What is simple science or art

The genius in science and art

Selected personalities from science and art are used to show what constitutes “geniuses” in general. From this a short theory of "genius" is developed, which works out both the similarities and the significant differences between artists and scientists. The speed of event processing in the human brain plays a decisive role in this.

Four tones, one theme: B-A-C-H, here the letters and their order stand for the tone sequence of a melody. No less a person than Johann Sebastian Bach himself set his own name to music. The B-A-C-H theme can be found towards the end of his "Art of the Fugue" [1] and in fugue No. 4 from the "Well-Tempered Clavier, Part 1". With the latter, Bach established the keyboard instrument tuning that is still used today. Since the leading instrument makers persisted in the old (medium-tone) tuning, Bach went over to the frontal attack. He played a piece in B major (with 5 crosses) on an organ owned by the famous Gottfried Silbermann, which sounds terrible because of the so-called "wolf fifths" in a mid-tone tuning, whereupon Silbermann tore the wig off Bach's head in a fit of rage [2].
Bach preferred the strict compositional form of the fugue, which is characterized by a high degree of logic in the structure. Here Bach celebrates true musical orgies by letting delightful melodies go up in a firework of mathematical operations, the genius of perfection.

The brilliant counterpoint to the perfectionist Bach is the universal genius Leonardo da Vinci. He is a painter, architect, engineer, scientist and inventor at the same time.
His famous paintings have a degree of perfection. In the »Annunciation« one can clearly see that Leonardo dominated the central perspective.

His inventions were also trend-setting. His shrapnel bomb cannon is one hell of a invention. Leonardo describes it himself as "the deadliest machine there is [...] the ball bursts in the center, it scatters the others that fire immediately, in the time span of an Ave Maria" [3a]. A special feature of the mechanical drive, the worm gear, was invented by Leonardo in an astonishingly precise way; it was finally built in the 18th century [3b]. Yes, Leonardo is said to have foresaw even the contemporary chain-drive bicycle with great detail [4].
This tremendouse range, from ingenious artists to ingenious technicians, has remained unique on earth, Leonardo da Vinci is the universal genius.


A similar ingenious type as Leonardo da Vinci, but coming from the side of science, is the multi-genius Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.
He studied law, natural sciences, philosophy and mathematics in Jena, where he was born and where he was born in Leipzig. At the age of twenty he did his doctorate in law and immediately turned down the appointment to professorship. He soon became a councilor at the Court of Appeal in Mainz [5a]. Here you can already see that Leibniz did not strive for a well-planned career; the full spirit breaks out and in, always with full intensity, from old to new areas of activity, the genius of versatility and energy.
So he, the child of the late Thirty Years' War, undertook the mighty attempt to mediate the reunification of the two Christian denominations, which neither he nor anyone else succeeded afterwards [6a].
Leibniz is the protagonist of our modern science. In mathematics he developed the infinitesimal calculus [7a], from whom our present integral symbol [7b] comes from; He also prepared the number system on which modern electronic computers depend. Leibniz said: "The binary characteristic is more perfect than the decimal or any other characteristic" [6b, 8a]. So he built a calculating machine [7c, 8b], which he was able to sell in small numbers to tax authorities.
With his monadology [5b, 9a, 10, 11], the philosopher Leibniz created an approach that was taken up again by Einstein a good 200 years later in modern physics - namely the idea that units of being (the monads) without mutual Influence (in the pre-established harmony) harmonize and thus each individual represents a mirror of the entire universe.

Leibniz knows no borders, thinks big: With the participation of the most important scientists worldwide, he is striving for the universal academy, including China [6c]. The time was not ripe for this, however, after all he succeeded in founding the Academy of Sciences in Berlin, and later that of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. He also suggested the establishment of further academies in Petersburg and Vienna. The first German scientific journal "Acta Eruditorum" was published in 1682 - by Leibniz, of course [5c]. In the last years of his life he was showered with honors and awards, he even became a baron of the Reich. But at his funeral, his employer, the Hof von Hanover, stayed away [9b] ​​- the logical parallel to the genius Mozart.


Why is it that Goethe in particular is quoted at every opportunity when there are plenty of other writers? It cannot be the expressiveness of language alone, others have that too. Obviously, he succeeds particularly well in the individual approach to each one. That presupposes that he knows the human well and Goethe was its master, nothing human was alien to him, the old grief. A high degree of realism enabled him to do this, which is probably what constitutes his specific genius: a fervent, realistic artist with a strong tendency towards science. He is a keen observer, so Goethe already recognizes and describes the evolution in the plant and animal kingdoms [12]. But he sees things through the eyes of the artist. This is how his criticism of the scientific method should be understood, which should also give the scientist thought-provoking and which Goethe formulated in his theory of colors [13]:

"We consider the error committed in natural research to be very large, namely that a derived phenomenon is placed in the upper position and the original phenomenon in the lower position."

