The Legacy of Da Vinci: Where Art and Science Meet

From Da Vinci to the Research Lab

In the days of the Renaissance it was common for the greatest artists to mingle with the greatest scientific minds of the time.  And of course, one of the Renaissance’s best known and most-loved figures, Leonardo Da Vinci, had a foot in both worlds.  Da Vinci saw little difference between the creative spirit that inspired him to paint his masterpiece, The Last Supper , and his scientific inventions (like the parachute, machine gun or even his anatomical studies).   Why is it that today the work of artists and the research of scientists seem to have such littler interaction?  Perhaps we fail to see how the curiosity, creativity, and desire to better understand our world is are characteristics share by both artists and scientists.

Well this idea hasn’t been entirely forgotten. Thanks to Princeton University’s annual Art of Science Contest, someone is recognizing the relationship between the world of science and the world of aesthetic.  Each year a panel of judges recognizes the most incredible images from scientific research laboratories around the world.  From telescope images of the cosmos to the cellular structure of a piece of wood, these incredible images could easily pass for abstract works of art.

So why do we assume that scientists are only concerned with the material they are studying and cannot see the beauty in it?  And why do we think that the art world is so irrelevant that there can’t be a meaningful relationship between the images we can create and the images that emerge from nature.  I can imagine that if Da Vinci was around today, he would be celebrating the possibility of science becoming art and perhaps even the idea of art as science.

Check out the full list of contest winners at!

Da Vinci Anatomy

Leonardo Da Vinci, Anatomical Study Drawing

Art and Science

Department of Physics and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics
Paths of gliding Myxococcus xanthus, a social bacteriu

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