These vibrant arrangements of diatoms revive a lost Victorian art

Matthew Killip directed this lovely short film about Klaus Kemp, a microscopist whose specialty had its heyday in Victorian times: arranging microscopic creatures into beautiful patterns.

With between 20,000 and 2 million species, diatoms are one of the largest and most important ecological groups of organisms. Through photosynthesis, it’s been estimated that these single-cell algae produce up to one-quarter of the Earth’s oxygen. In addition to their important role within the ecosystem, diatoms also possess uniquely beautiful cell structures. During the Victorian era, this beauty inspired artists to position the jewel-like cells into dazzling arrangements under the lens of the microscope. This unusual art form was almost lost with time, but was recently revived by modern-day microscopist Klaus Kemp. Struck by the beauty and symmetry of diatoms, Kemp worked obsessively for 8 years to perfect his own technique.

More info at Klaus Kemp diatoms website.

These Kaleidoscopic Masterpieces Are Invisible to the Naked Eye (YouTube / National Geographic & Matthew Killip)

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