STEAM Heroes: 10 Great Minds Who Combined Arts and Sciences

Einstein raved about the benefits (and even necessity) of bringing artistic creativity into scientific discovery.  Jung identified the “artist-scientist” as a human archetype.  Call them polymaths, call them multi-taskers, or call just call them busy-brained, but some of the greatest thinkers have felt comfortable with one foot in the arts, and the other in sciences.

We’re inspired by those who juggle many kinds of learning, and in tribute to them, we present ten amazing STEAM thinkers, past and present (in no particular order).

1. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519 AD)

This one’s almost too obvious.  The same fellow who created masterpieces like “The Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper” was equally gifted in architecture, music, biology, and engineering.  His designs for helicopters and other flying machines were hundreds of years ahead of their time.

2. Chris Hadfield (1959-present)

Okay, we’re a little biased because he’s not only Canadian, and also from our hometown, but come on!  The guy was the first from the Great White North to walk in space, and as tweets from his latest mission demonstrate, is also a poet and a musician.

3. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179 AD)

Besides achieving sainthood, Hildegard is recognized as having written the oldest surviving morality play, along with almost seventy musical compositions, and a book about natural sciences and medicine.  Oh yeah, she also invented her own alphabet.

4. Su Song (1020-1101)

A water-driven clock tower was just the beginning for Su Song.  This engineer studied the stars, rocks and minerals, plants, animals and medicine.  He was also a poet.

5. Aristotle (384-322 BC)

Aristotle was so taken with biology that he wrote an entire volume on the structure of dog’s teeth, and his model of the universe was held by astronomers as the gold standard for two thousand years.  He also wrote extensively on the value and purpose of art, music, and poetry.

6. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1842 BC)

Epic poetry, best-selling novels that helped spark the Romantic movement, and influential works on botany, colour theory and geology…enough said.

7. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790 AD)

It’s pretty impressive to be one of the founding fathers of the United States, and getting your likeness on currency doesn’t hurt either.  Scientifically, Franklin had his hands in everything from oceanography to physics to meteorology.  He also composed music, played three different instruments, and designed his own version of the harmonica.

8. Ada Lovelace (1815-1852 BC)

The daughter of famous poet Lord Byron, Ada described herself as a “poetical scientist”.  She often acknowledged the role of creativity and imagination in her work, and is credited with writing the first computer program.

9. Avicenna (980-1037 AD)

Choose an area of study, and you can probably put a checkmark beside it for Avicenna.  His long list of interests included medicine, earth science, philosophy, astronomy, and poetry.

10. Desmond Morris (1928-present)

You might recognize him from the many TV shows he’s done on human and animal biology, but his list of accomplishments also includes directing films, surrealist paintings, and even children’s books.

10 more to come next week!

Amy Leask is VP of Enable Education.  She’s excited to be able to use the word “polymath” in a blog post.  

Arts and Science 4 Lifelong Learners 6 Lifelong Learning 13 STEAM 5

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