Friday, January 27, 2017

The Beautiful Brain at the Weisman Art Museum, UM-TC

Art and Environment
History of Science
by Edward Hessler

Santiago Ramon y Cajal and Camillo Golgi were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1906 "in recognition of their work on the structure of the nervous system."

Golgi discovered that nerve cells could be tinted with silver nitrate which provided an opening to the microscopic study of the nervous system. Cajal used Golgi's method with breathtaking results to show "that each nerve cell is an independent entity and nerve synapses transfer nerve impulses from one cell to another."

Growing up Cajal wanted to become an artist and his rebellious nature led his physician father to apprentice him as a shoemaker!  Ultimately, Cajal took a degree in medicine and then a Ph.D. in anatomy. It was as a researcher and professor of anatomy that he joined his passion and talent in art with basic research into the structure of the nervous system.

One of Cajal's drawings [Wikipedia]

From Saturday January 28 2017 to Sunday May 21 2017 the Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities hosts an exhibit titled The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramon y Cajal. The exhibit was organized by the Weisman Art Museum and leading neuroscientists, including three faculty at the University of Minnesota.  It will beome a traveling exhibit.

NPR produced a piece about the exhibit which includes some of the drawings. They are breathtaking.

Golgi and Cajal held entirely different views on the structure of the nervous system. Cajal emphasized the structural, functional and developmental singularity of the nerve cell. Golgi emphasized reticularist views, i.e., a diffuse network of continuous tissue. In the end Cajal's view prevailed. It is known as the Neuron Doctrine.

Cajal is considered the father of modern neuroscience. You may read about his life and discoveries here.

Here is the campus map for the Weisman.

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