One cannot leave Goethe without having brought at least a very short poem that allows the scholar-artist to understand better than all attempts at explanation:

"You happy eyes,
What you've ever seen
As it may
It was so nice "

And now to the ingenious inventions that shaped the world of our time with the greatest consequences: the engines. They are the basis for all industrial drives, transport and traffic, and thus in turn for today's mobility of people.

a traveling salesman in Cologne, developed the gas engine through compression and magneto-electric breakaway ignition into a safe four-stroke engine and founded the Deutz AG gas engine factory near Cologne. When business was going well, the legal counter-blow came right away. Otto's rights were fought and almost completely destroyed in numerous patent lawsuits.

came up with his inventive goal during a lecture at Linde on thermodynamics: higher efficiency through higher heat gradient; the simultaneous pressure increase in the fuel / air mixture causes auto-ignition.
The diesel engine began its triumphant advance. Diesel was also mercilessly covered with patent litigation. He escaped the violent attacks by suicide. During a trip to England he drowned in the English Channel.
Two further revolutionary inventions that shaped the present day were the fast data transmission and the generation of high-voltage current, which made all electrical engineering possible in the first place.

After thorough scientific and technical training in the military and many years of activity where he made it to the position of artillery lieutenant, Siemens [16] recognized the lucrative future market of telegraphy, i.e. fast data transmission. Together with his brothers, he built the Prussian and Russian telegraph lines, with his English company the London-Tehran-Calcutta line and laid the first transatlantic cable from Ireland to America after the American Civil War. Siemens invented the pointer telegraph.
His greatest and most momentous invention was probably the dynamo machine based on the electrodynamic principle. Only then was economical high-voltage technology, i.e. electric current as an energy carrier, possible. In Berlin he presented the first electric train.
In the patent system he showed a more skilful hand than Otto and Diesel: The first German patent law was created on the basis of his proposals. Siemens was the first engineer to be a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences founded by Leibniz.

In the middle of World War I, during the mighty material battles, Einstein [17] found deeply hidden cosmic harmonies with the basic equations of the general relativity theory: "I believe in a God who reveals himself in the harmony of beings". In doing so, he precisely described the pre-established harmony of the monads in Leibniz's philosophy and continued this line of thought after 200 years.
In the Prussian cultural scene they were flexible enough to realize suitable appointments for the unconventional individualist Einstein. In addition to the professorship at the university, he was director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics. In addition, he was released from any lecture obligation.
He commented on Heisenberg's quantum mechanics as follows: “Heisenberg laid a large quantum egg. In Göttingen they believe in it (I don't!) «. Einstein then reached for the stars; he tried the unified field theory, which should bring the physical sub-areas gravitation, electromagnetism and, more recently, strong and weak interactions under one roof. This has not yet been achieved; Stephen Hawking is currently working intensively on it.
Einstein's activities in politics were in themselves very polarizing: for many years he campaigned for pacifism, later called on President Roosevelt to build the atomic bomb in order to demonstrate against nuclear war even before it was used. Perhaps it wasn't as contradicting as it might seem at first glance. Einstein could also be seen as the mastermind of the nuclear deterrent strategy. In any case, his political activities put him under pressure: His murder was planned, the provable incitement to it was punished by the judiciary with a fine of $ 6 [18] - that was probably the social value of a genius. Einstein's own assessment of his political activities in later years: "Equations are more important to me because politics is for the present, but an equation for eternity."
The possibility of obtaining huge amounts of energy, which can be derived from Einstein’s mass-energy relationship, was now in the air. The way went through nuclear fission. Significantly, the first nuclear fission was not carried out by physicists, but by the chemist Otto Hahn. The chemist likes to experiment, even if he sometimes does not know exactly what he is doing; but mostly he gets it right intuitively. Hahn's colleague of many years, the atomic physicist Lise Meitner, was responsible for interpreting the theory [19].

