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When I was in school, once I took part in an essay competition. The given topic was about Science and Art-Science or Art, from which stream society can get more benefit? I did not win any prize in that competition. I wrote about the influence of art on science.  In 10th standard it was obvious that I could not write any scholarly article, rather I wrote about Life science laboratory notebook. In school days, it was a sheer delight to work on the lab notebook. One white page with a ruled page alongside-it was all about drawing cross-section of the plant stem, the cross section of cockroach as beautiful as you can and brief writing about the drawn images on the ruled pages. What I can remember, I wrote about how had the images helped me to explain the science. Though, in school days I would explain my scientific knowledge to the examiners only, in exams.

A page from ‘De humani corporis fabrica libri septemaption’ by Andreas Vesalius

As I grow older, slowly I come to understand that, my essay was actually thought-provoking and a good way to look at history, history of science. From the time of renaissance or before that scholars have been explaining science with the help of images at the side of texts. In fact, there are plenty of examples where images had helped a scientific field to progress, Fabrica by Andreas Vesalius, Micrographia by Robert Hooke and so many.

L0043503 Robert Hooke, Micrographia, flea
Inside the Micrographia

These books are about describing scientific findings through artworks. But before the era of photography, along with documenting scientific observations through drawings,  artists played an essential role to capture scientific moments in their sketchbooks and canvases. For example,  how one could capture the moment of well-known Air pump experiment, pioneered by Sir Robert Boyle and contemporaries? How did the beholder react during the public display of that experiment? What kind of machine was used during the public display?  Boyle was a man from the 17th century and in his time it was impossible to capture these moments without recreating it with color and brushes. Joseph Wright of Derby did the exact thing. In 1768, he created a painting called ‘An Experiment on a bird in the Air pump’, now kept in National Gallery, London. This groundbreaking painting shows us, people during the days of ‘Enlightenment’ not only captured scientific findings in their illustrations but documented history of scientific progress, the philosophy of science through artworks also. As Leonardo, Hooke, and others wrote about science through images.  Joseph Wright was parallel to them but the subject of his drawing or illustration was not science, rather the history of science.

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, by Joseph Wright, 1768

As an enthusiast of ‘History of Science’ and a self-taught artist, the trail of Joseph Derby fascinate me most. Currently, I am doing independent research on the history of medicine in colonial India. Since I have a background in Cancer Research, I choose to unveil the unattended history of cancer research in India under British rule. But following Wright’s trail, I shall convey my researches not only through texts but through my artworks also. I am interested to tell stories of the history of science through visual narratives, including painting, sketches, and comics.

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