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25 Most Stylish Bostonians of 2009 -- David Edwards

David Edwards (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff)
By Ami Albernaz
Globe Correspondent / November 5, 2009

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Name: David Edwards Age: 48

Occupation: Biomedical Engineering professor at Harvard; director of Le Laboratoire, an art-science collaborative center, in Paris and the new Laboratory at Harvard; cofounder of the Boston-based Cloud Foundation, an urban youth arts organization; author

What can artists and scientists learn from one another? One thing artists and scientists gain from interacting is that they change culture. Changing culture is fundamental to how we learn and create. If you look at the most interesting science that’s going on right now, it’s absolutely happening across cultures, where scientists are moving from math into biology or from whatever field into another field. It’s a truism right now that the biggest breakthroughs are happening in between disciplines.

Is there anyone who’s been particularly influential to you, in terms of bridging the art-science gap? I’ve been hugely influenced by many mentors along the way. I was very inspired by Bob Langer, who teaches at MIT. He’s very creative. He taught me something fundamental that I will always be indebted to: that what goes on in your mind can matter to the world.

What was it like working with kids through the Cloud Foundation? It’s been one of the most heartwarming things of my life. Several weeks ago we did a big event at the Boston Ballet where we had kids from around the city come after school, and we had this incredible two-hour experience that I never could have imagined. They’re all sitting on the floor, and I’m talking about art and design ideas at the edge of neuroinformatics, and any sort of textbook on how to handle Boston Public School high school kids would have said this would be a disaster. But they’re whistling, saying “yeah,’’ and sort of jumping up.

Is it inspiring to live and work in Paris part time? Paris is obviously a very beautiful city. From an architectural point of view, it does a good job of balancing the past and the present, and playing to some degree with the future. The building that [Le Laboratoire] is in was the birthplace of Cardinal Richelieu. It also housed a printing press. It has a really incredible history. It’s next to the Louvre. . . . All that is very inspiring. Getting back to the earlier conversation, I think moving between cultures, both literally and abstractly, is fabulous.

What’s your staple outfit? I enjoy designer jeans; clogs, often no socks; shirts, could be a T-shirt or a loose-fitting shirt; and often a jacket. That’s a very typical outfit for me. And I’m often more black than I’m not. My dress is such that I could go into an art exhibit or into my class and not be completely shocking in one environment or the other. And also, not overly self-conscious.

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