The Art Science Connection

Their proposition actually makes a lot of sense, and not just because the new acronym is easy on the ears. Though many see art and science as somewhat at odds, the fact is that they have long existed and developed collaboratively. This synergy was embodied in great thinkers like the legendary Leonardo Da Vinci and the renowned Chinese polymath Su Song. One of Carl Jung’s mythological archetypes was the artist-scientist, which represents builders, inventors, and dreamers. Nobel laureates in the sciences are seventeen times likelier than the average scientist to be a painter, twelve times as likely to be a poet, and four times as likely to be a musician.


Is the claim here that art makes one a better scientist? Wouldn’t that be invoking a correlation = causation fallacy?

As someone who majored in math, music, and physics, I support this! From my personal experience in grad school here at Harvard, I noticed that there are plenty of physicists who are also musicians, seemingly more common than graduate students in other fields. There have also been several famous physicists who were also musicians: Einstein (violin), Heisenberg, Edward Teller (piano).

It seems much more uncommon, however, for scientists to do visual art or dance. Perhaps music is generally a more widespread activity than either of those. But it could also be that music is more mathematical and cerebral, possibly appealing to a technical mindset.

It’s also possible that some people who have the talent and drive to be a top scientist also naturally excel in many other fields they try.


It may also be that certain similar talents are useful in both science and art. The question is whether these talents can be taught, and whether they can be taught by art classes. And it may be that math is the common denominator as you suggest, at least for music. Incidentally, my son began as a music performance major (accepted at Berklee but ended up going to UCLA) and then in his 3rd year switched to applied math. Oddly, he had not been all that interested in math in high school.