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The poetry of science


During the past year, I have taken part in an experiment in which I have been the experimental animal. I was awarded a fellowship that gave me the opportunity to take a sabbatical from science and spend a year in the School of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. The School of Literature and Creative Writing is internationally renowned, and past students include household names such as Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Trezza Azzopardi and Tracy Chevalier. I have a keen interest in creative writing and had written a few short stories. This was a formidable but thrilling challenge. During my adventure, I realized that, in many ways, I was coming home.

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Figure 1: Examples of art taken from See Saw, an anthology of artwork and poetry around science from children aged 4–12.


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  12. Osbourn, A., Pirrie, J., Nicholson, J., Holbeck, K. & Hogden, H. (eds) See Saw. An Anthology of Poetry and Artwork around Science by Children from Rockland St Mary County Primary School and Framingham Earl High School, Working with Matthew Sweeney and Jill Pirrie p 64 (the SAW Press, Norwich, 2005).

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I would like to express my gratitude to my mentor C. Scott (School of Literature and Creative Writing, University of East Anglia) for his continuing encouragement and support, E. Morgan and G. Szirtes for their thoughtful comments, the Science Photo Library and all those who took part in the SAW projects. I would also like to thank the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) and the Sainsbury Laboratory (my employer at the time) for giving me the opportunity to take this sabbatical, and the Branco Weiss 'Society in Science' Fellowship Foundation for supporting my continuing interests in interdisciplinary activities. Finally, I would like to thank my parents, with whom I have had many new and valuable conversations over the last year.

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Anne Osbourn's homepage

National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts

The SAW Trust (website under development)

School of Literature and Creative Writing, University of East Anglia

See Saw — an anthology of children's poetry and artwork around science

Branco Weiss 'Society in Science' Fellowships

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Osbourn, A. The poetry of science. Nat Rev Microbiol 4, 77–80 (2006).

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