The Biologist as Artist
Maura C. Flannery, College of Professional Studies, Division of Computer Science, Mathematics and Science
Traditionally, biologists are more likely than other scientists to be artists as well. This commitment to the visual may be the result of an early interest in art, or the influence may run in the opposite direction. In either case, drawing pictures and thinking visually seem related. Also, particularly before the age of accessible photography, biologists had to draw—or have an artist on hand—to document observations, and some were under economic constraints and couldn’t employ others to do their illustrations. In this presentation, I argue that whatever their reasons for drawing, the fact that some biologists were also artists affected their process of inquiry. This is an area that hasn’t been investigated in any depth. Even in carefully researched biographies of biologist/artists such as Ernst Haeckel and Joseph Hooker, little attention is given to their art. I will present the work of these individuals and also of the neurobiologist Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the anatomist John Bell, and the ornithologist George Sutton. I will especially draw on the work of the botanist and philosopher of science, Agnes Arber, who was particularly reflective on the relationship between her science and her art.