Olfaction, like hearing and color vision, appears to be a spectral sense: what we smell are the chords made by molecules when they vibrate. In my lecture I will give a brief account of the science behind this idea, and explore whether useful connections and analogies can be made between smell, color, and sound, and better still between perfume, visual art, and music.
Luca Turin was educated in France and the UK, and holds a Ph.D. in physiology and biophysics from the University of London. From 1982 to 1992 he was a tenured staff member at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research, and worked at the Villefranche Marine Station and the Pasteur Institute. In 1992 he was appointed Lecturer in Biophysics at the University College London and later served as CTO of a molecule discovery startup and a visiting scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He currently heads the Quantum Biology lab at the Alexander Fleming Research Center in Vari, Greece, where he works on the biophysics of smell in fruit flies. In addition to his academic work, Turin has written extensively on olfaction and perfume, including The Secret of Scent (2006) and, with Tania Sanchez, Perfumes: The Guide (2008). His “Duftnote,” a monthly column on scent for NZZ Folio, ran from 2003 to 2010.