The intersection of art and science

It is sometime before six am. The pre-dawn sky is pearly grey. My dog snores with deep rumbling breaths; I think this has awoken me.

I watch a crow outside my window as it paces along the branch of an old plum tree. I find it hard not to admire birds from an anatomist’s perspective. I have been a bone collector since I first discovered a deer skull on a hillside when I was five or six.

I tend to imagine the layers of the crow: how its musculature is working in perfect harmony with the architecture of its bones. How bird bones, filled with air pockets that connect to the lungs, are ultra light for flight. How these internal workings are covered skin, by black feathers that aren’t simply black, but on closer examination are exquisite shades of deep purple, iridescent blue. To me, observing this crow as it is startled into flight is the perfect intersection of science and art.

Leonardo da Vinci’s famous fetus illustration

I like to imagine that many of the great thinkers throughout the ages have lived at this intersection of science and art. That these two fields go hand-in-hand, that there is a deep interconnectedness between the two.

When I think of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings, it seems impossible to me that he was only interested in the fundamental workings of the body from one perspective.

I picture him fascinated with the physics of a tendon, how these tougher-than-steel ropes in our bodies pull bones into position with the contraction of a muscle. I see him as a biologist, exploring both the fragility and robustness of life in his famous drawing of a human fetus. But most of all I see him as an artist, illustrating the beauty of science.

Recently I have been trying to decide whether to finish my degree in Biology (a BSc) or to pursue a general studies degree in Biology and another field (a BA). I have learned that a general studies degree is not offered in Biology and Art. I think this is a mistake. I have started a letter writing campaign to challenge this. The intersection of biology and art is everywhere, all around us, and I believe it should be offered as an option for students at UVic.

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2 Responses

  1. Jay Peno says:

    I totally agree that we should embrace support for new Leonardo DaVinci thinking. What is the use of science without the delight of art anyway? I would definitely sign a petition to get UVic to run courses with this perspective. Thanks for your post!

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