At the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Council on Foundations, Walter Isaacson, the Chair and CEO of the Aspen Institute, gave an opening address that highlighted several groundbreaking thinkers who valued the arts, including Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and Ada Lovelace (the daughter of Lord Byron, who is credited as the world’s first computer programmer).
About Albert Einstein, Isaacson said, “His success came from his imagination, rebellious spirit, and his willingness to question authority. These are things the humanities teach….He had an artist’s visual imagination. He could visualize how equations were reflected in realities. As he once declared, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’”
About Ada Lovelace, Isaacson observed: “She was a romantic as well as a rationalist. The resulting combination produced in Ada a love for what she took to calling ‘poetical science,’ which linked her rebellious imagination to an enchantment with numbers… Ada’s great strength was her ability to appreciate the beauty of mathematics, something that eludes many people, including some who fancy themselves intellectual. She realized that math was a lovely language, one that describes the harmonies of the universe, and it could be poetic at times.”
“Human creativity involves values, aesthetic judgments, social emotions, personal consciousness, and yes, a moral sense.” Isaacson said. “These are what the arts and humanities teach us—and why those realms are as valuable to our education as science, technology, engineering, and math.”
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Photo of Walter Isaacson from Nonprofit Quarterly.