Examples of visual art inspiring science

Following my last post, "Visual art leading research - it's not happening", I thought it may be useful to compile a list of examples of visual art -painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, collage- that directly influenced the course of scientific research somehow.

I would love to hear of any more!

Triceratops butting heads.
Inspired by scientific illustrator Bill Parsons and others.
Research subsequently done by Andrew Farke to detemine whether or not triceratops could butt heads together as scientific illustrations commonly suggest. Andy suggested this example to me here.

Medieval Islamic Architecture decoration and Penrose Tilings.
Found in medieval Islamic architecture, and described by Peter J. Lu and Paul J. Steinhardt. They realized that these tiles pre-date the "Penrose Tilings" discovered by Roger Penrose in the 1970's by about 500 years.  This example isn't a direct-link of visual art leading research, however, since the significance of the geometry was only noted by Lu and Steinhardt after Penrose investigated the pattern. I think it shows how visual art can possibly lead to fruitful areas of research.

Painting with penicillin: Alexander Fleming.
Possibly inspired by the syphilis-stricken artists he cared for, Fleming began to paint with bacteria when he wasn't using watercolours.  The pattern that emerged, a dark sun, led to his discovery of antibiotics. Article by Rob Dunn, Smithsonian Magazine. Suggested to me by science-artist James King.

Are there more?

* Please note: the opposite phenomena, namely artists being influenced by science is much, much more common, even though our modern culture often suggests that art + science are separate cultural realms. I'm not specifically searching for those examples here.  For that, I maintain a Science-Artists Feed.


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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow