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Settle in for an Online Scientific Quilting Bee

That’s right, we’ve been long overdue for another one of my posts highlighting the intersection of creativity and science. Today’s highlights are both quilts. I love quilts, I have fond memories of the colorful red quilt my mother made for me and last year I started to learn how to quilt. I have yet to complete my first effort, but the quilts I’m showing off today are just the inspiration I need to get back to it.

I first learned about quilts featuring genomes and the solar system via the Craft magazine website. The genome quilts by Beverly St. Clair are simply unbelievable – colorful, intricate, beautiful, and encoded with genetic information! The inspiration for these quilts is a true intersection of art and science; she describes attending an exhibit of Anni Alber’s work one night and then a lecture on the Human Genome Project the next day. The results of those two events are stunning, all of her quilts are gorgeous, check out this one, featuring the hepatitis virus c gene!

Moving back in time, check out this cool quilt of the solar system. It was made in 1876 by Ellen Harding Baker, and is at the Museum of American History. The quilt is lovely but I was actually more struck by the historical background the museum provided, which touched on something I didn’t know about the history of women in science:

“Ellen used the quilt as a visual aid for lectures she gave on astronomy in the towns of West Branch, Moscow, and Lone Tree, Iowa. Astronomy was an acceptable interest for women in the 19th century, and was sometimes even fostered in their education.”

As always, feel free to share with us your favorite examples of the intersection between science and art!


If you link the borders between science & creativity, check-out the Hyperbolic Crochet Reef

Oh yes, that astronomy stuff for women was a big deal - it was believed that study of the heavens was appropriate for women and would bring them closer to Gawd and all that. You can really trace the history of fostering women's interest in astronomy back to the 1600's and Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle's book written explicitly for women, Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes (Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds (1686). You can actually buy a recent English translation of this book on Amazon. It's a charming read. A hundred years ago, when I was a grad student, I wrote a paper about it. But never published it. :(

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