Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Goethe's Colors Merge Art and Science

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German scientist, poet, and playwright who was a fascinating figure in that he was essentially able merge the arts and sciences in his works, a feat that, considering the modern tendency to view these two disciplines as somewhat conflicting, now seems quite incredible. However, after looking at his works, I like the idea of adding more art and literature to science, as it adds more subjectivity and true understanding to the field.

Take, for instance, a study of colors, which is actually one of the things Goethe is known for doing. We can figure out everything scientific and mathematical that there is to know about lights and colors, such as their frequencies, wavelengths, and position on a "color wheel" relating these values, but would that really describe the colors themselves? I think that Goethe wanted to show that the answer to that question is no, because we can study the physical properties of colors all we want, but these properties mean nothing to our perception, all we see is reds and greens and blues and the colors themselves.

This is just one example of how Goethe's merging of Art and Science can have a practical application and can give us an idea of what scientific discovery means for our everyday experience. Goethe just wanted to make science more relevant to the common person. He just wanted to make it all more human and more real.

-Christopher Hoef

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