Justus von Liebig is a very solid representative of the ingenious guild. He put the income from his literary work into his chemical research without hesitation, even if he had not yet performed the related services [20, 21].
Liebig is quite successful in preventing a silhouette from being drawn. We want to try anyway. After he had successfully withstood all the efforts of his parents to bring school or apprenticeship to a proper degree, he whined until he, at the age of 17, was able to study chemistry in Bonn (that was also possible without a school leaving certificate at the time). Young Liebig was a good student: he demonstrated and rioted; after the police searched his house, he preferred to flee; his teacher Kastner, the most famous German chemist of the time, got him a scholarship to Paris. In the meantime Liebig received his doctorate “in absentia” in Erlangen. His subject:

"About the relationship between mineral chemistry and plant chemistry"

Real music of the future! At the suggestion of Alexander von Humboldt, and against the will of the university, he was appointed by the government as an associate professor in Giessen. He effortlessly withdrew the receiver from the professor there, Mr. Zimmermann, whereupon he sought and found his premature end in the river Lahn. Liebig's feats were:

1) The reform of higher education through the introduction of internships with predetermined learning objectives based on a curriculum.

2) Elemental analysis: Liebig made routine out of previous art.

3) The fertilization theory: The elementary analyzes of dried plants and their ashes showed that the components of the latter have to be replaced again: The idea of ​​fertilizer was born. Liebig: »Manure can be replaced with mineral components«. How right he was is proven by the annual 100,000,000 t of nitrogen that is converted using the Haber-Bosch process. With this, Liebig achieved the economic breakthrough in world nutrition, and consequently the agrarian revolution!

4) Liebig made a social breakthrough possible with his work on meat extract, baby food, baking powder, coffee substitutes, etc. In particular, he relieved working women with families by significantly reducing the effort involved in preparing meals: the time of fast meals had dawned. Liebig summarized these activities in his Liebig Company.

Liebig is the genius of the chemical dimension, he is at the same time an ingenious scientist in teaching and research, an ingenious, science-oriented businessman, similar to Siemens, and the giant lever who solved the world problem No. 1 at the time, the nutrition of mankind, with simple means.

In this way Liebig had become a thoroughly sober person, despite or perhaps because of his eventful youth. He clearly saw the feedback from the achievements of applied science to pure science; Liebig [22a]:

"Through the inventions of people in trades, industry, medicine, mechanics, and astronomy, facts are acquired which are indispensable for the later development of science."

Mystifying alchemy was also alien to him; Liebig [22b]:

"Alchemy has never been anything other than chemistry."

In one criminal case, as an expert, he corrected the establishment of the truth through sober considerations and brought about a change in a legal practice that was customary at the time [21b]:
A Countess v. One morning Görlitz was found dead under her desk in her boudoir. Both were burned and partially charred. The countess's servant was accused of murder. Its defense brought a standard discharge that was tried and tested at the time into the field: Ms. v. Görlitz had drunk heavily, her alcohol-soaked body had self-ignited and also made the desk burn. Liebig explained that the human body consists of three quarters of water and therefore cannot get hotter than the boiling point of water, although this temperature is several hundred degrees below that required to ignite alcohol. Nor can the body burn until the water has evaporated from it. This, in turn, cannot happen without the supply of heat from the outside - so it was undoubtedly a murder, the countess fell asleep in front of her secretary and was then burned in her sleep.

The architecture student August Kekulé was an eyewitness to the process and was so fascinated by Liebig that he turned to studying chemistry.

So what actually makes a genius?
It is probably easier, one approaches the question from the point of view of art:

The true artist sets thoughts.

This statement includes two main characteristics of genius: First, it must have a top-class idea, but some others have that too; on the other hand, it must be able to articulate and enforce this idea and, if this is not possible, at least bring it into such a form that it can come back to life at some point. (Let us remember Leonardo's inventions, some of which were not realized until centuries later. Leibniz's Monadology and Bach's music fared similar). We have already come across the third and most important quality of genius - the attribute pioneering. It is only with the far-sighted idea, the creative act, that the genius sets himself apart from the gifted, the talent. Talent replaces genius with perfected mediocrity.

Because the genius is forward-looking, it almost automatically excludes itself from the others, since everything forward-looking is incomprehensible and inconvenient and is dismissed by the ingenious as unimportant to nonsensical, at least as superfluous, probably because he does not want to deal with it or neither can, because he is unable to understand the forward-looking idea.In this case, aggression also arises: The non-genius assumes incompetence of the genius, which is why life as a genius is extremely uncomfortable.

Logically, an idea that is not inherent in the system cannot be expressed inherently in the system: The genius is usually forced to enforce his ideas against the professional world, which requires unconventional methods. This non-conformism, by which one can recognize geniuses so easily, is therefore not a quirk, but a necessary life strategy. Another main characteristic now comes almost automatically, geniuses are extremely versatile, they set several goals, which they work on at the same time. What has been said applies to artists and scientists alike. What is the difference between them? It's the method, the way of understanding and expressing things:

The artist sees the whole, the scientist sees the parts.

With Goethe we had already got to know the artist's criticism of the scientific method of putting the overall picture aside [13]. In contrast, the scientist Liebig makes the ability of an observer downright dependent on seeing the parts as a whole [21a].

