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Looking at Biology

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The Flea., Digital ID 806491, New York Public LibraryThe Flea, 1859, NYPL Picture CollectionWith new technologies that can make images of molecules, biology has been returning to its origins as a visual science, according to Moselio Schaechter, writing on his blog Small Things Considered. Biologists can now “see” how an enzyme works or how macromolecules interact with molecules large and small, and the revolution is leading to a specialist field called Structural Biology. The visual origins of biology are abundantly illustrated in the holdings of The New York Public Library, including original and facsimile editions of Robert Hooke’s beautifully illustrated Micrographia. This flea is reminiscent of Hooke's famous illustration, but actually appeared in Harper's Magazine of 1859.

New York artist Julie Rauer has been making drawings at SIBL inspired by Charles Darwin’s illustrations of barnacles, adding textual information, or making lovely colored versions that stand on their own as fine art. As is common with any user seeking to access rare or valuable items, she gets to sit in a special area behind our delivery desk, making it her temporary studio during her visits. We visited her there recently to find out about the latest illustrations, which she hopes to publish as a book, Barnacle Codex.

A project based at Cambridge University is providing online access to Darwin’s personal archives of writings and publications, including high-quality images from his work. The barnacles that Rauer is working on are particularly well represented and can be found here.

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Looking at Biology

I greatly appreciate your mention of our blog and the piece I wrote on "The Age of Imaging." I only wish I were nearer New York City (I live on the other coast) and could see NYPL holdings in vivo. Elio Schaechter

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