Tuesday 7 April 2009

Art v. Science?

There's a wonderful lesson in philosophy on Robin's blog that has really got me thinking:

"a person can be good at many things. We are all multi-faceted, and it's the constraints of society that often tell us to only do one thing"

I'm thinking in particular of the supposed gulf between art and science, a gap in understanding that I attempt to bridge every day. At school, I was good at both art and science and was lucky enough to be able to do both at 'A' level ( with a bit of leverage on my chemistry teacher who was devising the timetable). My art tutor wanted me to go to art college but I decided in the end to study Botany at university as I could continue to paint and draw as a hobby but it wouldn't have worked the other way round. It was a decision I've never regretted and I have built my career in science while continuing to develop my artistic skills.

Creativity is not restricted to the art field - it is essential in my job to devise new ways to grow plants in the lab for research and conservation. 'What if.... ' is a frequent phrase and with limited resources we have to be imaginative in approach. Likewise, attention to detail, planning, analysis ,observational skills and putting the hours in are just as relevant in my art work as in my day job.

Sometimes it seems that both the science and art worlds like to maintain a sense of mystery and arrogance and both are often poor in promoting understanding of what they do.

So for a change, I'll share some creative projects from my science life.

This insignificant little plant is the subject of several high-impact scientific papers in the field of evolutionary biology

Lovely swirly root patterns here!

This little cauliflower is part of a series of simple experiments I'm devising for schools - so far both teachers and children are excited about these practicals

And this is my creative work space!


Yvette said...

What a interesting thougt art vs science.
Nice reading it, and inimini plant...

Sandra Wyman said...

Enjoyed this, Mags: not having been allowed to study sciences other than biology (which I greatly enjoyed) at school (girls weren't at my school in those days) I grew up with the idea that physics and chemistry were dry as dust. It was only later, doing a further degree in cultural history (my first degree was English) that I realised that the history of science was in fact a history of creative thinking with lots of "what ifs" and "what does this means" in it.

Margaret Cooter said...

And that "insignificant" plant is called ....??

magsramsay said...

The 'insignificant' plant is Trithuria submersa (Hydatellaceae) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydatellaceae