This week’s arts and culture column begins like this:
Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934) is considered the father of modern neuroscience.
As a neuroanatomist, he examined super-thin pieces of brain under a microscope, treating them with chemical stains to reveal both different types of cells and the structures within the cells.
As an artist — his second vocation —he produced more than 2,900 drawings depicting the human nervous system over the course of 50 years.
“The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal” (Abrams, 2017, $30), features 80 of these stunning drawings. Some are familiar to Cajal aficionados; others have never before been published.
Cajal was born in Petilla de Aragón. As a teenager he was an obsessive collector and a prankster with an innate distrust of authority. His passions were drawing and photography. Following in his father’s footsteps, he entered medical school at Zaragoza, and graduated when he was 21.
During a year of army medical service in Cuba he contracted malaria, leaving him with a delicate constitution more suited to teaching than the more arduous physical practice of medicine.
THIS IS YOUR BRAIN!