Science is a quest, using verifiable facts, for new knowledge about the real world. Art creates its own reality and therefore summons up emotions and often a sense of beauty in the viewer. Does aesthetics also play a part in scientific research? Prof. Dr Hans Galjaard (1935) curated an exhibition focusing on the beauty of science.
The challenge was to find out if there were images of great beauty in the natural sciences. Over the past two years approximately a hundred researchers at thirty institutions have been approached. They work in the following disciplines: physics, chemistry, geology, microbiology, marine biology, botany, fungal diversity, cell biology of higher organisms, human reproduction and astronomy.
From plinth to ceiling
In this exhibition there were no art works but scientific films and images were being projected on the walls and ceilings. They included beautiful images of (sub)atomic particles, the effect of sound on matter, crystals of small and large molecules and multicoloured mineral dust. But there is also an impressive diversity of single-cell organisms, plants and fungi. Modern technology allows us to witness the birth of a stem cell, cell division and chromosome replication and cell death in higher organisms. The exhibition also contains poignant images of the human foetus and overwhelming images of the universe.
In his essay Hans Galjaard writes about how he was moved by a film of 4D ultrasound images of the development of the human foetus made by the gynaecologist Stuart Campbell. This was the beginning of his plan to collect aesthetically pleasing scientific images. In his quest for images he has asked many researchers if they have also experienced such a moment of overwhelming beauty – a so-called ‘Stendhal moment’ – but this was not the case. By far the majority of researchers were entirely focussed on acquiring new knowledge and insights.
These institutes and researchers have contributed to this unique collection of surprising images, which may well provide you with your own ‘Stendhal moment’. Allow yourself to be transported to the world of the Beauty of Science.
Audiotour and booklet
An audio tour was developed to accompany this exhibition, texts written by Hans Galjaard himself. You could rent this tour from the museum’s information desk for €3.00.
Download the Beauty in Science booklet here. It features the essay by Hans Galjaard.