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Abstract Detail

Historical Section

Flannery, Maura [1].

The Botanist as Artist.

Traditionally, biologists are more likely than other scientists to be artists as well. This commitment to the visual may be the result of an early interest in art, or the influence may run in the opposite direction with art flowing from visual thinking. In either case, drawing pictures and thinking visually seem related, especially among botanists. Particularly before the age of accessible photography, botanists had to draw—or have an artist on hand—to document observations. Some were under economic constraints and couldn’t employ others to do their illustrations. In this presentation, I argue that whatever their reasons for drawing, the fact that some botanists were also artists affected their process of inquiry. Botanists who draw observe more closely and process their observations in a different way from those who aren’t artists. This is an area that hasn’t been investigated in any depth.
I will especially draw on the work of Agnes Arber, a British plant morphologist of the first half of the 20th century. She was an accomplished artist who created all her own illustrations for her research articles and books. Arber also wrote on the history and philosophy of biology and in the latter work, she melded her interests in science and art to develop insights into how the two disciplines can influence each other for those who practice in both areas. In addition, I describe the art of a number of other botanist/artists whose works serve as examples of various aspects of the art/biology link. For example, as Jim Endersby has shown in his biography of Joseph Dalton Hooker, this botanist used his art to further his viewpoint in making his scientific arguments and in advancing his position in the botanical community. Finally, I will use my own experiences in studying botanical illustration to bolster my argument since I’ve found that learning to draw has made me more aware of plant form.

Broader Impacts:
This paper deals with how botanists do their work, and specifically with how visual perception and drawing are linked. This has implications for the way researchers, particularly plant morphologists and plant cell biologists conduct their research.

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1 - St. John's University, Center for Teaching and Learning, 8000 Utopia Parkway, 268 Bent Hall, Jamaica, NY, 11439, USA


Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 18
Location: 556A/Convention Center
Date: Monday, August 2nd, 2010
Time: 2:15 PM
Number: 18002
Abstract ID:321

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