Exquisite Images: Wellcome Image Awards

Laurie says:

I recently discovered the exquisite images of the Wellcome Awards. These are from the 2011 awards.

Wellcome Images is the world’s leading source of images of medicine and its history, from ancient civilization and social history to contemporary healthcare, biomedical science and clinical medicine. Over 180 000 images ranging from manuscripts, rare books, archives and paintings to X-rays, clinical photography and scanning electron micrographs are available on the Wellcome Images website.

As Catherine Draycott, head of Wellcome Images says on the BBC gallery talk: they look for not only technical excellence, impact and aesthetics but also the conveyance of immensely complex concepts and instructions to nonscience audience. The winning images will be on display at Wellcome Collection in central London until July 2011.

These images are not made as art. ( They are often colored either for scientific or aesthetic reasons.)  For me, they are as much “art” as any other beautifully composed image. You could use the same techniques to intentionally create art. The intent here however, is the viewer’s comprehension of the concepts involved. I think it’s likely that a more aesthetic image may enhance comprehension. If that’s true, then we have an interesting intentional overlap between science and art.


Moth wing scales
Kevin Mackenzie, University of Aberdeen
Scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of the scales on the wing of a Madagascan moon moth, Argema mittrei. This moth is also known as the Comet moth, after its very long tail. The tail span is 15 cm and wing span 20 cm, making it one of the world’s largest silk moths.


Pyramidal neurons
Michael Häusser and Hermann Cuntz, UCL
This computer simulated image shows synthetic pyramidal neurons, of optimised size, shape and connectivity, that are indistinguishable from those found in the real biological brain. Pyramidal cells are so-called as they have a pyramid-shaped cell body (soma), and are also characterised by long branching dendrites. They are found in the forebrain (cortex and hippocampus) of mammals and are thought to be involved in cognitive function.


David McCarthy and Annie Cavanagh
False-coloured scanning electron micrograph of a honeybee. The honeybee has a hairy thorax and segmented abdomen, a pair of double wings and three pairs of segmented legs. Each leg has a different ‘tool’ designed for a specific function to assist in the collection and transport of pollen to the hive for the production of honey.


Wheat infected with ergot fungus
Anna Gordon, National Institute of Agricultural Biology, and Fernan Federici, University of Cambridge
Confocal micrograph of wheat stigma hairs (blue) infected with ergot fungus (light pink). The stigma is the female part of the plant. The plant is fertilized by the (male) pollen grain, which sticks to a stigma hair causing growth of a pollen tube into the plant’s ovary, causing an embryonic wheat grain to develop.