To Science And Art

I was passing by Cooper Union the other day and was struck by the words on the front facade of its iconic building on Astor Place.

To science and art

This phrase "to science and art" has been stuck in my mind since. I've been thinking about what happens at the intersection of science and art, how science impacts art, and how art impacts science, how New York City has been blessed to be at the intersection of science and art for at least two centuries, and how much of what is interesting to me in the technology revolution of the moment, the Internet, is at the intersection of science and art.

Peter Cooper, the founder of Cooper Union, was an inventor, industrialist, and NYC resident in the 19th century. He designed and built the first steam powered train in the US. He was the "Tim Berners-Lee" of the railroad technological revolution in the US. Cooper went on to become a very wealthy industrialist and businessman and was behind the company that laid the first cross atlantic telegraph cable. He was all about technology, science, innovation, and business. And yet, when he created and endowed a free institution of higher education, he understood that it had to be for both science and art.

Science and art are seen as two very distinct endeavors and I suppose they are. But I see science and art as the yin yang of creative culture and innovation. To quote from Wikipedia, science and art are seemingly contrary forces that are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and they give rise to each other in turn.

I was talking to a longtime reader of this blog, Chris Dorr, last night. Chris has been working in the film industry for a long time and blogs at the Tribeca Film Festival Blog. We were talking about changes in the film business and Chris blurted out that "filmakers and software developers need to start sleeping together and it is starting to happen." Filmmaking is art, particularly great filmmaking. But the art of filmmaking has always been based on a number of fundamental scientific inventions. And Chris' point is that the art of filmmaking will continue to be impacted by scientific inventions that are happening in real time.

And science is equally inspired by art. Just check out the music playing at the all nighter coding sessions that go on at New Work City or the number of listeners in the coding room on and you'll see that coding computers benefits from musical stimulation.

When I look at our portfolio, I see companies like Tumblr, Etsy, Canvas, Shapeways, SoundCloud, Boxee, Kickstarter, and GetGlue that exist somewhere in the overlap between technology and art. Most of these companies are based in NYC and the ones that aren't have a strong footing here.

I was at a meeting yesterday with an economic development group in NYC. We were talking about 3D Printing, an important new technology that was "science" a decade ago. The economic development types were explaining to me why 3D Printing technology is so important to NYC. They explained that our artist and design communities need 3D Printing technology because it allows these artists to turn their ideas into objects rapidly and at lower cost. It is a game changer for artists, designers, and architects. Our portfolio company Shapeways and other innovators like MakerBot are doing just that right here in NYC.

Peter Cooper understood the importance of science and art back in the mid 19th century when he created Cooper Union. He put the two words on the facade of his building. And they remain the twin towers of innovation in NYC and all over the world two centuries later.

#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. RichardF

    Science and art have been intermingled throughout history. The US certainly seems to the ancient Egypt of the current period of history and NYC is maybe a modern Memphis.small correction – Peter Cooper may have been the first to have invented the first steam powered train in the US but not the world.

    1. fredwilson

      i will fix that

    2. David Semeria

      Attaboy Richard.I was just about to put a word in on George Stephenson’s behalf..

      1. RichardF

        lol….need to keep Fred honest, can’t have him rewriting history ūüėČ

        1. David Semeria

          I expect we’ll probably hear next how Americans invented the telephone, radio, and TV ;-)(Italian, Italian, Scot).

          1. andyswan

            Americans invented America. ¬†That’s a win.

          2. awaldstein

            Best one yet Andy.

        2. Guest

          LOL Richard.

        3. Carl Rahn Griffith

          And to think ‘to redact’ has such negative connotations ūüėČ

        4. fredwilson

          i am known to do that. my wife and kids remind me of it all the time

  2. awaldstein

    True…but I wonder whether it is as much about communities that are finding expression on new behavioral platforms fueled by technology but powered by socialization. And most within the mixing/melting pot of the dense urban New York contextual sandbox.Evoution of human expression on social tech platforms: street graffiti –> Canvas, exit polls¬† –> GetGlue, pop broadsides –> Tumblr, printing presses/village squares –> Disqus

    1. RichardF

      love the village square/disqus analogy Arnold

      1. awaldstein

        Thnx..articulating the magic of Disqus usually defies analogies.

    2. Carl Rahn Griffith

      I wish we weren’t so glued 1:1 to our devices – it makes socialising such an insular thing, that’s the irony. A ‘true’ Community/Sandbox feeling is denied or at least compromised.I love large, collaborative displays – where many (physically together) can see the thoughts/streams of many and interact in an emotive/engaged sense; much of what we do now is too visceral – many to many – not one to many/many to one – is the ideal, I feel – yes, this forum (eg) is many to many but we’re all in isolation and the temporal context is lost.Sorry. I am not explaining it very well – nothing new there!¬†

      1. awaldstein

        Interesting…so if the devices are larger and more communal, like a big screen TV does that change things?¬†

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          Yes, it’d be a start, Arnold – eg, scenario: my wife and I sit in the lounge of an evening and as opposed to our surf time being our separately heads-down locked into our respective MacBooks we are now instead heads-down locked into our respective iPads, it now being 2011 – such devices are a slight improvement as one is more inclined to pass one to the other if one has seen something interesting and wishes to share in a non digital way – ie, emailing one another an interesting link seems somewhat sterile when just a few feet apart! It’s nice to interact like when we used to read magazines/newspapers.¬†Seen how kids physically swap mobiles when sharing a picture/SMS/email/link/etc?¬†This of course is a very simple family/small group dynamics example – what we need to try and do is extend and humanise the dynamic on a larger scale.¬†eg, am sure you have noticed the vibe when lots of people are ¬†watching a seminal – or even just an interesting one – moment on a giant outdoor TV screen? Or when in the lobby of a bank/trendy tech company a giant monitor in reception shows real-time CNN and/or Twitter streams relevant to them – it really engages people and gets a vibe going.I think it is the 1:device ¬†and one dimensional aspect – and non temporal sense – of forums/etc (even the superb Disqus) that compromises the experience, currently.Maybe I should consult with my wife – she teaches animal behaviour, after all!

          1. awaldstein

            Animal behavior…I have some things about my cat’s behavior that certainly require understanding beyond logical explanations.



  3. Dave W Baldwin

    Another great post Fred!Mixing the conceptual with lessons related to financial sources, contracts and so on will extend the life of your blog.On the film maker side, we need to start fashioning toward the pov of the viewer.  Too many films over the past decade were a little too jerky, placing future tech into the movie ranging from illogical over to just trying to throw in things that would be only 3 yrs away using it as the hot item 20 years forward instead of the logical offshoots.For that reason, I enjoyed movies like Wild Wild West using forward moving tech with ingredients available over to anticipating Rise of the Planet of the Apes showing unintended consequences.Back to subject above, Art and Science will both truly accelerate as they bond together more and more.

  4. William Mougayar

    True, technology can be a bridge and innovation catalyst between science and art. We are becoming more expressive on the Internet due to all things being social.3D printing seems like a breakthrough technology for artists and designers. We need more examples like that.¬†Any discussion on the history of art and science needs to mention Michelangelo and Da Vinci, arguably the first polymaths (they were artists and scientists/engineers), and Renaissance men.¬†Steve Jobs probably is the closest modern polymath that comes to mind, since Apple products espouse style/art as well as function.¬†Who are the new Renaissance men/women of the Internet today,- people that inspire us and who excel at blending art, creativity and science? Maybe it’s all of us?

    1. Guest

      William, we had a discussion on the exact same topic as Fred’s post during Sramana Mitra’s 1M by 1M public roundtable last Thursday. Steve Jobs was used to illustrate during that conversation. Although I don’t use Apple products I do think he is a strong example.¬†

    2. ShanaC

      Since I am going back and learning to code (more properly) (again) Рthe way we teach art and the way we teach science is nothing like the way we teach art.  We start early in schools making science a fact based approach, and teach a lot of arts as craft.  What ends up happening is that when you try to combine them you forget that there is a craft to science and that art has a bunch of facts behind it as well that create the internal system that it is part..This makes it really really hard to take apart a planned art piece in order to get it to conform to the rules of say comp sci.



        1. Ryanmatthewb

          Not enough science or math is taught. This is a problem. What is taught in schools is done so very poorly, but that is a topic for another board.

  5. leigh

    Funny will be coming to NYC in a couple weeks to meet with a new company who are doing exactly what Chris is talking about. ¬†Filmmaking is being reinvented but as an offshoot advertising production is as well – dollars on the whole aren’t going up but media fragmentation means the need for integrated production and figuring out how to have filmmakers and photographers and developers work together is becoming a very complicated (much more than one might imagine) and important next big thing. ¬†

    1. fredwilson

      you might enjoy meeting chris while you are in town. his twitter handle is linked in the post

      1. leigh

        If¬†@chrisdorr:twitter¬†¬†is around at the same time that would be a great idea ūüôā

  6. Kyle Shank

    As a software developer I feel like I approach the field with the same passion and energy that an artist would.My biggest frustration is the constant churn of software; nothing I write lasts for more than a few months. ¬†Software constantly evolves and morphs in an effort to grow. ¬†At times, I wish it didn’t. ¬†I wish my first programs I created at age 10 could still be seen somehow. ¬†Preserving your work and looking back is a very hard thing to do well.Today, software is largely dependent on business. It needs constant funding in some form in order to survive. Once the money runs out the art disappears forever. ¬†That is why open source projects are so appealing to me. ¬†At the very least all of the code is published and the concept preserved by a community. ¬†Someone else might stumble across my code, get inspired and use it as part of his/her own art piece.The worst feeling in the world is watching months or years of creativity disappear into nothing. ¬†In that way I envy the physical artist whos work can last for centuries in spite of everything else.

