Last fortnight’s News Blog featured an article on inter-disciplinary research. The CLAHRC WM Director opined that collaboration was most likely to be successful when the topics were closely related cognitively – statistics and epidemiology say – rather than only distantly connected – fine art and nanotechnology say.
It is important, however, to correct any impression that disparate subjects, such as nanotechnology and art, should ‘pass like ships in the night’. It is certainly not the case that art and science are hermetically sealed in distant intellectual boxes. One obvious point of connection lies in the portrayal of science in drama. The CLAHRC WM Director recently accompanied his daughter, Nicola, to Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Rosalind Franklin in “Photograph 51” at the Noel Coward Theatre in London. Marvellous production, where Kidman gave a vivid, but subtle, portrayal of Franklin’s inner terror of fallibility disguised in a rebarbative outward demeanour. She kept worrying that there was some problem with her data or interpretation, and pusillanimous about publishing her remarkable findings. This reticence created the opening for Watson and Crick to make a scoop – abetted by Birmingham-born Maurice Wilkins. The portrayal of the science was lucid and interesting and seamlessly woven into the plot.
This show made the CLAHRC WM Director reflect on other famous dramatic portrayals of scientific discoveries – here are some examples:
|Scientific Discovery||Scientist||Play/Movie||Lead Actor|
|Game theory||John van Neumann||Dr. Strangelove||Peter Sellers|
|Theory of co-operation when game theory applied to groups||John Nash||A Beautiful Mind||Russell Crowe|
|Self-certifying nature of severe mental illness||David Rosenhan (Being Sane in Insane Places)||One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest||Jack Nicholson|
|Radiation at the event horizon of black holes||Stephen Hawking||The Theory of Everything||Eddie Redmayne|
|General relativity||Albert Einstein,
|Einstein and Eddington||Andy Serkis,
|Human emotions in Gorillas||Dian Fossey||Gorillas in the Mist||Sigourney Weaver|
|Discovery of computers||Alan Turing||The Imitation Game||Benedict Cumberbatch|
|Neurochemistry of encephalitis lethargica||Oliver Sacks||Awakenings||Robin Williams|
News Blog readers are invited to comment and submit other examples of the genre!
— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director