“In this sense, we consider the error committed in natural research to be very great, namely that a derived phenomenon is placed in the upper position, the original phenomenon in the lower position, and even the derived phenomenon is turned upside down and in it the composite is a simple thing that accepted the simple as a compound; through which backstairs the strangest entanglements and confusions have come into the doctrine of nature, from which it still suffers. "

J.W. v. Goethe

“There is no art as difficult as the art of observation; It requires a well-educated, sober mind and well-trained experience, which can only be acquired through practice; for the observer is not the one who sees the thing in front of him with his eyes, but the one who sees what parts the thing consists of and how the parts are related to the whole. "

J. v. Dear

Scientific knowledge is presented in logical steps, i.e. understandable parts of the overall phenomenon. In contrast, art seeks to convey the overall phenomenon in one fell swoop, so to speak. The purely intellectual receptivity of the human being is hopelessly overwhelmed by this, however, the human being has possibilities of perception in his senses, which can easily process more compressed information packages and which art uses to convey its messages.

[1] Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht, Johann Sebastian Bach, in: The Great, Vol. VI / 1; Edited by Kurt Faßmann, Kindler Verlag, Zurich, 1977, p. 394.
[2] Gertrud Loos, Tempered Mood, - a musical compromise, supplement to the record "The Well-Tempered Clavier, Part One", Odeon, order no. O80605S.
[3] Ludwig H. Heydenreich, Bern Dibner, Ladislao Reti, Leonardo the inventor, Belser Verlag, Stuttgart, Zurich, 1987; a) p. 122; b) p. 162.
[4] Carlo Zammattio, Augusto Marinoni, Anna Maria Brizio, Leonardo the Researcher, Belser Verlag, Stuttgart, Zurich, 1987, p. 154.
[5] Gerhard Kropp, Philosophy, Verlag Lebendigen Wissens (Humboldt Taschenbücher), Munich, 2nd ed .; a) p. 69; b) p. 72; c) page 70.
[6] E. Hugo Fischer, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, in: Die Grosse, Vol. VI / 1, Ed. Kurt Faßmann, Kindler Verlag, Zurich, 1977; a) p. 223; b) p. 221; c) p. 225.
[7] Large Handbook of Mathematics, edited by W. Gellert, H. Küstner, M. Hellwich, H. Küstner, Buch und Zeit Verlagsges., Cologne, 1970; a) p. 414; b) p. 456; c) pp. 678, 778.
[8] Knaur's large book of mathematics, edited by Richard Knerr, Lexicographical Institute, Munich, 1989; a) p. 130; b) p. 576.
[9] Friedrich Heer, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Fischer Bücherei, Frankfurt, Hamburg, 1958; a) p. 130; b) p. 7.
[10] Hans Heinz Holz, Leibniz, Verlag W. Kohlhammer (Urban Books), Stuttgart, 1958, p. 29.
[11] Karl Vorländer, Philosophy of Modern Times (in Rowohlt's German encyclopedia), Rowohlt, Hamburg, 1966, p. 76.
[12] Leo Krell, Leonhard Fiedler, Deutsche Literaturgeschichte, Buchners Verlag, Bamberg, 1962, p. 182.
[13] Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, On the theory of colors, didactic part, second section, physical colors, chapter 176.
[14] Gustav Goldbeck, Nikolaus August Otto, in: The Great, Vol. VIII / 2; Edited by Kurt Faßmann, Kindler Verlag, Zurich, 1977, pp. 582-595.
[15] Kurt Schnauffer, Rudolf Diesel, ibid, Vol. IX / 1, pp. 344-363.
[16] Sigfrid von Weiher, Werner von Siemens, ibid, Vol. VIII / 1, pp. 174-185.
[17] Armin Hermann, Albert Einstein, ibid, Vol. XI / 1, pp. 14-33.
[18] Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time, Rowohlt Verlag, Hamburg, 1988, p. 220.
[19] Exhibition "Lise Meitner, Life and Work of an Atomic Physicist" at the Lise Meitner Gymnasium in Böblingen, March 23 - April 3, 1987.
[20] Otto Krätz, Justus Liebig, in: Die Große, Vol. VII / 2; Ed. Kurt Faßmann, Kindler Verlag, Zurich, 1977, pp. 692-707.
[21] Jacob Volhard, Justus von Liebig, Vol. I, Verlag Johann Ambrosius Barth, Leipzig, 1909; a) p. 382; b) pp. 177-179.
[22] Wilhelm Strube, The historical path of chemistry, VEB German publishing house for basic industry, Leipzig, 1976; a) p. 109; b) p. 82.