    1. fredwilson

      yup, that’s why i said that patenting software is like patenting music

      1. Ryanmatthewb

        Careful with the analogies, Fred. Music can be copy written and “owned” for 100+ years… Let’s not give them any ideas

  7. falicon

    Personally I think the Yang of Science is more likely Faith (and I’m not an overly religious person, just mean more the idea of blindly believing or trusting in something)…to me art is much more a branch of science…it’s almost a level if you will…When you start out in any profession you are generally focused on the ‘science’ of it…but as you progress through your career and master more skills you move closer and closer to making it an art form…

    1. Guest

      You mean the ‘intuitive’ Kevin? Love the post. Interesting. For some reason it made me think of a movie line … ‘use the Force’ ¬†ūüôā

  8. Steve Hallock

    The problems are much the same: creating something out of nothing, innovating, building on the past but looking to and shaping the future. And the people are often much to same. The good artist is a startup founder and CEO.

    1. fredwilson

      entrepreneurship is also about creating something out of nothing. great observation steve

      1. Steve Hallock

        One of the most amazing things about my wife, an artist, is that she justDOES stuff. She doesn’t think about all the reasons why not to do it, shehas an idea and makes it happen on a large scale.If you get a chance to look through that book I gave you, keep in mind itwas all done with no budget. All the models, hair, makeup, clothes,locations, sets, the resulting PR, finding galleries, etc. She even taughtherself how to use a camera and photoshop. It has been inspiring for me – ifthat’s not entrepreneurship, I don’t know what is.

  9. Bridget Goodbody

    I love it, Fred, when you start musing on art and science, art and technology etc. As an art person, who happens to be interested in tech and entrepreneurship, i read your blog to educate myself. Its always exciting when the conversation tips into a world with which i am more familiar.When Peter Cooper created Cooper Union, art and science weren’t the separate, specialized arenas they are today. The best American artists were scientists and the best scientists were artists – art was the medium they used to spread the scientific word and they considered themselves natural historians. The better artists – the ones whose pictures most vividly provided a window onto the natural world – grace the halls of the world’s leading museums.Here’s what I’m puzzled about: if we all know that art and science need each other to survive, that one without the other is less because of it, then why don’t we as a culture insist that art take its rightful place amidst science in our schools? Why do we accept STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) when we should be pushing for STEAM (with a standing for art)?

    1. fredwilson

      our kids attend schools where art is required every day. as it should be.

  10. andyswan

    Actually, considering the drivel I’ve seen lately….I’d suggest that filmmakers start sleeping with story writers.

    1. fredwilson

      woody allen’s lastest film is pretty good

  11. Guest

    I think art & science do have a symbiotic relationship. Interestingly, it seems to me that at different periods in time they work hand in hand and feed off one another. At other points in time, each are suspect of the other and serious challenge and deconstruction occurs. Both periods yield insight and power creative endeavor. 

    1. fredwilson

      right now they are working hand in hand and feeding off each other

      1. Guest

        Totally agree. Makes me think of another movie quote (cannot recall the movie though) that goes something like     hang on, things might get a little weird

    2. Ryanmatthewb

      When have science and art not had a symbiotic relationship? You’d have to go back to before the pyramids…

      1. Guest

        There are various artists and artistic pieces that question science. In fact, I think the entire Romantic Period was a response to Industrial Revolution. And there are periods of time where science IS the artistic expression. These are the periods (sometimes brief) I was thinking of that, while still symbiotic, one is definitely more prevalent than the other.

  12. tylernol

    I am sure I am appropriating this phrase from someone, but science/engineering makes the world easier to live in, while art makes the world worth living in.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s great

    2. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Some of my best ideas come from when I spend some time here (URL below), away from the office/my home office: are very lucky that it is just a 5 minute drive from where we live.That’s what worries me about kids – and adults – who lack such stimulation in close proximity to where they live/work – our environment nurtures us (or not, as the case may be) so much yet it is all too often just urban functionality we are surrounded by, offering no stimulation.¬†We must all address this with our respective governing bodies, local, regional and central.

  13. kirklove

    Really good post. Beautiful building.

    1. fredwilson

      isn’t it?

    2. sachmo

      At the time it was built it was really controversial. ¬†The school was about to go bankrupt…¬†I was against it at the time, but I was wrong. ¬†It’s a fucking awesome building is what it is.¬†

      1. kirklove

        I didn’t know that. One thing I want to learn more about is NYC history, in particular architecturally. It’s a fascinating city to live it. I hope I always remain a curious tourist constantly craning my neck despite living here.

