Georges Braque. Glass on a Table, 1909

Leonard Shlain

Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light

Date 2/25/02

Affiliation Associate Professor of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco


In this talk, Dr. Shlain will present the compelling thesis of his 1991 monograph. Shlain observes that as visual artists such as Cezanne and Monet moved away from literal representation and realism in the late 19th century, researchers in physics traced a parallel trajectory away from newtonian models of deterministic motion towards far less intuitive models of relativity and statistical quantum physics. Shlain identifies a range of surprising parallels: between Seurat's pointillism and Kirchhoff and Maxwell's specroscopic models of color, between the Braque's Cubist imagery and the multiple simultaneous perspectives in Einstein's Gedanken experiments, between Pollock and Newman's Abstract Expressionism and the non-Euclidean geometry of Lobachevsky, between Duchamp and Cage's investigations of chance and the probabilistic orbital models proposed by Bohr and Heisenberg. Shlain's perspective on art and physics gives him a powerful lens with which to view the progression of innovation in both art and technology.

Shlain will be introduced by Dr. Fritjof Capra, Author of The Tao of Physics and founding director of the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley.


Leonard Shlain M.D. is author of two critically acclaimed award-winning national bestsellers. After Art & Physics, his second book, The Alphabet Versus The Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image (1998), addressed the historical effects of literacy on women's rights. Dr. Shlain is a practicing surgeon, Chairman of Laparoscopic surgery at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, and Associate Professor of Surgery at UCSF. He is a contributor to the Academic Press Encyclopedia of Creativity and is presently working on a new book, Iron Sex: The Origins, Politics, and Economics of Human Sexuality, which will be released in September 2002.

-- As of 2/25/02

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