Art As The Scientist’s Eye on Nature

For more than 400 years, Art and Illustration was the only way to bring the animals and plants of the world to life for so many people.  That’s the point made both by the website,, which prides itself on its “playful, serious and radical perspectives on art and culture” as well as the American Museum of Natural History in New York which is putting on an exhibit titled “Natural Histories: 400 Years of Scientific Illustration.” (The Museum is also staging a special exhibition on climate change.)

Charles Darwin famous Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle provided the most famous examples of that view of the world, and 200 years before him, a publication called Micrographia by Robert Hooke provided ordinary people the chance to see parts of nature they could never have seen before.

Alongside the Environmental Journalism program being conducted by the Grady College of Journalism in Costa Rica, there is an Art and Scientific Illustration program being conducted by the Lamar Dodd School of Art.  And we wanted to share some of that work with you.



The article in Hyperallergic makes the point that there was an attention to detail necessary for such illustrations to be useful, but that didn’t mean they were purely clinical.  In the same way, the drawings by the artists and illustrators in the Costa Rica program show such detail, but also show a perspective that only illustrations done by a person can bring out. Here are some more examples of their work:


It is believed that Darwin’s ship, the Beagle, carried what was then considered a state-of-the-art library with more than 400 volumes.  They were kept in a ‘library’ in the stern of the ship and Darwin spent five years in that library on the historic voyage.  An online version of that library has now been reconstructed and it consists of 195,000 pages with more than 5,000 illustrations… again, the point, that art and illustration was the scientist’s eye.  The online version of Darwin’s library is a rich visual gallery of that voyage which changed the world view of nature and man forever.

The work of the students in the art and illustration program follows in that historic pattern of making art a part of the scientist’s eye.

(Special Note – Credits: Zoe Daniel, Kirby Dunn, Taylor Harrell, Lyndsy Harrison, Sarah Horsley, Brynn Houska, Carmen Kraus, Sunni Losito, David Nahabedian, Courtney Purvis.)

(Editor’s Note:  The illustrations shown here are only a small sampling of the work produced.  The editor would also like to apologize for the quality of the photography which does not do justice to the intricate illustrations and renderings.)







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