The rear end of Tinu and the head of Uno, two Eurasiers, are seen from behind a tree during the launch of the Crufts dog show in Green Park, central London, February 24, 2004. Photo: Natasha-Marie Brown
This illustration of a flea comes from Robert Hooke's Micrographia — an amazing collection of illustrations drawn from microscope images, first published in 1665. Think of it like a proto-viral blog post that somehow fuzed Nature and Buzzfeed. Something with a headline like "15 UNBELIEVABLE IMAGES OF EVERYDAY THINGS!"
Micrographia — the whole thing — is now available in ebook form. For free. In several different formats. To give you a sense of why this is worth checking out, here's Carl Zimmer on the book's social/scientific impact back in the 17th century:
In January 1665, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary that he stayed up till two in the morning reading a best-selling page-turner, a work that he called "the most ingenious book I read in my life." It was not a rousing history of English battles or a proto-bodice ripper. It was filled with images: of fleas, of bark, of the edges of razors.
The book was called Micrographia. It provided the reading public with its first look at the world beyond the naked eye. Its author, Robert Hooke, belonged to a brilliant circle of natural philosophers who--among many other things--were the first in England to make serious use of microscopes as scientific instruments. They were great believers in looking at the natural world for themselves rather than relying on what ancient Greek scholars had claimed. Looking under a microscope at the thousands of facets on an insect's compound eye, they saw things at the nanoscale that Aristotle could not have dreamed of. A razor's edge became a mountain range. In the chambers of a piece of bark, Hooke saw the first evidence of cells.
Hooke gave a lecture to the Royal Society about these investigations, and the members of the Society were so impressed that they urged Hooke to publish a book--a visual argument for the new scientific method.
Read the rest of Carl Zimmer's review, and check out links to the various ebooks of Micrographia
I love the thread at Quora asking users to post their favorite iconic and/or beautiful scientific images. Why? Because, while the usual suspects are certainly present and accounted for (O hai, NASA archives! I can haz Mandlebrot sets?) there's also plenty of images that are at once striking, beautiful, and not at all what you would have expected people to post.
Take, for instance, this image. Posted by Alicia Zha, it was first published by neuroscientist Wilder Penfield in 1950, as a way of illustrating connections between parts of the brain and the physical movements they seemed to control, like a pictorial atlas of the cerebral cortex. It's called the motor homunculus. And it's definitely iconic, even if it's not the kind of iconic that's liable to turn up on the evening news.
Other high points of the thread: Robert Hooke's illustrations of the cell structure of cork; the chemical structure of benzene; group photos from the first world physics conference; and early visualizations of model storm systems.
What would you add?
Via W Younes