Let’s Hear it for Renaissance Man – and Woman!

The division between being an artist or a scientist has always struck me as totally artificial. How can you classify someone as 'an artist' or 'a scientist' as if they are mutually exclusive?

At school when it came to choosing my A level subjects, all my teachers were pushing me towards the arts as I had done so well in English and history. However, I was completley fascinated by mathematics. So I decided I wanted to do English, history and pure maths. Well, you would have thought I'd asked to study advanced pornography. 'You CAN'T' the teachers told me. 'Maths is a SCIENCE subject. English and history are ARTS.' It was at that moment that this ridiculous division really hit home. Out of awkwardness and annoyance at how stupid this was I pushed and pushed and eventually they changed the timetable so I could study all three subjects. I'd love to tell you that I went on to get an A in maths but sadly my enthusiasm wasn't matched by aptitude and I didn't pass. But I had been a little bit of a pioneer for breaking down the barriers, in my school at least.

When did this artificial division begin? I decided to do a little research and discovered that the split was prompted by Copernicus and really took hold in the 18th century, the era of the Romantic poets. Visionary poet William Blake detested Isaac Newton apparently! You can read more about it here, in a review of a fascinating lecture and book by Richard Holmes in The Guardian.

I continue to be eclectic in my interests, as fascinated by quantum physics as literature. To me, these areas are parts of a bigger picture than I will probably ever understand, but it's fun trying. The Theory of Everything does not belong to scientists but to all of us! It isn't Artists v. Scientists but Renaissance People all working together that helps us move forward.

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