When people find out that we specialize in science-based environmental testing, including indoor air quality assessments, mold testing and water quality tests, they automatically assume that we are all “left-brain” people, unlike artists, musicians and writers who are said to be guided by the “right brain.”
In truth, however, science and creativity are often two sides of the same coin. Imagination and the ability to envision something new are essential to making any scientific breakthrough.
There are plenty of examples of scientists who also pursued artistic endeavors. Albert Einstein famously played the violin. Before inventing the single-wire telegraph, Samuel Morse studied painting at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and loved to create large-scale historical paintings. Queen’s legendary guitarist and songwriter, Brian May, is also an astrophysicist. And let’s not forget Leonardo da Vinci, who filled notebooks with his inventions and created great works of art that continue to speak to us.
One of the most interesting combinations of scientific study and artistic expression can be found in Alexander Fleming, who is credited with discovering penicillin’s life-saving properties. “In addition to working as a scientist, and well before his discovery of antibiotics, Fleming painted,” Smithsonian Magazine reports. “He was a member of the Chelsea Arts Club, where he created amateurish watercolors. Less well known is that he also painted in another medium, living organisms. Fleming painted ballerinas, houses, soldiers, mothers feeding children, stick figures fighting and other scenes using bacteria.”
Instead of buying paint, Fleming “grew” the colors he needed for his art. “He would fill a petri dish with agar, a gelatin-like substance, and then use a wire lab tool called a loop to inoculate sections of the plate with different species,” the magazine says. The work was technically demanding and its beauty fleeting. “These works existed only as long as it took one species to grow into the others.”
Fleming’s unique artform continues to be practiced. Every year, the American Society for Microbiology holds an Agar Art Contest.
Despite all of that, you probably wouldn’t want to hear the technicians who work at our air quality company sing!