What has art ever done for science?

Art and Science – a two way street in my book!

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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5 thoughts on “What has art ever done for science?

  1. I’ve given a longer reply on the wellcome trust blog, but just want to say here that I think the arts are hugely important in scientific progress, and not just because I write mysteries for schools – plays with real science in them.
    http://stargleam.wordpress.com/pippa-roberts-plays-with-real-science-experiments/ 😀

    There has to be a space for scientific developments to be discussed, and future directions decided – and a space for people to be inspired. Because it is hard to measure the influence that art has on science we should not dismiss it.

    • Hi Pippa,
      I totally agree…. I also left a very long message on the Wellcome site. Great what you are doing! Very impressed.
      Good to connect on here,

      • Thanks Eliot. I was pleased to notice you’re in scitalk as well. 🙂 Your work looks very interesting and I’m impressed you combine it with being a GP.

  2. I’m just working on a medicine/health/art/humanities thread on SciTalk actually… should be up in next couple hours. I only manage GP with all this because I’m part-time (and I don’t have any kids!)

  3. Ah, that makes sense. 😀 Is it up now? I couldn’t see it yesterday, but that could be me!…

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