Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Life Science Illustrators

You may have noticed the lovely illustration of Bryozoa a few posts back. Today on GeekDad Daniel Donahoo posts about the artist, Ernst Haeckel. As Daniel points out, you can find a whole gallery of Haeckel's work on Wikipedia. Donahoo prints them out in color as posters for his kids' rooms. Of course there are many other wonderful life science illustrators to check out as well. Here are a few:

Carl Linnaeus, also known as Carl von Linné or Carolus Linnaeus, is often called the Father of Taxonomy. According to the University of California Museum of Paleontology:

His system for naming, ranking, and classifying organisms is still in wide use today (with many changes). His ideas on classification have influenced generations of biologists during and after his own lifetime, even those opposed to the philosophical and theological roots of his work.

John James Audubon is famous for his bird portraits, of course. Says Wikipedia:
Audubon's influence on ornithology and natural history was enormous. Nearly all later ornithological works were inspired by his artistry and his high standards. Charles Darwin quotes Audubon three times in The Origin of Species and also in later works. Despite some errors in his field observations (e.g., he thought an immature bald eagle to be a separate species), his notes were a significant contribution to the understanding of bird anatomy and behavior. Birds of America is still considered one of the greatest examples of book art.
Although not primarily known as a naturalist, Albrecht Durer's watercolor of a hare is one of my favorite nature illustrations, and he has many more. Dürer believed that "…art must be based upon science—in particular, upon mathematics, as the most exact, logical, and graphically constructive of the sciences." In his Treatise on Proportion, he commented, "Life in nature makes us recognize the truth of these things, so look at it diligently, follow it, and do not turn away from nature to your own thoughts…. For, verily, art is embedded in nature; whoever can draw her out, has her."

Beatrix Potter -- author of Peter Rabbit and many other children's books -- was not only a writer and an artist; she was an accomplished, if not acknowledged, scientist. As Wikipedia relates:

An uncle attempted to introduce her as a student at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, but she was rejected because she was female. Potter was later one of the first to suggest that lichens were a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae. As, at the time, the only way to record microscopic images was by painting them, Potter made numerous drawings of lichens and fungi. As the result of her observations, she was widely respected throughout England as an expert mycologist. She also studied spore germination and life cycles of fungi. Potter's set of detailed watercolours of fungi, numbering some 270 completed by 1901, is in the Armitt Library, Ambleside.

In 1897, her paper on the germination of spores was presented to the Linnean Society by her uncle Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe, as women were barred from attending meetings. (In 1997, the Society issued a posthumous official apology to Potter for the way she had been treated.) The Royal Society also refused to publish at least one of her technical papers. She also lectured at the London School of Economics several times.
There's more about Beatrix Potter, scientist, at The Scientist.


Lorna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lorna said...

I love Beatrix Potter's natural history drawings. I was lucky enough to see an exhibition of her fungi drawings and microscopic drawings at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh about fifteen years ago. They made such a huge impact on me, I spent that year painting only plants.
I am so excited about your blog. I am hoping to start doing biology with the children after Christmas. Your research and inspiration were a great help to us with chemistry!
Many thanks!
P.S. My husband brought us some wintergreeen Altoids back from a business trip to the US. We had great fun crunching and making them glow. The only thing that comes with the same flavour here in the UK is an old fashioned cream one puts on grazes. It was very strange to taste them!

Kathy Ceceri said...

Hi Lorna -- Glad to see you here! But what are grazes, and why do you put cream on them?

Lorna said...

Sorry, it must be just an English word ;-) 'Grazes' are a scuffs; shallow cuts; the sort of thing that you get on your knees when you fall as a child. The cream is anti-septic I imagine. I think, though, that the smell is perhaps more one of reassurance as much as anything!

Kathy Ceceri said...

Oh! I thought they must be some kind of delicious English dessert.

Here in the States, we get "scrapes" on our knees. And when we put mint-y smelling cream on (usually to warm up sore muscles), it's menthol.

And in case anyone else is trying to figure out why we're talking about wintergreen, it has to do with an experiment with Altoids (http://homechemistry.blogspot.com/2008/03/light-and-chemistry-triboluminesence.html)

I remember mentioning menthol and its warming properties in another Home Chemistry post, but can't find it write now. If I do, I'll put up the link.