Falco to discuss the science of optics Feb. 16

Charles Falco, Ph.D., a physicist at the University of Arizona, contends that the great master painters of earlier centuries used optical aids to help them paint.

Charles Falco
Charles Falco

In his Assembly Series presentation, “The Science of Optics; The History of Art,” he will detail his findings about this controversial theory. The lecture will begin at 3 p.m. Feb. 16 in Steinberg Hall Auditorium.

If Falco’s theory is true, then artists were using optical aids centuries earlier than previously thought possible. This would account for the remarkable transformation in the reality of portraits produced in the 15th century.

He got the idea from reading artist David Hockney’s article in The New Yorker. Falco and Hockney began collaborating, studying hundreds of paintings and applying Falco’s scientific knowledge to the question.

Art of the motorcycle talk Feb. 16

Another subject that marries Falco’s interests in art and engineering is the motorcycle.

Because of his expertise in the subject, the Guggenheim Museum in New York tapped Falco as co-curator for its “The Art of the Motorcycle” exhibition in 1998. It was the most popular exhibition in the museum’s history.

Falco will give a presentation on the art of the motorcycle at 7 p.m. Feb. 16 in Graham Chapel. The talk is free and open to the public.

The answer, contends Falco, is that painters of the stature of van Eyck, Caravaggio, Velazquez and Vermeer used precursors of photographic cameras centuries before the invention of chemical processes to develop film in 1839.

Studying the question of optical aids and master artists of the Renaissance is only an avocation for Falco, who holds the chair of condensed matter physics and also serves as a professor of optical sciences at the University of Arizona. Since earning a doctorate in 1974, his research and scholarship have covered metallic superlattices, X-ray optics, magnetism, magno-optics, superconductivity, and nucleation and epitaxy of thin films.

Falco also is a fellow of the American Physical Society and is a member of the Optical Society of America and the International Society for Optical Engineering.

Assembly Series talks are free and open to the public. For more information, call 935-4620 or go online to wupa.wustl.edu/assembly.

Leave a Comment

Comments and respectful dialogue are encouraged, but content will be moderated. Please, no personal attacks, obscenity or profanity, selling of commercial products, or endorsements of political candidates or positions. We reserve the right to remove any inappropriate comments. We also cannot address individual medical concerns or provide medical advice in this forum.