The Beautiful Brain – The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal

The Beautiful Brain by Santiago Ramón y Cajal
Beautiful.

The human brain is a slab of matter that helps you propel you around the world with gusto. Without it, you’re a mere lump of flesh with no purpose – like a car without its [insert less tedious simile here]. Indeed.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1932) was a Spanish neuroscientist and pathologist with a particular fascination for brains. So much so he, in conjunction with his scientific research, maintained a complex series of endearing drawings of his findings. And this is what this work explores – his artistic efforts, alongside his various discoveries.

The Beautiful Brain

Santiago Ramón y Cajal is famous in the science community as the father of studying brain function and structure. The neuroscientist was also – as you can see – a brilliant artist.

He drew hundreds of pictures detailing the endless arborizations (that’s the branching structure of our nerve fibre) of brain cells. The pictures are now in use for training and educational purposes – as well as to make up the content of this compendium of his work.

The paintings you’ll find in this fascinating work have an ethereal, macabre quality. They’re intricate and elegant, yet they’re detailing the human brain. Let’s face it, despite its magnificence the human brain resembles a blob fish.

But making up the wonders of the volume are the ongoing struggles to comprehend that thing lingering in our skulls.

The other week we covered Phineas Gage and his startling survival of a colossal head injury in 1848. Hundreds of years later, we’re still not really sure how he could get away with it.

Apparently, the scientist didn’t want his eventual profession. He did indeed aim for an artistic career, but at the time of his formative years this was thought of as an unacceptable career root to take.

But this didn’t stop him from producing over 3,000 works. And the very best are included in this fascinating account. If you like the look of what you can see, The Beautiful Brain – The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal was released in 2017 and is very much still in print.

Taster

 Purkinje cells (A) and granule cells (B) from pigeon cerebellum by Santiago Ramón y Cajal, 1899
Purkinje cells (A) and granule cells (B) from pigeon cerebellum by Santiago Ramón y Cajal.

Above is a sample of what’s in store. A drawing from 1899, it details the Purkinje cells (apparently, a class of GABAergic neurons located in the cerebellum – we totally know what those things are) of a pigeon.

The inclusion of the above isn’t to con you out of a brain picture, it’s just that one is in the public domain. So we took it for our blog. We’re not sure if the others are copyrighted, so you’ll have to buy the book to see them, hmm?

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