  14. liorsion

    I had the same discussion a few weeks back with my¬†fianc√©e¬†– she’s an artist in her body and soul, and while she touches digital sides here and there – it’s always only as part of her art.I tried to explain how I see that today there isn’t much difference between the two, and that they can never live apart, because it’s inherit inside of us to love things that are natural, and so we love science that works. This is why most beautiful people can be “proven” to be beautiful in math. This is why, at the highest place, math, philosophy, physics and painting are the same.She didn’t buy it.I also spoke to a friend of mine who’s an engineer. He didn’t buy it either.I think that today’s competitive market with startups, the internet and communication that comes with it, allows some of us to understand things that the rest are a little behind on. I think ¬†Peter Cooper and a few others understood it alone some time ago, and when this knowledge spread, more amazing things will be created.Great post!

    1. fredwilson

      i buy it

      1. liorsion

        Well, I guess that this is why we’re all here, right?

        1. Mark Essel


    2. ShanaC

      I buy it



      1. Ellie Kesselman

        Too subtle, amusing for a cranky SysAdmin = FAKE GRIMLOCK

  15. RH Tien

    I don’t know if you you saw this:…but I think it demonstrates how art inspires non-artists to achieve greater things.¬† I know of several anecdotes where social justice non-profits were started by people who were similarly inspired by art.

    1. fredwilson

      i did see it. it’s an interesting article

  16. Brad Dickason

    As a product person I’ve always been interested in the process of how other creative industries build stuff. Some movies, for example, spec out every location years in advance and have nearly every frame created well in advance of their ‘launch’ and resort to cutting optional scenes when things go wrong. Contractors in NYC come into a job without really knowing what’s going on behind most of the walls they’re about to tear down and they start hammering away until they understand the problem. Video game designers plan out their games in detail with 4-5 years of work ahead of them and have huge teams of devs/artists that build a state of the art rendering engine while building the artwork, assets, and tools to create those assets simultaneously. Sometimes their engine even gets rebuilt months before the game launches.It’s fascinating when creativity/science intersect and I worry that we sometimes focus so heavily on the ‘web/app’ startup ecosystem that we forget about everyone else out there and how similar our work is.(Side note: My wife just bought a piece of 3D printed jewelry at the Renegade craft fair this weekend in Brooklyn. The guy doing it goes by:¬† )

    1. fredwilson

      3D printed jewelry is going to be a big deal

  17. Todd_Andelin

    dont forget about robotics in general…..robot arms can be bought and programmed to do pretty much anything…”Kuka” makes really great robotic arms.¬† and people have been really creative…just look at some youtube videos you will be amazed.¬†

  18. Ro Gupta

    just watched the Pixar documentary¬†… which had me thinking about this too

  19. uzodimma chiapa

    A wonderful connection between the two basic disciplines of human existence. 

  20. Joseph Flaherty

    John Lasseter the creative vision behind Pixar has a nice quote that sums up Pixar’s approach to this issue:”The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.”Ed Catmull, the technical side of the Pixar team gets deeper into it in this talk.…It seems to have worked well for them. In addition to the critical accolades and box office records they also do ~$5B in merchandise sales based on their IP every year.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks for that video

    2. annmarieshillito

      Hello Joseph, you managed to put into one phrase “The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.” that took me a whole paragraph in reply to Duann Scott. Should have read further!

  21. Denim Smith

    Well said.¬† Imagination is the seed to creating (both art and science) and for anything to exist (separately or together).¬† To me they aren’t separate at all, just in name.¬† Imagination brings things (art and science) to life through action – but the imagination does not concern itself with such definitions.¬† Both art and science evolve and have evolved because of the possibilities that are unbounded in our imaginations and this should always be the case.¬† Architecture is a great historical and modern example as well as cooking (molecular gastronomy), fashion, literature/language, fine and digital art, and all media and everything in-between.¬†Imagine, plan, imagine, create/ invent, finish, consume.¬† Rinse and repeat = a new starting point for us all to evolve from.¬† Science is pretty damn majestic, albeit typically thought of as boring and practical, useful, to serve a purpose, and not thought of as beautiful – but holy moly it really is when you think of how far we’ve come in such a short time.¬† The human imagination is a beautiful thing and there is almost 7 billion imaginations working concurrently today.

  22. Ryan G. Campbell

    This is one of my favorite posts. I think that Science and Art are absolutely essential components of society. With Science we can solve the problems here in society and with art we can appreciate the society we live in.

  23. Dave Pinsen

    A good friend of mine’s parents immigrated here from Eastern Europe (the father actually defected), and both went to Cooper Union. Both became engineers (the mother in telecom, the father in the oil industry). They’ve done well for themselves, as have their kids. I bet they’re big alumni donors.

  24. aweissman

    Funny Chris and I had the same conversation last night.¬† The quote “filmakers and software developers need to start sleeping together and it is starting to happen” comes from @JasonHirschhorn:twitter and is more fully:”Media and tech companies need to have sex together. A lot. Maybe get married, have kids. Once they have kids, their futures are linked.”

