Special Exhibitions Gallery


Visual Science ArtworkVISUAL SCIENCE:
The Art of Research

This exhibit features images and objects drawn from a variety of disciplines and time periods that show the importance of visual experiences in science. Images have played many roles in scientific research. Images can record fleeting observations, whether a painting of an animal glimpsed in the field or an interaction between sub-atomic particles that lasts a millisecond. They can also make unseen things visible. Physical models can make abstract mathematical concepts into something that researchers can touch; properly arranged, sand, metal plates, and a violin bow can make sound waves into images. Finding patterns in both kinds of images, or painstakingly transforming images into data can lead to new discoveries.

Event Horizon Telescope Movie

Peter Galison, Co-founder of Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative, Professor of History of Science and Physics (and Faculty Director of the CHSI) directs this compelling film about the extraordinary decade-long effort to image a black hole. Featuring the people and processes of the Event Horizon Telescope project, the film explores how this global collaborative ultimately succeeded in imaging a massive black hole at the center of the Messier 87 galaxy.

Images also play a role in summarizing, clarifying, and communicating ideas. Compelling images have often helped people understand and accept radically new ideas, turning what might at first be hard to understand into a new commonsense understanding. Other times, visual representations can help students develop intuitions about their subject, whether about the structure of crystals or the stages of an embryo’s development. Images can also communicate complex and layered information, such as the complete design of a steam engine, in a compact and portable format.

Looking closely at the use of images highlights the skills needed to create and interpret images. Scientists have often worked hand-in-hand with artists, sculptors, painters, and photographers. In doing so they make technical and aesthetic choices that shape the final image. Images can reveal as much about those who made them as they do about the phenomena being studied. Images can also be hard to interpret, with successful researchers developing a knack for recognizing important details and patterns.

With large scale reproduction images, three dimensional objects, and films, this exhibit offers visitors a sampling of this rich topic.


Gallery of Images from VISUAL SCIENCE





Content Recommendations from: Allen Brandt, Brad Bolman, Janet Browne, Peter Galison, Anne Harrington, Matthew Hersch, David S. Jones, Michelle LaBonte, Hannah Marcus, Beatrice Steinert, Benjamin Wilson.

Images from: David S. Goodsell (The Scripps Research Institute), Jeff Lichtman Laboratory (Harvard University), Eric J. Heller (Department of Physics and Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University), Center for Astrophysics (Harvard & Smithsonian, Photographic Glass Plate Collection), Warren Anatomical Museum (Center for the History of Medicine, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine), Ernst Mayr Library (Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University), Scott Chimileski (Harvard University), K. Xu, H. Babcock and X. Zhuang (Harvard University), Curtis McMullen (Department of Mathematics, Harvard University).

This exhibit was made possible by generous support from the David P. Wheatland Charitable Trust.



Press Release

"Seeing Science," Harvard Magazine, September-October 2019

"Mad Science," The Steampunk Explorer, November 15, 2019



September 20, 2019 – Ongoing
The Special Exhibitions Gallery, Science Center 251