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Art Mirrors Science Mirrors Art

John M. Eger – Huffington Post

Lionel Van Deerlin Professor of Communications and Public Policy, San Diego State

Posted: January 30, 2011 07:04 PM

Late last summer, Claire Trageser of the Voice of San Diego talked about Dale Chihuly’s open-air exhibit at the Salk Institute entitled “Salk Meets Picasso”. Trageser wrote that Salk believed in the importance of using art to stimulate creativity. According to Dr. William Brody, Salk’s current president, Salk “understood the appreciation of art and saw its connection to science.”

No surprise, then, that most of the scientists at Salk are equally accomplished in the fine arts, either drawing, painting, playing a musical instrument or in some way hosting concerts in its auditorium for themselves, their staff and local residents. Nor is it any surprise that the “best and brightest” are equally accomplished in the fine arts as well as the hard sciences.

Leonard Shlain, author of Art and Physics: Parallel Dimensions in Time and Space, once observed that great art reflects what is happening in our physical world and often predicts our scientific future. For example, he relates the story, that while Picasso probably didn’t know Einstein, his Cubism was developed about the same time that Einstein first published his theory of relativity. In fact, Shlain says, that if you asked each of them to explain their artistic or scientific discovery, they would use much the same analogies to explain what they had discovered.

Robert Root Bernstein, a MacArthur Prize Fellow studying at the University of California San Diego twenty year ago, took it upon himself to look at the biographies of the top 100 scientists who lived over the last 200 years. What he found was startling: every great scientist was not only accomplished in his field but in the fine arts as well.