    1. Jason Hirschhorn

      and I’m a matchmaker ; – )

      1. fredwilson

        jeez, i missed the opportunity to quote Jason???that’s a bummer

  25. Matthew Tucker

    Sounds like to me.

  26. Adam Besvinick

    While I completely agree that science and art are two pillars in the NYC venture community and they are certainly merged in a number of USV’s portfolio companies, I think it’s important to look at these concepts in the actual building of a company. Oftentimes, a startup is much more art than science. Sure, the tech (science) has to be there, but art is equally critical. Being able to create a great company culture, positioning the startup, telling its story are all very much art over science.

  27. Abi Muller

    If you’re¬†interested¬†in the synthesis of Science and Art, read¬†G√∂del,¬†Escher,Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by¬†Douglas Hofstadter or if your a sound bit junkie …¬†¬†enjoy ūüėČ

    1. Ryanmatthewb

      Or James Joyce.

    2. fredwilson


  28. ShanaC

    People often forget that the actual name of the the Cooper Union is really The Cooper Union For The Advancement of Science and Art.People also forget that Peter Cooper didn’t have a college education at all. You can still see the house where he self educated himself in Old Bethpage, with his books.A friend of mine is a Cooper MA student (almost graduated fyi – does anyone know anyone who needs a MechE who already passed PE, with a speciality in sensors?). ¬†It is interesting – he’s really the only person I know who gets my obsession with code as art, and art as code.I really hope we’re moving more towards a period were people like me and him get to work more closely together, it is hard enough already to find people who “get” your thought process…



      1. Kenyan

        Agree. But it has taken me a long time to see beauty in science and technology. Coming from a strong arts background, science was always more intimidating….science/tech was always the functional thing I had to live with, rather than the created thing I could appreciate. Starting to see some beauty now. Any well made thing = beautiful.

        1. ShanaC

          I agree about technology being hard to see the beauty part (it tends to be hidden away)However – is all art¬†beautiful, or is some out there for shock value…and could the same be said of technology

      2. ShanaC

        I have found beauty in ugly art…not all art is meant to be craft-beauty.

    2. fredwilson

      etsy’s engineering blog is called Code As Craft gets to your point about code and art

      1. ShanaC

        ‘m not totally sure all art and all code is craft. ¬†There are craft elements behind it, but that doesn’t equal “crafted object” as opposed to “art object” ¬†I do think really pure code and really pure art (whatever that means) tends to lean towards “art object” as opposed to “craft object”All of this is reminding me that Cory Archangel is up at the Whitney-…He’s your type of guy

  29. Michael Diamant

    For whatever reason, NYC is one of the few places where your economic status has less influence on your social circle than “accomplishment” status. ¬†It creates a great social world where your circle of friends might include very wealthy entrepreneurs, struggling yet super talented artists and non-financially motivated public service folks dedicated to doing good. Where it’s not economic status that’s the common denominator but what you DO with your life. ¬†This is where art and and science (and finance) all meet on the same terms and do great things together.Maybe it’s because i’m a total NYer but when i go to LA (or London or Hong Kong) I find people socialize in circles that are much more often based on similar economic levels or social status, where meetings between ideas and capital are much more forced….

    1. fredwilson

      particularly downtown manhattan and the outer boroughs

  30. matthughes

    Seems like innovation with the greatest balance of science and art has the most lasting impact.

  31. paramendra

    The ying yang metaphor is apt. 

  32. Eunice Apia

    I was interested in taking classes at Copper Union until I saw the price tag. Urban Glass and 3rd Ward are two cheaper alternatives. 3rd Ward being the

  33. sachmo

    Word. ¬†I went to school here. ¬†It was a defining experience of my life. ¬†A *shit ton* of long hours of work – sadistic professors, and an almost entrepreneurial culture in the Electrical Engineering labs. ¬†Some amazing things were built when I was here.For our senior design project they gave $1000 and told us to just build something. ¬†We worked on a maze solving robot. ¬†Google ‘Micromouse’. ¬†It was pretty awesome.¬†This school is begging for an entrepreneurial mentor / presence. ¬†

    1. fredwilson

      how can i help? i love cooper union

      1. Joe Marchese

        Bloomberg is trying attract a higher ed institution to establish a world-class applied sciences school in Manhattan (see NYT, April 26). Duh… we have one, that plays to the city’s current and future strengths in design and technology. Granted, Cooper doesn’t have the scale or a brand outside¬†(or often within) Manhattan, but what a tradition on which to build. Rally the art and tech community to make Cooper Union that place. (Full disclosure: I’m a proud alum who just keeps feeling better about the education and the experience I had there.)

