Monday, July 14, 2014

A Painting is Worth Three Hundred and Eleven Words

Hiring statistics, harassment, bias, glass ceiling, discrimination, ….   All important topics to discuss and address to improve our world.  But I have a more cheery subject on my mind today, namely art.  Scientific American had an on-line article in March on art depicting women in STEM fields.  The pages were filled with interesting paintings and discussions of the scientists depicted.  See

The author, Maia Weinstock, comments on the importance of art and design in science and technology and morphs STEM into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math).  Pictures and paintings of scientists have historically concentrated on male subjects.  Since pictures have such an important effect on our perception and memory, it is important to highlight the few works of art that depicted women scientists … and to create more of them!


I particularly like the painting of Marie Curie holding a test tube with the outline of a snake around it.  It is “Marie Curie"  painted by Jeff Fenwick.  Her eyes are locked quizzically on the tube seemingly pondering the nature of the radioactive material it contains.  Is the snake meant to be a sinister hint of the radiation dangers of her research that eventually led to her death?  Or, as the author Jeff Fenwick points out, does it represent the Rod of Asclepius symbol of medicine which greatly benefited from the discover of radioactive materials?

Other paintings and drawings include those of scientists such as chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall, discoverer of the Cepheid luminosity-period relationship Henrietta Swan Leavitt, X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin, and astronauts Mae Jemison and Sally Ride.  They are of different styles and quite interesting to view.

The author will be the guest curator of an exhibition of a selection of these art works at the Art Science Gallery in Austin, Texas, from September 13 through October 15, 2014.  It would definitely be worth a visit.