Scientists in Action: Front Door Iconography At The National Academy Of Sciences

As I’ve mentioned before I have been looking at the Einstein memorial on the grounds of the National Academy of Sciences as a interesting spot to think about science in public. In working on the project I have been trying to find points of comparison, other statues of scientists or presentations of scientists, ideally in a similar setting like the National Mall. The first point of comparison to consider is the iconography on the National Academy’s building.

Just as the placement, posing and popularity of the Einstein statue suggest interesting points to explore perceptions of science the etchings on the door and reliefs along the side of the building make suggestions about what science is. I’m not entirely sure what to do with them yet but, they are so engaging that I thought I would share them, and some first thoughts.

Each of the panels below tries to distill a scientist’s work and achievements into a few icons and actions. Each panel is stunning, but I’m not sure about how successful they are in representing the scientist and their accomplishments. I suppose there is not much you can do in less then a square foot of space to commemorate a scientist. Below I have tried to extract the gist of what each pane suggests scientists do. What is your take on these? Oh, and does anyone have a clue about what the four little icons surrounding each pane are about?

Galileo Galilei 1564-1642

  • Setting: Outside
  • Action: Pointing
  • Tools: Holding, but not using a telescope

Issac Newton 1643-1727

  • Setting: Unclear
  • Tools: Scroll
  • Action: Unclear, Is he looking at calculations and charting the orbit of the planets? Is he flying a kite?
  • Extra: Science involves awesome capes

James Watt 1736-1819

  • Setting: Sitting by some huge gears
  • Action: Cranking gears and taking notes while other guy looks on
  • Tools: Lever, or some sort of super wrench

Charles Lyell 1797-1875

  • Setting: Pedestal suggests some sort of museum setting
  • Action: Looking at striations in strata
  • Tools: Magnifying glass

Charles Darwin 1809-1882

  • Setting: Museum? Clearly there are mammoth bones, but what is the tower all about?
  • Action: Reading, possibly dosing off, and potentially skull gazing
  • Tools: Book and a skull

Louis Pasteur 1822 – 1895

  • Setting: Labish alterzone with draped statue on a pedestal
  • Action: Looking at a test tube, resting an arm on books,
  • Tools: Testube, might be a Bunsen burner
  • Extra: Only panel to include a table

Euclid and Aristotle are also on the door, but it is a bit tougher to get a good shot of them because they are way up top.

All of these images come courtisy of Flickr user sethgaines

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