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The Beautiful Brain In Science And Art

Courtesy of Instituto Cajal (CSIC)

Santiago Ramón y Cajal had dreams of becoming an artist, not a doctor. But he followed his father’s urging and went to medical school, later earning a Nobel prize for the way he furthered understanding of how messages are transmitted to, from and through the brain and nervous system. Cajal managed to merge science and art all along, however, through the meticulous and imaginative way he illustrated brain cells. 

His drawings remain foundational in the study of neuroscience. Now, they’re also being recognized for their aesthetic beauty. An exhibitat the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Ackland Art Museum presents 80 of his detailed works, contextualized by older attempts to capture the brain’s anatomy and contemporary images powered by today’s technology.

Host Frank Stasio talks with museum curator Peter Nisbet and with scholars Stephanie Gupton and Richard Weinberg, both professors of cell biology and physiology at UNC-Chapel Hill, about the impressive way Cajal merged science and art.

Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.