“Give to Nature praise and honor, blithe of heart and sound of eye, knowing for the world of colour, where its broad foundations lie.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
"All nature,” wrote Goethe, “manifests by means of colours to the sense of sight.” Moving away from the conventional mechanistic approach to science, Goethe approached the natural world as phenomenological, focusing on light, relationality, clouds, weather, plants, color. He emphasized that experience (or sensation) between the observer and the observed was central to a true interpretation of nature. Goethe’s Color Wheel, the physical representation of his theory of color is the symbol of the Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study. The image manifests this phenomenology between humans and their natural world, and this interface of art, science, and the human experience is by definition the highest form of polymathy. A panel of experts will explore the history and utility of Goethe’s theory of color and his Color Wheel, to help us understand, in ways that formal science does not, the relationship between us humans and our natural world.
Robin Romans, Associate Provost
Nancy Lutkehaus, Professor of Anthropology, Gender Studies, and Political Science
Margaret Wertheim, Director, Institute for Figuring and science writer
Moderated by Edwin McCann, Professor of Philosophy and English
Dr. Robin Romans serves as Associate Provost at the University of Southern California. On behalf of the Provost, he oversees the USC Arts and Humanities Initiative; administers all processes related to the university’s accreditation through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC); and, manages USC’s strategic planning process. Romans also serves as the Provost’s liaison to USC Arts, a collaboration of USC’s five arts deans (Architecture, Cinematic Arts, Fine Arts, Music, and Theatre), and to the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study, for which he wrote the original proposal in 2009. He also directs the Progressive Degree Program, which allows students to earn a master’s degree in as little as one year beyond the bachelor’s degree, and provides support for the Renaissance, Global, and Discovery Scholars programs, which promote excellence in interdisciplinary studies, global studies, and undergraduate research.
Before moving to the Provost's Office, Romans directed USC's prestigious Thematic Option Honors Program, and served as Assistant Dean of Admission and Honors Programs in the Dornsife College. There he developed undergraduate research opportunities, new honors programs, and was charged with restructuring the Office of College Admission. He represented Dornsife at all major in-state and out-of-state recruitment events.
Romans earned his doctorate at USC. He teaches undergraduate courses in Political Science, Gender Studies, and General Education, including Ideology and Political Conflict; Sex, Power, and Politics; American Political Thought; and, Body Issues. His teaching interests include classical political thought, Enlightenment thought, Liberalism, Marxism, feminism, and contemporary political thought. He also serves as President of USC's Epsilon Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
Nancy Lutkehaus is professor of anthropology, gender studies, & political science at USC and co-director of USC’s Center for Visual Anthropology. Her research interests include Melanesian gender relations, political and economic anthropology, religion, and the history of anthropology. In addition to her regional interest in Oceania, she has conducted research on the role of community-based organizations in Kenya concerned with homeless adolescent girls and HIV/AIDS. She recently published Margaret Mead: The Making of an American Icon (2008), a cultural history of the anthropologist Margaret Mead and her engagement with American media. She is currently writing a book about the cultural history of the display of non-Western art in American fine art museums. A polymathic practitioner, in addition to her printed work, she also made a video “'Finishing 'Apui's Name': Death and Mortuary Ritual on Manam Island.”
Margaret Wertheim is the director and co-founder of the Institute for Figuring, and USC Libraries' 2011-2012 Discovery Fellow. As the Discovery Fellow, Wertheim oversaw the construction of the Mosely Snowflake Sponge, a fractal constructed from over 50,000 business cards. She is a science writer, artist, historian of science, and exhibition curator. Her books include Pythagoras' Trousers, a history of the relationship between physics and religion in Western culture, and The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet. She has written for the LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times, and New York Times. The Institute for Figuring explores the poetic and aesthetic aspects of science. A recent major project is the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, which was exhibited in fall 2010 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
A philosopher, literary scholar, and historian, Professor Ed McCann’s research interests center in the history of modern philosophy, especially Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Newton, Kant, and the great early 20th century polymath Ludwig Wittgenstein. One example of his innovative approach to philosophical and historical inquiry, Professor McCann guides his students to view trials as crucial indicators of society coming to terms with threatening concepts and their implications. Professor McCann is a treasure-trove of knowledge who patiently walks students through not only the complex historical conditions, but also the intellectual climate of each era.