Airdate: Feb 12, 2001
Scientist: Roald Hoffmann
Renaissance Chemist: Ideas of Beauty
Who says there are no more Renaissance Men? Meet a Nobel prize-winning chemist who is also an accomplished poet.
As a supremely gifted artist and visionary inventor of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci is still celebrated for his mastery of art, technology and science. Well in our age of specialization, the spirit of the Renaissance Man lives on. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
"In my country, if you wake, snatched from the dream half-done, you ring the alarm -- there's a pull by every bed in my country -- and soon, their cars flashing green in the night, friends come. For they know I would do it for them. Come to help re-enter the dream."
That's Roald Hoffmann reading from his poem, "Dream Corps". He has also written books, essays and co-authored a play premiering later this year. But Roald Hoffmann is also a Nobel prize-winning chemist who says that the arts and sciences are not as different as we sometimes think.
"Here's what I see that they have in common. First, they are creations of human beings. A new chemical is just as much a creation as a new poem or a piece of music. Second, they are acts that are accomplished with craftsmanship. Third thing is in both, the thing that you have to say to people is done with intensity, with a concentration, Both science and art are acts of communication. They are also things that somehow combine selfishness and altruism. You want people to know that you've created something good, but you also want to share it with other people. And finally they're both reaching for beauty in some way. That's interesting because in scientific articles, you're not allowed to talk about beauty. But if you look underneath at what motivates scientists it's often ideas of beauty."
Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.