As Albert Einstein once said, “The greatest scientists are artists as well.” The work a scientist does in a laboratory is obviously quite different from the work an artist does in a studio, yet the premise is quite the same. In the scientific environment, a person is questioning. He or she is questioning what they do not understand in the natural world. Many people in the world believe that the work of scientists requires very little creativity or imagination, yet that is the whole basis of experimentation in the scientific community. When a scientist conducts an experiment, they are not looking for a yes or no answer to a question and when an experiment is conducting a scientist is not looking for an answer that they will be able to memorize. Instead, when an experiment is conducting a scientist or group of scientists are on a quest to better understand the natural world.
Teachers often have students self-design their own labs in order to foster creativity in the classroom. By having a group of students design their own labs, they will begin to ask their own questions about what they do not understand and also begin to either slowly answer those questions or perhaps begin to ask more questions. This shows just how much science relies on creativity. Even within the walls of a ninth grade science classroom, students are questioning and furthering their learning by asking questions and imagining. When analyzing experiments beyond the walls of a high school, the same concept applies. When looking at Gregor Mendel’s experiment which involved the study of pea plants and their color differences, creativity is what holds the experiment together. Mendel originally started his research by questioning why mice varied in color, but changed his study group to pea plants because of how quickly they can reproduce. Mendel’s experiment was creative in two ways, first of all Mendel was able to break down something very complex into something into something far more basic so he was able to look at the basic principles. A second way his experiment was creative was that he first used a very simple model to study genetics instead of looking at a very complicated model like a human. Some may label this as lazy, but in fact it is quite the opposite. By starting with a more simple case, he was able to create a model that could then be applied to more complicated cases. This shows how creativity is involved in both the most basic scientific experiments designed, as well as some of the most complicated experiments and how important it is for the advancement of science.
Another example of creativity being beyond important in the science world is the development of the Human Genome Project and what has lead up to that point. In 1951-1952, Rosalind Franklin discovered the crystalline structure of DNA. After that discovery, Watson & Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA. This discovery and the ultimate development of the Human Genome Project was all possible because of the way they worked together and because of the questions they asked. Arguably the most important discovery in biological history happened because of a few scientists questioning something they did not understand. Their creativity fueled their experiments and would not have been possible without it. A final example of the importance of creativity is the development of the Endosymbiont Theory. This theory was developed by Lynn Margulis and was sparked when she questioned the differences between prokaryotic cells and eukaryotic cells. Margulis eventually came up with the theory that two prokaryotic cells came together and became dependent on each other and could no longer survive apart. This therefore created the eukaryotic cell. Her ability to question what she did not understand and what had never been explained to her shows her creativity and how much of a role it plays in science and experimentation in general.Those who do not believe that science and experimentation is driven by creativity see experiments as a step-by-step procedure that likely has one answer at the end. Those of us that have conducted experiments in any capacity know that experiments very rarely come out how you expect them to. Most of the time an experiment simply leads you to more questions and you never really end up answering your original question. The experiment does not lead you to a yes or no answer. It leads to more of a “hm I wonder what would happen if I changed this variable.” It leads to one question after another to try and explain parts of the natural world. Experiments send scientists on a quest to try and solve the mysteries of the unknown. No, you will not be able to predict and memorize the answer to the question you asked, but you just might find yourself a little bit closer to finding the answer of the question you asked.
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