Ian McEwan on originality in science and the arts

Filed under: Fiction

A recording of Ian McEwan discussing originality in science and in the arts, chaired by Richard Fortey.

Originality in science is synonymous with being first; originality in the arts is somewhat different. At what point do these two creative endeavours overlap? Ian McEwan is a novelist who has often taken science as a subject: Enduring Love was about a science writer, Saturday about a brain surgeon. His latest novel, Solar, is about global warming and its protagonist is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who has given up original work to enjoy his own celebrity. McEwan’s first book, the short stories First Love, Last Rites, was hailed for ‘an originality astonishing for a young man still in his twenties’. Yet original work by scientists is most often achieved while they are still young: do they develop differently? Richard Fortey’s original work is on fossils. He is a research palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum whose books include Trilobite!, shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, and Earth: an intimate history. A Fellow both of the Royal Society and of the Royal Society of Literature, he is a former President of the Geological Society of London.

We are grateful to the Royal Literary Fund for sponsoring this lecture.

Recorded on Monday 10 May 2010.

Related RSL Fellows

Richard Fortey 2009
Ian McEwan 1983