Great Science Portrayed by Great Art

There are certain moments in time that single-handedly changed the course of history and led to invaluable discoveries and influential inventions.

Today, I present two such moments that have been captured in painting and photography.

They depict the beauty of what can be achieved when the maths and arts are combined to reach their fullest potential.

Using science in art,  has allowed some of the most remarkable creations in the history of our culture yet they are forever seen as apart and isolated from one another. Wiki describes art from the  Renaissance period as, “Renaissance art, perceived as a “rebirth” of ancient traditions, took as its foundation the art of Classical antiquity, but transformed that tradition by the absorption of recent developments in the art of Northern Europe and by application of contemporary scientific knowledge.”

The first artwork is the painting by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, better known as Raphael, called the School of Athens which depicts a large, ornate area decorated with statues and filled with intellectuals who played a major role in shaping the society we live in today.


View full list of names on an interactive photo here:

Although it is only a recreation of their greatness it is an excellent example of Renainssance art which combines math and art into one moving, masterpiece. Not just the famous mathematicians in the painting, but the style of the work itself incorporates drawing to scale, lending realism to Raphaels design. An interesting side-note to look for is Raphael himself as he stares directly out of his own painting at future generations of onlookers.

Some of the notable characters from this piece and their accomplishments are: Plato and Aristotle together in the center of the painting, Socrates, Pythagoras, Ptomley, Anaximander, and Diogenes.
The other work of art is a more modern version of the same idea. It is a black and white photograph taken at the Fifth Solvay International conference on electrons and photons. The 27 people featured in this photo are some of the most brilliant scientists and mathematicians that ever lived.

Daily Mail: “Seventeen of the twenty-nine attendees were or became Nobel Prize winners, including Marie Curie (winning two), who is not hard to spot as the only woman in the photograph.”

This meeting was one of many, but certainly laid the ground work for what was to become a more researched branch of theoretical physics on the quantum scale.

Wiki: “This conference was also the culmination of the struggle between Einstein and the scientific realists, who wanted strict rules of scientific method as laid out by Charles Peirce and Karl Popper, versus Bohr and the instrumentalists, who wanted looser rules based on outcomes. Starting at this point, the instrumentalists won, instrumentalism having been seen as the norm ever since,[3] although the debate has been actively continued by the likes of Alan Musgrave.”


View full list of names here:

Next time you hear an artist or creative person complaining about having to deal with numbers, or you hear a business man or a scientist grumbling about abstract art, remember that everyone plays their part.

Some, like Raphael and the other great Renaissance artists, play two.

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