Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Edgar Meyer's Novelties: Interface of Art and Science

Texas A and M
Edgar Meyer

A couple of days ago, when I blogged on the Swiss city of Basel, I received an email from a Mr. Edgar Meyer -- whom I later discovered was a Professor Edgar Meyer -- inquiring if he could have copies of 'my' photos of the Basel scenes. I quickly explained that the photos weren't mine, that they were from a couple of online sites, and that he could borrow them in the same way that I had.

In responding to his email, I noticed that he had a website titled Molecular Sculptures, which sounded interesting, so I clicked onto that and discovered this:
Welcome to a novel art form = molecular models, sculptures, and abstractions.

Nature, reflected in the life sciences, offers a living demonstration of the vitality of form and function. We see function all around us, but the forms escape our eyes at the molecular (nano) scale, because they are so very small. The physical methods of crystallography, NMR, and cryo-electron microscopy open our eyes to minute molecules.

Here, you will see how physical descriptors of atoms and molecules can be cast into noble hardwoods and metals. To the non-scientist, these may appear as esoteric forms of abstract art. And even to the scientist not accustomed to working with molecular structures, the forms will appear foreign, exotic. In any event, seek and see beauty as revealed by Nature herself. Some viewers may see a resemblance to the work of contemporary architect-sculptors like Maya Lin, or the use of natural wood surfaces by Isamu Noguchi or George Nakashima but for others it may look just like college biochemistry -- see for yourself.

That sounded intriguing, and I liked his quote from C. P. Snow's famous work, "The Two Cultures":
"It is bizarre how very little of twentieth-century science has been assimilated into twentieth-century art."

I've always been interested in both . . . though I'm not talented in either science or art. Professor Meyer, however, has talent in both, for he is a chemist familiar with molecular structures and an artist who derives inspiration from nature's molecules.

I won't attempt to describe Professor Meyer's art, except to say that much of it does look like molecules -- and for the good reason that much of it is meant to model molecules and depict nature's own abstract, concrete beauty. Go, and see for yourself.

Before posting this entry about Professor Meyer's website, I checked with him to make sure that he wouldn't mind if I blogged on his work. He gave permission and followed up with a further informative email:
Thank you for your kind comments on my web pages. I like the diversity of your web site -- it was your blog on Basel that caught my eye. With a B.A. from Baylor, are you originally from Texas? I taught and ran a research lab for 36 years at A and M before retiring in Taos. So, let me give you a bit of background.

This year marks the centennial of the discovery of X-ray diffraction, the physical method for determining the precise structure of atoms, ions, and molecules. The year 2014 will be named the "International Year of Crystallography" by UNESCO to commemorate the contributions of the field to knowledge and mankind. These contributions are monumental, because they illuminate our vision of matter on the atomic scale. Think of vitamins, penicillin and other antibiotics, insulin, haemoglobin, DNA, or RNA -- these would remain mere symbols were it not for the contributions of the crystallographic method to define the positions of atoms in space.

After ca. 40 years as an academic crystallographer, I have undertaken to depict molecules as tangible sculptures, first in noble hardwoods and now as man-sized bronze sculptures.

To this end, I have been using modelling tools to create photographic images of virtual molecules exhibited in public spaces. To many, they may appear as 'modern art' but some might ask "what is it?", opening the door to an understanding of the complex architecture of the nano-world of science.

Here, you will find such juxtapositions.

Here are provisional images of drug and biological molecules not yet on my web site.

I'll be happy to provide details if you have questions.

Regular followers of my blog will recall that although I hail from the Arkansas Ozarks, I spent nearly five years in Texas, and that great state left its mark on me before I headed on for Berkeley for graduate studies, where I actually learned a little about x-ray crystallography in the history of biology in studying how Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA. You see, education is never wasted, and even though I switched from history of science to a different field, I still have a point of contact that enables me to connect in ways that I'd otherwise be unable to.

Moreover, I like the interface between science and art, and I do have questions, as might some readers, questions that Professor Meyer seems willing to respond to, so I encourage readers to check out his website and find answers . . .

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