The Musisci List

by Eva Amsen

In the music and science survey earlier this year, I asked people to “name a musisci”. More than half of the participants answered this question, and several people gave more than one answer. Some were obvious jokes (Olivia “Newton” John; Obama), others I had to check, and some wrote out their answer as a phrase instead of a name, so it took me a while to fully process. I  interpreted “that guy from Queen” as “Brian May”, combined “Girl Talk” and “Gregg Gillis” as one answer, merged all the “Richard Feynman” and “Feynman” answers, split “The Brians May and Cox” into their two respective answers, fixed a few spelling mistakes, and capitalized all names.

I wasn’t able to extract a name out of every answer. I suspect “the guy who invented the Korg” might refer to Bob Moog, but I didn’t count that. I also didn’t know who “my high school biology teacher” referred to, and I even had to discount a mention of the musisci family “Herschel” because I didn’t want to blindly assume it was about William and not his sister Caroline.

Other than the Herschels, the list contains another musical sibling pair (Helen and Kat Arney), one fictional musisci (Sherlock Holmes), and four or five of the names on the list are people who took the survey themselves, but NONE of them listed themselves as musisci example!

There are still some names in this list that not everyone would consider musisci, but I asked this question to see how people would interpret the phrase, and most people used the definition of a scientist who also makes music, or a musician with strong scientific influences.

The full list is below, with the number of times that this person or band was mentioned. I noticed there are far more men than women in the list, with Helen Arney and Vi Hart the only two women that were named four or more times. Björk and Emeli Sandé were probably the most famous women on the list, but not a lot of people are aware of their science connections. Björk has collaborated with scientists on a science-themed album; Sandé has a degree in neuroscience. I don’t think there are that many more men than women who do both music and science, but the ones who are known for this (“The brians May and Cox”, Einstein) are mostly men, and dominated the list.


Brian May 76
Albert Einstein 45
Brian Cox 39
Richard Feynman 26
Alexander Borodin 20
Leonardo da Vinci 12
Pythagoras 11
Johann Sebastian Bach 9
Oliver Sacks 8
Benjamin Franklin 6
Greg Graffin 6
Tom Lehrer 6
Dexter Holland 5
Helen Arney 5
Patrick Moore 5
Robert Moog 5
Francis Collins 4
Vi Hart 4
Vincenzo Galilei 4
William Herschel 4
Björk 3
Caroline Herschel 3
Chris Hadfield 3
Galileo Galilei 3
Hank Green 3
Joseph LeDoux 3
Leon Theremin 3
Mark Ptashne 3
Milo Aukerman 3
Sherlock Holmes 3
Bill Nye 2
Carl Sagan 2
Dan Snaith 2
Elgar 2
Emeli Sandé 2
Gregg Gillis 2
Hermann von Helmholtz 2
Indre Viskontas 2
Isaac Newton 2
Jelle Atema 2
John Cage 2
John Sloboda 2
Kat Arney 2
Robert Zatorre 2
Thomas Dolby 2
Tim Minchin 2
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada 1
Aaron Williamon 1
Adam Macadamia 1
Adriel Barrios 1
Alan Turing 1
Albert Schweitzer 1
Alessandro Cortini 1
Andreas Werckmeister 1
Aniruddh Patel 1
Art Garfunkel 1
Beethoven 1
Ben Holmes 1
Bill Bailey 1
Bob Sturm 1
Boris Vian 1
Brian Briggs 1
Brian Eno 1
Brian Russell 1
Bruce Dickinson 1
Bruce Trapnell 1
Burt Vogelsang 1
Carolyn Bertozzi 1
Charles Limb 1
Christian Saemann 1
Christopher Emden 1
Claire L. Evans 1
Clare Baker 1
Coldplay 1
CV Raman 1
Daisuke Chihara 1
Dan Reinstein 1
Daniel Levitin 1
Darrell Desveaux 1
Dave Abe 1
David Bowie 1
David Bradley 1
David Cope 1
David Huron 1
David Lipman 1
David Teie 1
Delia Derbyshire 1
Diana Deutsch 1
Doc Licati 1
Doug Placek 1
Ed Carney 1
Edmund Fischer 1
Edward Lewis 1
Ehrenfest 1
Planck 1
Ellen Fullman 1
Eno 1
Ernest Chladni 1
Ernst Toch 1
Frank Zappa 1
George Antheil 1
George Hrab 1
George Stetten 1
Glenn Gould 1
Goethe 1
Grieg 1
Helen Meyer 1
Herbie Hancock 1
Jack White 1
Jad Abumrad 1
Jeffrey Rosenfeld 1
Jeffrey Thompson 1
Jessica Grahn 1
Jessica McFayden 1
Jim Friesen 1
Jim Morrison 1
Joel Thomas Zimmerman 1
Johan Gotthardt Olsen 1
John Meyer 1
Jonathan Berger 1
Jonathan Coulton 1
Julia Hush 1
Julian Vincent 1
Karl Cronin 1
Katie Overy 1
Kenneth Alewine 1
Kepler 1
King Henry 8th 1
Kraftwerk 1
Kurt Ballou 1
Kutiman 1
Leslie Brent 1
Lewis Hou 1
Liz Roth-Johnson 1
Loren L. Zachary 1
Lorenzo Frigerio 1
Lucille Beisner 1
Magtens Korridor 1
Maitland hova 1
Manuel Garcia 1
Marcus du Sautoy 1
Marin Mersenne 1
Mark d’Inverno 1
Mark Lewney 1
Max Mathews 1
Michael Jordan 1
Michael Neff 1
Michael Thaut 1
Micheal Jackson 1
Midnight Locomotive 1
Mozart 1
Negativland 1
Neil Peart 1
Nicole Frances Galtie 1
Nina Kraus 1
Olivier Messiaen 1
Page Chamberlain 1
Persis Drell 1
Peter Gabriel 1
Peter Ireland 1
Peter Vollhardt 1
Peter Vuust 1
Philip Glass 1
Philip Stamp 1
Pierre Schaeffer 1
Plato 1
Rabindranath Tagore 1
Rameau 1
Ray Kurzweil 1
Rene Descartes 1
Rimsky Korsakov 1
Robert W Levenson 1
Robert Winston 1
Robin Ince 1
Sadik Kara 1
Samuel Morse 1
Saul Perlmutter 1
Simon Keenlyside 1
Simon Reynolds 1
Sonicando 1
Stefan Koelsch 1
Sun Ra 1
Sven Ahlbäck 1
Svyatoslav Vakarchuk 1
The Band 311 1
The Cernettes 1
Thomas Edison 1
Tom Waits 1
Tony Brandt 1
Uri Alon 1
Vijay Iyer 1
Wagner 1
Wittgenstein 1
Wolfgang Haak 1



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