What Scientists Can Learn From Ballet

Learning Empathy

Empathy is a key skill for innovators. Scientists need to empathize with their materials, and immerse themselves into the problems they seek to illuminate. Einstein visualized travelling astride a speeding light beam, and pondered what the world would look like if he traveled at the velocity of light. Nobel Laureate Barbara McClintock imagined being the genes of the corn plants she studied, even claiming to become their “friend”.


Dancers are masters of empathy. Ever since antiquity dancers have been great translators and purveyors of emotions and meaning. They inhabit music, characters, objects, and give life to them in front of our mesmerized eyes. We can learn from them. MacArthur Fellow John Cairns generated valuable insights about bacterial processes by dancing his experiments.