Did the Victorians get the sci-art mix perfect?

August 29, 2011

Eric Schmidt giving the
annual MacTaggart lecture

The Guardian this week brought us all the action from the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, including a hard-hitting lecture from Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, who delivered a scathing critique of the UK education system at the annual MacTaggart lecture. Eric spoke of it’s failure to make the most of the country’s record of innovation in computing and engineering (having invented the TV, photography and the computer both in thoery and practice) and highlighted the lack of support for bringing the sciences and arts back together in schools.

While Eric has since recieved criticism for drawing ‘naive conclusions’, he has also generated support for his back-to-the-abacus way of thinking. Schmidt said:

‘Over the past century, the UK has stopped nurturing its polymaths. You need to bring art and science back together. [The Victorian era] was a time when the same people wrote poetry and built bridges – Lewis Carroll didn’t just write one of the classic fairytales of all time. He was also a mathematics tutor at Oxford. James Clerk Maxwell was described by Einstein as among the best physicists since Newton – but was also a published poet.’

Lewis Carroll

The Guardian article generated some interesting discussion in the comments section and while they are by no means all positive, it is good to see people talking about what is important in schools and debating whether it is possible or necesary to return to a Victorian-style education system.

The Guardian collated some of the most well-informed comments in a follow-up article if you’re interested. It’s great to see the Guardian picking up interest in bridging the arts and sciences divide.

2 Comments

  1. Great post! Thanks for bringing my attention to the Guardian article. I am a strong advocate for merging art and science disciplines. Have you read the Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes? It’s a great exploration of the fusion of art and science in the Romantic era. It’s still early days of the blog, but I write about the intersection of art and science at brainonholiday.com.

  2. Thanks very much! I have read Age of Wonder, yes, it’s a great read!

    Your blog looks like it’s taking shape – you have some good posts! Good luck with it! Do you have a twitter account for it? If not, you ought to – there are lots of sciartists on there! x

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