• Art of Inspiration

    • The British Library presents this exhibition whose images were inspired by scientific discoveries.

    ‘Beautiful Science’: awe-inspiring science translated into the aesthetic of the image / 

    When we think of science, we might think of some of the greatest scientists, their discoveries or in women like Marie Curie, perhaps in epic expeditions like Darwin’s adventures on the HMS Beagle or we think of microscopes and in Galileo throwing weights and feathers from the heights of the Tower of Pisa.

    What do all these images have in common? Among other things, they’re a sort of translation. To understand the phenomena of the world they must first be translated: taken from their point of origin (the “thing itself” that concerned Western philosophy, from Kant to Heidegger) to an area of our understanding signed by language, our vision of the world collectively and historically. To say that energy is the same as the mass multiplied by the constant of the speed of light elevated to the second power seems, as a sentence, a simple problem, however, in addition to all the historical background and the research that was required to reach that point, while simultaneously there existed a series of social processes that enabled the dialogue between peers and also with foreigners to the practice.

    In this sense, in terms of its discoveries the history of science possesses some of the most admirable examples of visual exposure. Most of the maps that were traced during the middle ages are as aesthetically valuable as the cartography of the human body. Some magnified bacteria offer such a vast range of colours and shapes that they seem to be the artificial creations of a renowned artist. The way in which they present certain statistics also reveal the unexpected communion between geometry and the need to make a field of study comprehensible.

    From February 20 through to May 26, the British Library will exhibit some of these works. Under the title: Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight, the exhibition will gather works that range from the hierarchy the Greeks attributed to the cosmos (from stars to human beings), to the satellite images captured by NASA where we can observe the movement of the Earth’s sea tides —and somewhere in between, the “rose diagram” which Florence Nightingale created to show exactly how many men had died of treatable diseases during the Crimean War (1853-1856), and the trees byErnst Haeckel which were inspired by Darwin’s evolution theory.

    These images are, in their own right, also a discovery: an unexpected landscape in the middle of a world which we already knew was overflowing with marvellous wonders.  



    I: Martin Krzywinski, Circles of Life, 2013 (© Martin Krzywinski)

    II: Luke Howard, Barometrographia, 1847

    III: Report on the Mortality of Cholera in England 1848-49, 1852

    Tagged: science, Beautiful Science, infographics, exhibitions Credits: Images (British Library)