      2. sachmo

        I’m not entirely sure the best way to do so.¬†I know that for our senior capstone design projects we were given technical problems to solve, and a small amount of cash to solve it. ¬†A lot of kids did engineering analysis projects – i.e. FEA studies of say a combustion chamber. ¬†Some of the kids actually built stuff – like the formula racing team, or like some of the crazy, zany projects that came out of the Electrical Eng. labs (i.e. robotic brail reader). ¬†The ones who actually built stuff (no diss to the analysis people) are the ones to target.¬†If there had been an option to turn one of these ideas into a business, I know I would have been all about that. ¬†To build something – electro-mechanical let’s say – for the sake of product development, to actually start a business – that really would have gotten me into the startup world much earlier. ¬†I recommend this, not purely just from the student point of view, but also because I genuinely believe there is a gold-mine of entrepreneurial talent that just has not found a mentor.¬†When we got passionate about our projects, it consumed our waking lives for months on end. ¬†I wasn’t the only person like that, in fact most of the students there who actually built stuff had that mentality.¬†There is also an interesting interaction between the students who build stuff at the engineering school, and the artists who build stuff in the art school. ¬† The end of the year show – which occurs every May is a good place to see some of these projects.I guess as a first step I would suggest contact the Dean of Engineering, and seeing if he / she was open to the idea of having an outside financier support some carefully picked senior project proposals as a startup exercise. ¬†Maybe turn it into a ‘competition’ that Juniors apply to every summer. ¬†Winners receive the ‘Fred Wilson’ Award for excellence in Entrepreneurial Thinking and a small grant to explore their idea as a startup.¬†

  34. Duann Scott

    I was at the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) yesterday discussing the way in which 3D printing can bring together artists, engineers and business to create tangible results incredibly quickly, which can then be commercialized.What came up as important in the discussion was the value of cross disciplinary interaction. We need the artists for the abstract ideas and as cultural intermediaries, the engineers/designers to make the tools accessible/understandable and the business people to help commercialize to make the whole process financially sustainable.It is not necessarily the 3D printed product which may be the commercialized aspect in the end, but the tools created to solve problems along the way, be it an easy 3D modeling interface, a hack to a 3D printer or some other process otherwise unconsidered.Needless to say ANAT were very excited to have easy access to 3D printing via Shapeways. Read more: http://www.businessinsider….

    1. annmarieshillito

      I do agree that it is not necessarily 3D printing / 3D printed products which are a defining aspect in this discussion. These are part of the process and, scientists, technologists, designers and artists truly and fully collaborating, they can created the range of new tools that combine science and art to best enable artistic expression . Collaborating leads to greater understanding of different cognitive styles and innovative ways of working within the constraints of technology for usable tools now. Easy 3D modeling interface is a small bit towards enabling great art Рand models for 3D printing. Interaction needs to embrace familiar ways of working so that artists feel included and cognitive flow is not disrupted. See

  35. Mike G√°lvez

    Recently I have come to view the Taijitu (yin-yang) as being composed of three parts instead of two. If the art is the yin and science is the yang, then the circles or the graph in space represent the circular nature of philosophy. Lately this idea has been circling in my own musings: We must have a love of wisdom to maintain art that yearns for truth; art that yearns for truth to maintain a vision in science; clarity of vision in science to maintain a love of wisdom.I think if we look at human history we may liken the relationship between art and science to war as much as mutualism. We can see it in the way that mass production devalued artisan craftsmanship in the Luddite rebellion, and conversely in the way that mass production allowed masses of people to purchase cheap goods thereby empowering them with more free time for artistic ventures. I feel what must be stressed is a balance: a notion that every scientist is an artist and that every artist is a scientist and that in effectively, there was never a difference to begin with.If this topic is of particular interest to you, I would recommend Kevin Kelly’s “What Technology Wants”

  36. Ryanmatthewb

    For years I worked in offshore application outsourcing. When I think about the challenges we faced in global delivery models science and art reminds me of the differences in approach to app development between India and the US. In India and other parts of Asia software dev is treated like a science; very process driven and sometimes to a fault. In the US dev is much more a creative, individual, and artistic endeavor.

  37. EmilSt

    Science is the tool. Art is the goal.

  38. Tereza

    Being a living outcome of scientists and artists sleeping together, I can say that, yes, it is a good thing.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s cool¬†

  39. EmilSt

    Science is analyzing beauty. Art is creating beauty.

  40. Laura Yecies

    I believe that web technologies inherently facilitate a marrying of science (tech) and art.¬† Just look at all the studio/fine artists becoming web designers.¬† My sister-in-law’s brother Robert Weinstock is an example of this – wonderful painter, children’s book author/illustrator and website designer!¬†

  41. Alex Iskold

    Fred,Thanks for this post.To add to the great comments РVC is also a great example of a mix between science and art.As entrepreneurs we recognize and cherish both. Thank you for your continuous support, inspiration and encouragement to mix the art and science Рit does mix into magic.

