PORTRAITS OF SCIENCE
A journey reimagining heroes in the history of science
This work was created as part of my thesis research for a Master of Design degree at OCAD University which culminated in a solo exhibit in August 2012. The goal of the project was to create reimagined photographic representations of lesser-known figures in science history inspired by the mythology and narratives of popular science fiction and fantasy, serving as an entry point for a discussion on notions of recognition, fame and authorship in the contemporary world.
Portrayed by Pedro Bonatto de Castro.
This piece reimagines Landell de Moura, a Brazilian Catholic priest, scientist and inventor. He may have been the first to publicly demonstrate a radio broadcast of the human voice in 1900, though his contributions were largely neglected by the Brazilian government and press. He believed that the Church was not an enemy of science and fought to further the view of a compatibility between science and faith.
Portrayed by Anjelica Scannura. Body paint art by Natasha Kudashkina.
This portrait reimagines Greek astronomer, philosopher and poet Hypatia of Alexandria, who was the last director of the Alexandria Library. The body paint art refers to her design of a flat astrolabe, a navigation device based on the positions of stars which was consistently used for centuries after her death. For her views, she was accused of witchcraft and godlessness and killed by a mob of early Christians.
Portrayed by Simon Rose. Styling by Della Chiu.
This piece is my reimagining of British explorer and biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, who independently proposed a theory of evolution by natural selection. In fact, Charles Darwin was prompted to publish his work when he did due to Wallace’s independent discovery, which would revolutionize biology and contemporary Western thought.
Portrayed by Ian Huggins.
This piece reimagines Carl Sagan, an American astronomer who developed pioneering work in a number of fields, including planetary sciences, scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and science popularization. Sagan inspired a generation of scientists, engineers and artists to the wonders and importance of science.
Portrayed by Tatiana K.
This piece reimagines American astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, whose contribution provided a method for measuring the distances to faraway galaxies. Her work lead Edwin Hubble to discover the expansion of the Universe, a revolutionizing idea at the heart of contemporary cosmology.
Portrayed by Laura Atma.
This piece reimagines the first historical alchemist in the Western world, Maria Prophetissa. Though very little is known about Prophetissa, the invention of several chemical apparatus for sublimation and distillation used to this day are attributed to her.
Portrayed by Red Herring.
This piece reimagines Émilie du Châtelet, a French mathematician, physicist, and author during the Age of Enlightenment. Her translation on and commentary of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica is still considered the standard French translation. Voltaire, one of her lovers, declared in a letter to his friend King Frederick II of Prussia that du Châtelet was “a great man whose only fault was being a woman”.
Portrayed by David Clarkson.
This piece reimagines Percival Lowell, an American businessman, author, mathematician and astronomer who was fascinated with the possibility of life on Mars. The thought he saw evidence of canals on the red planet, and his drawings mapping these imagined structures fueled speculations that would influence the development of science fiction - starting with H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds.
Portrayed by K. B.
This piece reimagines English mathematician and writer Ada Lovelace, who is considered the world’s first computer programmer. The loom refers to her work on an earlier mechanical computer. She wrote the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine.
Portrayed by Anjelica Scannura.
This piece features my reimagining of Rosalind Franklin, a British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who made critical contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal and graphite. In fact, her work helped revolutionize our understanding of the very fabric of life, encoded in the genetic molecule structures in every living creature.
Portrayed by Veronika Radolovich.
This piece reimagines French-Polish physicist and chemist Marie Curie, who developed pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only woman to date to win in two fields. She discovered two elements, polonium and radium and was a pioneer in medical diagnosis using radiology.
Portrayed by Adam Smith.
This piece reimagines British astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks, who was the only person to predict the transit of Venus of 1639. The observation of this astronomical event helped measure the size and scale of the Solar System and it inspired a generation of astronomers in the following century to develop the first large-scale international scientific collaboration.
The exhibit was first shown in 2012 at the Graduate Student Gallery, in Toronto, Ontario. The photos were printed on 64x40in matte epson paper, mounted on gatorboards and hung from the celling.
You can read Pedro's Master's thesis about this work and the subject of the relationship of art and science in the context of popularization of science at this link.
Pedro Bonatto is a Brazilian-born fine art and commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. He is also a percussionist, specializing in Middle Eastern music. His latest photography series, The Orientalist, which features more than 50 dancers and musicians photographed in 3 three continents.