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Physics Seminar

The poetry and music of science, and the role of creativity in science and arts

Speaker: Prof Tom McLeish (University of York)
Date: Wednesday 4 December 2019
Time: 15:00
Venue: N/3.28

I could not see any place in science for my creativity or imagination,’ was the explanation, of a bright school leaver to the author, of why she had abandoned all study of science. Yet as any scientist knows, the imagination is essential to the immense task of re-creating a shared model of nature from the scale of the cosmos to the smallest subatomic structures. A four year project led to the book, The Poetry and Music of Science (OUP 2019), which takes a journey through the creative process in the arts as well as sciences. The lecture draws on both past testimony and contemporary accounts of scientists, artists, mathematicians, writers, and musicians today to explore the commonalities and differences in creation. Tom McLeish finds that the ‘Two Cultures’ division between the arts and the sciences is not after all, the best classification of creative processes. Instead, the three modes of visual, textual and abstract imagination have woven the stories of the arts and sciences together. The lecture concludes by asking how creativity contributes to what it means to be human, and asks how scientists’ training and education might help them work more creatively.