Our History | Leonardo

Our History

Leonardo: Where Art, Science and Technology Converge

The journal Leonardo was founded in 1968 in Paris by kinetic artist and astronautical pioneer Frank Malina. Malina saw the need for a journal that would serve as an international channel of communication among artists, with emphasis on the writings of artists who use science and developing technologies in their work. Leonardo was first published by Pergamon Press Publishers 1968-1991. The publication of the print journal then moved to The MIT Press, where it continues to be published to this day, along with an MIT Press Leonardo Book Series. After the death of Frank Malina in 1981 and under the leadership of his son, Roger F. Malina, Leonardo moved to San Francisco, California, as the flagship journal of the newly founded nonprofit organization Leonardo/The International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology (Leonardo/ISAST). Leonardo/ISAST has grown along with its community and today is the leading organization for artists, scientists and others interested in the application of contemporary science and technology to the arts and music.

Leonardo's Beginnings

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.

The Leonardo Legacy

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 like Frank Oppenheimer, 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 (including early digital publications). 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.

The Leonardo Vision

Leonardo/ISAST continues to identify new avenues to serve the art, science and technology community. Recognizing that the critical global challenges of the 21st century require the mobilization and cross-fertilization of practitioners in the fields of the arts, sciences and technology, Leonardo/ISAST fosters collaborative explorations, both nationally and internationally, resulting in interdisciplinary projects, meetings and events, while disseminating and documenting the most creative and promising ideas of our time. After 50 years, the organization continues to evolve alongside the work and ideas of the artists, scientists, researchers, scholars and practitioners that together form the Leonardo Network.

Leonardo/ISAST is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The activities of Leonardo/ISAST are supported by grants and donations from organizations and individuals. Donations are tax deductible in the United States.