Scientist Illustrated His Microscopic Findings Before Macro Photography Existed

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Nowadays, many science books are full of detailed pictures that reveal the intricate parts of plant life, but before the invention of photography, it was up to botanical illustrators and researchers to record the exciting forms of flora and fauna.

Scientist Illustrated His Microscopic Findings Before Macro Photography Existed

Nowadays, many science books are full of detailed pictures that reveal the intricate parts of plant life, but before the invention of photography, it was up to botanical illustrators and researchers to record the exciting forms of flora and fauna. One scientist that recorded his findings with drawings is Ernst Heinrich Haeckel, a German naturalist, biologist, philosopher, and physician.


Created during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, his colorful and highly stylized drawings, sketches, and watercolors reveal how different forms of plant life appear under the microscope. Even though every hand-drawn organism looks like it comes from a science fiction book, Haeckel’s body of work sheds light on the fascinating hidden intricacies of real, natural forms that inhabit the Earth.


Born in Germany in 1834, Haeckel studied medicine at the University of Berlin and graduated in 1857. When he was a student, his professor Johannes Müller, took him on a summer field trip to observe tiny sea creatures off the coast of Heligoland in the North Sea, sparking his life-long interest in natural forms and biology.


In 1859, when he was 25, he traveled to Italy where he spent time in Napoli discovering his artistic talent. In the same year, Haeckel went to Messina where he studied the structures of radiolarians (microscopic protozoa that produce intricate mineral skeletons). Haeckel published 59 scientific illustrations between 1860 and 1862, along with the original microscope slides.


Maybe Haeckel’s most famous publication is his multi-volume series Kunstformen Der Natur(Artforms in Nature) from 1904, that includes hundreds of highly detailed drawings that became known as a “visual encyclopedia” of living things. In celebration of this series, Taschen published a 704-page book, titled The Art and Science of Ernst Haeckel. It features 450 drawings, sketches from his research, watercolors, and a collection of a hundred prints of varying organisms initially published between 1899 and 1904.


Haeckel died on 1908 at the age of 85, but his legendary portfolio is still relevant in scientific and artistic worlds today. Haeckel’s work continues to influence scientific research, but it also inspired the art, design, and architecture of the early 20th century. Today, his botanical illustrations continue to inspire and remind us that the natural world is full of beauty and surprising discoveries.


Scientist Illustrated His Microscopic Findings Before Macro Photography Existed

“Kunstformen der Natur” (1904), plate 85 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])


Scientist Illustrated His Microscopic Findings Before Macro Photography Existed

Ernst Haeckel, 1860 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])


Scientist Illustrated His Microscopic Findings Before Macro Photography Existed

“Kunstformen der Natur” (1904), plate 49 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])


Scientist Illustrated His Microscopic Findings Before Macro Photography Existed

“Kunstformen der Natur” (1904), plate 71: Stephoidea (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

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Thinking Humanity: Scientist Illustrated His Microscopic Findings Before Macro Photography Existed
Scientist Illustrated His Microscopic Findings Before Macro Photography Existed
Nowadays, many science books are full of detailed pictures that reveal the intricate parts of plant life, but before the invention of photography, it was up to botanical illustrators and researchers to record the exciting forms of flora and fauna.
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