Science on Screen: FIRST MAN (2018): Block Museum - Northwestern University
Skip to main content

Science on Screen: FIRST MAN (2018)

Blue light on Ryan Gosling in an astronaut suit
FIRST MAN (2018)
1 PM

Event Details

Date & Time:

Sat February 18, 2023
1 PM


The Block Museum of Art
40 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208


Open to the public




(Damien Chazelle, 2018,​​ 141 min, DCP)


Damien Chazelle’s meticulously-realized film follows astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and wife Janet (Claire Foy) on the long and difficult path that led from the death of their daughter Karen in 1962 to his 1969 moon landing. While FIRST MAN has no shortage of thrilling astronautical sequences, Chazelle is less interested in the conquest of outer space than in the inner life of its protagonist, a withdrawn man straining to maintain his composure in the face of tragedy and doubt. Grounded in universal human emotions and in the material realities of space flight, FIRST MAN transcends spectacle and myth to offer an intimate and original perspective on one of the most famous scientific achievements in history.

The screening will feature an in-depth introduction by Jordan Bimm, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago’s Institute on the Formation of Knowledge, who will discuss the military origins of “space medicine,” the psychological and physical ordeals sustained by test subjects and aspiring astronauts, and the cultural forces that shaped the image of the model astronaut in the 1950s.

About the speaker:

Jordan Bimm is a historian of science at the University of Chicago’s Institute on the Formation of Knowledge. His research focuses on the human and biological problems of space exploration, especially the fields of space medicine and astrobiology. His forthcoming book, Anticipating the Astronaut (The MIT Press) explores pre-NASA studies and experiments with a surprising array of test-subjects to define an ideal spacefaring body and mind. His research has won the Sacknoff Prize for Space History, the History of Science Society’s NASA Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. His work has been featured in The New York Times, National Geographic, Scientific American, and The Atlantic.


About the series:

Science on Screen: Inner and Outer Space

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition The Heart’s Knowledge: Science and Empathy in the Art of Dario Robleto, this series explores representations of the inner workings of the human body and the celestial mechanics of the cosmos throughout the history of cinema. Across our Winter and Spring calendars, Block Cinema will present a range of screenings, from cult classics to silent treasures and contemporary blockbusters, that resonate with the key themes of Dario Robleto’s artwork: the role of new technologies in expanding humanity’s spatial and perceptual reach; the emotional consequences of scientific discovery; the role that art can play in transcending boundaries that separate us.

Supported by the Sloan Foundation and the Coolidge Corner Cinema’s Science on Screen program, each of the screenings in the “Inner and Outer Space” series will feature extended introductions by scientists, historians, and scholars, who will shed light on the themes and histories depicted on screen.

An initiative of the COOLIDGE CORNER THEATRE, with major support from the ALFRED P. SLOAN FOUNDATION.


Contact The Block Museum of Art for more information: (847) 491-4000 or email us at