The Beautiful Brain: The drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal

The Grey Art Gallery at NYU is currently presenting the scientific drawings of Spanish neuro-scientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Created at the end of the 19th century into the beginning of the 20th century the accuracy of these drawings are unsurpassed . These images are still used for scientific purposes.
This example is a pen and ink drawing of a Purkinje neuron from the human cerebellum from 1899 shows the scientist’s skills as a draftsman. These works were all done freehand looking through a microscope there is a more to these pieces than just research. Ramón y Cajal had an artistic sense of line and pattern.
This next drawing depicts a cut nerve outside the spinal cord from 1913. I think this work is a excellent representation of the contrast between an ordered system and chaos. The lines used to show axons in the center take on an almost lyrical sense of disorder.
This exhibition could be seen more as a Science/Art show then a Math/Art show. I feel however that the neurological systems examined in Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s work possess mathematical themes, including set theory. It is an exquisite exhibition and one of the best examples I have seen of scientific research in which the final product is Art that can be appreciated on it’s own merits. Special Thanks to Elizabeth Whiteley who sent me the info. If you can not see the show in NYC it will be on display at MIT in May
Susan Happersett

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