March 19, 2020


The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal
Edited by Eric A. Newman
with Alfonso Araque, Janet M. Dubinsky,
and Larry W. Swanson.
Harry N. Abrams; 2nd printing ed.,
2017 (208 pages)



1) THE BEAUTIFUL BRAIN by Eric A. Newman, Alfonso Araque, and Janet M. Dubinsky (pages 8-9)

note =Santiago Ramón y Cajal has rightly been credited as the father of modern neuroscience, the study of the structure and function of the brain. Cajal, who lived from 1852 to 1934, was a neuroanatomist who, over the course of five decades, produced more than twenty-nine hundred drawings that reveal the nervous system as we know it today. He studied many aspects of the brain, from the structure of individual neurons (the nerve cells that comprise the brain) and the connections between them, to the changes that occur in the brain during early and following injury.” (page 8)

note = “ He did this by examining thin slices of the brain under a microscope. He treated these slices with chemical stains to highlight different types of brain cells and structures within these cells. Most notably, he used a stain developed by the Italian biologist Camillo Golgi, which colors brain cells a deep, rich black. Cajal improved upon the original formulation of the Golgi stain to obtain exquisite images of neurons.” (page 8-9)

note = “It [had] been known since the time of Luigi Galvani in the late 18th century that information is transmitted within the brain by electrical impulses. However, it was not until a century later that Cajal, in his Theory of Dynamic Polarization, described how information, in the form of electrical signals, travels within individual neurons, from their dendrites to their cell bodies and finally to their axons.” (page 9)

note = “In a second fundamental observation called the Neuron Doctrine, Cajal demonstrated that the brain is composed of discrete cells — neurons — rather than a continuous, interconnected network of cell appendages, as most of his contemporaries believed. He also discovered many of the components of brain neurons, including the dendritic spine, the neuronal appendage that receives signals from other neurons, and the growth cone, the appendage that enables neurons to make precise synaptic contacts with other neurons.” (page 9)

note = “The book presents 80 of Cajal’s original drawings of the brain... Two essays focus respectively on Cajal’s life and scientific achievements, and his mastery of the art of drawings. A third essay brings us up-to-date, describing modern neuroscience imaging methods that Cajal, undoubtedly, would have appreciated.” (page 9)

2) SANTIAGO RAMÓN Y CAJAL by Larry W. Swanson (pages 11-19)

Quote = “As long as our brain is a mystery, the universe, [which is] the reflection of the brain, will also be a mystery.” by Santiago Ramón y Cajal.

3) DRAWING THE BEAUTIFUL BRAIN by Lyndel King and Eric Himmel (pages 21-29)

4) THE DRAWINGS (pages 30-32)
    [1] Cells of the brain (pages 33-82)

    [2] Sensory systems (pages 83-120)

    [3] Neuronal pathways (pages 121-156)

    [4] Development and pathology (pages 157-192)
5) SEEING THE BEAUTIFUL BRAIN TODAY by Janet M. Dubinsky (pages 193-201)

note = “Santiago Ramón Cajal used drawing both to illustrate his observations and to convey scientific arguments. The beauty of his plates helped convince other European neuroanatomists of the veracity of his conclusions, and it is clear from Cajal’s writings that he understood the persuasive power of images. A stunning image is not easily forgotten — nor are the principles that it illustrates.” (page 193)

note = “Cajal focused on the cellular structures that comprise the nervous system... at the microscopic scale.” (page 193)
    [1] Cellular scale (pages 194-196)

    [2] Synaptic and molecular scales (pages 196-200)

    [3] Whole brain scale (pages 200-201)
NOTES (pages 202-203)

INDEX (pages 204-205)
      Cerebral cortex
      Glial cells
      Growth cones
      Nerve, peripheral
      Nerve fibers in brain
      Nervous system
      Neuron Doctrine
      Olfactory bulb
      Purkinje neurons
      Pyramidal neurons
      Regeneration of nerve fibers
      Reticular theory
      Retina of eye
      Skin cell
      Spinal cord
      Stellate neurons
      Synaptic contacts
      Theory of Dynamic Polarization
      Vestibular nerve in brainstem
      White blood cell
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pages 206-207)

CREDITS (unpaged [208] at end)

ABOUT THE AUTHORS = Larry W. Swanson is the author of Brain Architecture (2012) and a past President of the Society for Neuroscience. He is a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California. Eric A. Newman, Alfonso Araque, and Janet Dubinsky are distinguished neuroscientists at the University of Minnesota. Lyndel King is the director and chief curator of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis. Eric Himmel is editor in chief at Abrams Books, New York.

SUMMARY = Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934) was the father of modern neuroscience and an exceptional artist. He devoted his life to the anatomy of the brain, the body's most complex and mysterious organ. His superhuman feats of visualization, based on fanatically precise techniques and countless hours at the microscope, resulted in some of the most remarkable illustrations in the history of science. The book presents a selection of his exquisite drawings of brain cells, brain regions, and neural circuits with accessible descriptive commentary.


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