Santiago Ramón y Cajal
The Beautiful Brain

December 18 2022

Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934) was a Spanish neuroscientist and pathologist who is considered the father of modern neuroscience. I would like to present his drawings as a follow-up to the previous post about the Root Atlas. The branching (arborization) of brain cells that was first revealed through his work, bares a fascinating similarity to the morphology of plant growth.

Former bodybuilder and later Nobel laureate Cajal was obsessed with drawing from an early age, became an avid photographer as a teenager, and took artful self-portraits throughout his life. The same chemicals he used for developing his photographs, later allowed him to stain individual neurons with unprecedented accuracy.

When he took up the study of histology, the discipline was still in its infancy, as the necessary innovations in optical technology had just been invented. He saw the potential of fusing science with art and worked tirelessly until the scientific reliability matched the aesthetic splendor. It must be said, that it was a daredevil endeavor to set out to explore the brain, the Everest of science at the end of the nineteenth century, and Cajal’s observational approach brought light into the undergrowth of the human mind like no other.

Any man could, if he were so inclined, be the sculptor of his own brain.
Santiago Ramón y Cajal