerated technologies, but they can also become poor when they do not cause us black holes. Science has always needed art.

Peter Scholes is a professor at the College of Applied Sciences (FCA) at Unicamp, in Limeira.