Putting STEAM into STEM: Arts Foster Scientific Success

Presented by: Robert Root-Bernstein

Some policy makers have begun to call for the arts to be added to STEM subjects to give them STEAM. Our study provides support for adding arts and crafts talent to STEM education. All available autobiographies, biographies, and obituary notices of Nobel prizewinners in the sciences, members of the Royal Society, and the U. S. National Academy of Sciences were read and adult arts and crafts avocations tabulated. Data were compared with a 1936 avocation survey of Sigma Xi members and a 1982 survey of arts avocations among the U. S. public. Nobel laureates are at least twice as likely to be photographers as Sigma Xi members, four times more likely to be musicians, more than 15 times more likely to be artists and craftsmen, and more than 20 times more likely to be writers or performers. Members of the Royal Society and National Academy had avocational rates that fell between the Nobel and Sigma Xi rates. More importantly, scientists and their biographers often commented on the utility of their avocations as stimuli for their science. The marginalization of arts and crafts in school curricula may therefore harm training for scientists and engineers.