    1. fredwilson

      great point alex

  42. Hrishi Mittal

    Great post, Fred. I didn’t know you guys invested in Shapeways. What an awesome company!Minor aside: The first link to Shapeways in your post links to canvas instead ūüôā¬†

    1. fredwilson

      oy. too many links in that post. i’ll fix it. thanks for finding that bug

  43. Julian Sametinger

    When speaking about the intersection of art, I instantly have to think of Goethe and his way of science. He drew together the intuitive awareness of art with the rigorous observation and linear thinking of science and as Peter Cooper was a member of the Goethe Club I’d guess he was somehow inspired by Goethe’s perception of science and art. (hidden hint: read Goethe)IMHO many VCs and entrepreneurs should adapt to that kind of thinking, as the former often lack the ability to grasp the artistic elements of an idea and hence dismiss a potential investment whereas the latter often lack the hardcore scientific approach of doing business. The really big ideas need both a dreamer and a scientist.

    1. fredwilson

      i will go read some goeth. thanks for the suggestion

  44. Dave W Baldwin

    FWIW- I’ve mentioned being a Mentor for our FTC Robotic Team.On the way back from the State Tourney, our youngest member Kendra was telling me how she wanted her sister to come on board next.¬† It probably wouldn’t happen.Turns out her sister is very much into Fashion Design and Art.¬† She is doing really great, considering she was in 8th Grade.So you have the one sis who’s technical the other arty.¬† I explained to her as time moves forward, she would see similarities, for to do the design in fashion and machine both require mathematics in order to achieve the smoothest flow¬†and solve the issue at hand.My advice to Kendra was to not place herself in a box that is all geeky while her sis is in a box that is all free minded… for the definition of boundaries will¬†continue to blur.¬†

  45. BuyGiftsItems

    True, technology can be a bridge and innovation catalyst betweenscience and art. We are becoming more expressive on the Internet due toall things being social.Salvage Motorcycles

  46. Frank Denbow

    As a dancer and developer I agree wholeheartedly. Each stimulates various parts of my mind that make me feel alive. Companies like embrace this balance between art and science well.¬†I’d love to see if art (in my case specifically music) can be used to inspire action or change in other aspects of life. After you get people committed and passionate about a piece of art, how to move that towards action? Do you think this is a valid idea?

  47. giffc

    If you haven’t seen the documentary on pixar (streaming on Netflix right now), I bet you would enjoy it. A wonderful mix of entrepreneurship, science/tech, and art (both visual and storytelling).

  48. Steven Kane

    nice postbut with that thinking, i would think you would be less hostile to patents and intellectual property protection for inventors, even software inventorsdo you think music should be public domain by default? how does music differ from software? say, if the composer doesn’t play or record his/her composition, just writes it?i’m not arguing patents vs copyrights. just the basic point that, given the huge risks involved, the creative class — that is, inventors and artsist — deserve to receive some basic enforcable ownership of their creative outputok, let the bombs start falling on my head…

  49. disqus_Wgn7sMStvm


  50. RooseveltIslander

    Great post on the intersection of science and art particularly in New York City. Did you know that NYC is seeking a first class applied science and engineering school and offering 4 potential city owned sites. The City hopes to be able to spin off new businesses resulting from the work undertaken at the schoolA Request for proposals will be issued this summer and hopefully a decision reached by the end of the year.Stanford University has made a proposal to build a Graduate school for computer and information sciences on Roosevelt Island which is in between Manhattan and Queens. It would¬†be fantastic to have Stanford University in NYC. Imagine what those students might come up with.…Coincidentally, regarding Shapeways a Roosevelt Island artist created 3D versions of the Roosevelt Island Tram using the Shapeway 3D printing process. The Tram is an aerial cabin that transports people between Roosevelt Island and Manhattan…

  51. Kirk Homeyer

    Loved this post and all the comments. Thanks, Fred.

  52. Jackie Meyer

    Everything that you buy, see, touch, use, goes through the hands of an artist. Whether and architect or a package designer or auto designer… is a science, and science is an art.Cooper Grad class of 77.

  53. John Petersen

    Great meeting you tonight. While I agree that starting a startup is more of an art in the beginning and more of a science as things time goes on, you definitely need both in all stages.If it is too much of an art in the beginning, you could build something beautiful that doesn’t solve any problems and that no one wants.If it is too much of a science in the later stages, you would lose that creativity and vision that will guide the company forward.As with almost all things, it’s all about balance.

  54. mdc/nyc

    I was moved to find this post. I graduated from the “art” side of that inscription in 1976, and in the midst of that East Village grunge, Bowery poverty and general malaise of a “doomed” NYC, that absurdly idealistic oath in massive letters often took me upwards with it. I would say that my most rewarding dialogues and friendships besides other painters were the physics and math students, but alas, around 1974 the school discontinued the degree programs in those areas to become wholly an Engineering program. It definitely impoverished the experience for me, as the attempts of the administration to get Engineers and artists (and architects, for that matter) to find some kind of common ground were fruitless. But of course, Engineering in those days was far more narrow. We have a good deal of soulless art these days, as it seeks the objectivity and rationalism of science, and I believe that we need a bit more chaos, dirt, and insanity some times to reveal beauty our race has overlooked. These qualities are inherently repulsive to most engineers, but probing scientific personalities know better. And finally, those scientist/artists of Peter Cooper’s era gave us the likes of Samuel F.B. Morse: keen observation, a fine hand and clean methodology for making pictures, but contrast his work with that of Albert Pinkham Ryder; I’ll take the latter.

