What has art ever done for science?

argylesock says… This is a timely reminder. I’m starting to write for an online magazine where, I find, my scientist’s preference for words and graphs can be limiting. Like every biologist I know, I can sketch diagrams with ease – here’s a sheep, here’s a parasite living in the sheep – but for more subtle understanding, we need real artists. Anyway, art isn’t always visual. There’s music too. It was good enough for Bach!

Wellcome Trust Blog

B0003258 Brain in the form of 1960s pop art - green“Art has contributed zero to science, historically,” said developmental biologist Lewis Wolpert on Radio 4 some time ago.

This sounds like a sweeping generalisation – particularly considering he was in discussion with neuroscientist Mark Lythgoe, who has done more than his fair share of collaborating with artists – but is it fair? The influence of science on art is easy to see – just look at the paintings of da Vinci or Rembrandt to see how far back this influence stretches – but what does art offer science?

The Wellcome Trust has been funding collaborations between artists and scientists for over fifteen years. So it would seem sensible that we should ask what scientists have gained from working with artists.

Measuring scientific outcomes from artist-scientist collaborations is not straightforward: progress in science is judged by peer-reviewed publications, and joint scientist-artist publications are rare. But does this mean collaborations are…

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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