LEONARDO

International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology

  • On the cover: Krzysztof Wodiczko, Hiroshima Projection, 1999. (© Krzysztof Wodiczko. Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York.)
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Frank Malina, founder of Leonardo, was an American scientist. After receiving his PhD from the California Institute of Technology in 1936, Malina directed the WAC Corporal program that put the first rocket beyond the Earth's atmosphere. He co-founded and was the second director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), co-founded the Aerojet General Corporation and was an active participant in rocket-science development in the period leading up to and during World War II.

Invited to join the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) in 1947 by Julian Huxley, Malina moved to Paris as the director of the organization's science programs. The separation between science and the humanities was the subject of intense debate during the post-war period, particularly after the publication of C.P. Snow's Two Cultures in 1959. The concept that there was and should be a natural relationship between science and art fascinated Malina, eventually influencing him to synthesize his scientific experience with his long-standing artistic sensibilities. As an artist, Malina moved from traditional media to mesh, string and canvas constructions and finally to experiments with light, which led to his development of systems for kinetic painting.

In his work as a scientist and engineer, Malina had access to an abundance of scholarly periodicals that enabled peers in any given field to stay abreast of each other's work and to monitor important news developments. There was no equivalent publication for artists, so he decided to start one. The concept was simple—a publication by serious artists with subject integrity secured by the same kind of peer review of articles that is common in scientific journals. Malina felt that the demystification of modern art could, in part, be accomplished by the free exchange of information regarding artistic disciplines.

Following Frank Malina's death in 1981, Leonardo moved to California under the leadership of his son, Roger F. Malina, then an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley. With the support of founding board members Frank Oppenheimer and Robert Maxwell, the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology (Leonardo/ISAST) was formed in 1982. Leonardo/ISAST was created to address the rapidly expanding needs of the art, science and technology community, by participating in conferences, symposia, festivals, lecture series and awards programs, in addition to its various publishing activities. Over the years a number of working groups developed from the Leonardo Network to address the needs of artists and scientists interested in focused topics. Projects underway include the Space and the Arts Workshop series, the Leonardo Educators and Students Program, the YASMIN discussion list for artists working around the Mediterranean Rim, the Scientists Working Group, and the Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous (LASER) series.

Roger Malina served as Chairman of the Board for 26 years, committed both to the international focus of Leonardo/ISAST and to identifying and encouraging the "New Leonardos"—innovative creators around the world who work with art, science and technology. Malina continues today as Executive Editor of Leonardo and serves on the Leonardo/ISAST Board in the role of Chairman Emeritus.