The design of the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, in Italy, helped prompt the polio vaccine. (PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES)

Today, the near 10-year-old Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture believes that neuroscience could make science’s greatest contribution to the field of architecture since physics informed fundamental structural methods, acoustic designs, and lighting calculations in the late 19th century. In September, the academy held its first national conference at, fittingly, the Salk Institute, in La Jolla, California. When the academy solicited proposals from anyone who might have insight or research to contribute, Whitelaw expected a handful of takers. The conference instead received dozens of proposals from all over the world—“from people,” Whitelaw says, “we didn’t even know were working in this field.”