  55. Grmitulet

    Hi,It’s an interesting subject I found on your page…¬†A lot of what it’s written here I was discussing with my colleagues – not so long time ago at my art college KABK The Hague (Holland).That’s the reason¬†I intend to publish this link¬†to my blog,¬†if you don’t mind.Greatingshttp://artbygratiela.blogsp…

  56. Steven Hodas

    As someone who was both a poetry major and a med student, I’ve always been interested in this distinction. It’s more helpful to consider differences between the habits of mind of art and science than the differences in their outputs. To me, it’s the¬†distinction¬†between divergent thinking and convergent. Art is divergent: it seeks to multiply (arti)facts. Science, OTOH, is convergent: it starts with multiple hypotheses or facts and seeks to winnow them down or reconcile them.To be a successful entrepreneur (and, I’d guess, a thoughtful VC) you need to engage in an ongoing dialog of convergent and divergent thinking, an iterative process that continually generates hypotheses (business models) and facts (products and services) while continually subjecting them to disproof.

  57. Evelyn Rodriguez

    Thanks so much for this post. The yin yang sentence was succinct and spot on.I graduated with a computer engineering degree; did computer graphics for aerospace applications for six years, and was questioning the wisdom of my career choices (it was meticulous, detail-oriented and I’m a big picture person) when the Internet came along. Its possibilities burst with a richness that I’d equate to art (mainly due to the people-connection aspects of it). Now, I’m much more of a poet (metaphorically, and literally), and wish to accentuate the interactive Internet as a medium in its own right (often creative writers use it to pitch other media only). Here’s to the tech+art alchemical wedding. Thanks.

  58. Wendy White

    Should also bode well for innovation and entrepreneurship in London as we have a similar intersection of science and arts in our industries and universities. I was lucky enough to study Computer Science at Imperial College and Future Textile Design at Central St Martins and experienced the collision of structured thinking and boundary breaking creativity.My old dept at CSM did a joint project between 5 Nobel prize winning scientists and 5 designers exploring the intersection of science and art.…Imperial College and Royal College of Art now do a unique joint MA in Innovation Design Engineering…If universities can continue to support courses and investors can increasingly fund businesses which seek to innovate using both disciplines it can only be beneficial to for our economy, culture and future of our children.

  59. Lukas Hartwich

    I’m glad an¬†influential¬†person like you has a fondness for art as much as science. ¬†I get worried when I hear people discounting the value of arts (e.g., Bill Gross’ -PIMCO version- latest piece). ¬†Both are important and both benefit from each other. ¬†It’s a classic example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

  60. dan_malven

    Any discussion of art and science has to include the theatrical play “Picasso at the Lapin Agile”. ¬†It was the first play ever written by Steve Martin. ¬†It’s in the genre of thought-provoking comedy and is about a fictional meeting between a young Pablo Picasso and a young Albert Einstein at a Paris bar (the Lapin Agile) in 1904, before either of them are really known to the world yet. ¬†Picasso represents art and Einstein represents science, and the play also introduces a character called Schmendiman, who represents commercialism.The dialog is about art, science, genius, love, sex and money, and one of the more humorous parts is that both Picasso and Einstein compete with each to win the affections of a young woman. ¬†Picasso woos her with a sketch drawn on a bar napkin while Einstein does it with E=MC**2 scribbled on a napkin (giving it to her with great dramatic flair on bended knee of course!).Picasso and Einstein find that they have so much in common and become fast friends, while Schmendiman is portrayed as a crass buffoon who really doesn’t add anything to the evening, but is just trying to figure out ways to make a buck. ¬†Somewhat depressing to think about for those of us in the business world!If you find the commonality between art and science interesting, I’d highly recommend experiencing this play. ¬†Google the title and you’ll find the plot, script and performances on wikipedia, youtube and a bunch of other places.

  61. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Let’s not even start on aviation.¬†This could get jingoistic/messy ūüėČ

  62. RichardF


  63. fredwilson

    right. it is a loop.

  64. Mark Essel

    That iterative process also reveals different truths for us as we rediscover old things that we took for granted. An example is correlation matrices.I used to take for granted singular value decomposition into eigenvalues and eigenvectors in order to do analysis on the structure of the data, or subspace projection to get pseudo inverses. It wasn’t until much later that I plotted the 3 sigma boundary of a 3D correlation matrix and saw the ellipse that I really got the whole eigenvector/eigenvalue thing. The axes are the eigenvectors, and the eigenvalues relate to their size.