A blog about scientific and medical visualization and all that’s involved.

Archive for April, 2008

Visiting Edward S. Ross

Posted by Janet on April 27, 2008

A month ago I paid a visit to Dr. Ross. I had done some illustrations for him over the past year for publications in Annual Review of Entomology and Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences (see No. 29) and was warmly welcomed by him and his wife Sandy. During this afternoon visit, we sat down with tea and bread in the Japanese style living room which he built. As always, he was very eager to share stories from the safari and spent much time showing me his illustration and photography works. To my surprise, he is building yet another annex to the main house to store the massive amount of work. I had brought a list of questions for the interview, but in the end I just decided to take lots of pictures and let the pictures speak for themselves.

Dr. Ross sitting in the Japanese style house. He is very fond of Asian cultures and knows a lot more than I do about my own culture.

After our afternoon snack, we went to his home office to see how he keeps the massive amount of information in order. File folders are the key. I’m not sure how I would’ve kept information about 350,000 species of insects. By coincidence, he pulled out an illustration I had done a year ago.

Next we took a walk outside. This is truly the work of someone who loves the outdoors. Everything you see here was his idea–either he built it himself when he was younger, or he built it more recently with the help of others. Either way this is pretty amazing. The cabin (left or top) was where I stayed for a year when helped illustrate new species. It was pretty relaxing to stay in such a beautiful place with a flexible work schedule. Of course, you have to be disciplined, but there was no strict 9am-5pm schedule and you can take a walk whenever you want. It’s very different from the overworked grad student life I’m living right now.

This is the lab that houses the entire collection of embiids. There is an estimated 350,000 specimens in there. The lab is much smaller than you would expect, but insects are tiny, aren’t they?

Here is the office where I did all my illustrations. It is not the inside of the lab, but rather a garage converted into a work space.

Dr. Ross showing his pen and ink illustrations of insect anatomy (shaded drawings beneath are the works of a different illustrator). The labels were all cut and pasted onto the illustrations by hand. Now illustrators are scanning these files to create a digital archive. As part of this process the hand-glued labels are removed in the computer and new labels inserted digitally. This is done not only for consistency with the new illustrations, which are entirely labeled in the computer, but to allow room for change if any of the old illustrations are to be republished. Not only the font can change from publication to publication, but sometimes classification methods change as well.

Picture of Dr. Ross and me as I’m about to head home.

Posted in interviews, pen and ink/line | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Edward S. Ross

Posted by Janet on April 22, 2008

Edward S. Ross, curator emeritus of entomology at the California Academy of Sciences, is the leading entomologist studying insects of the order Embiidina, web-spinning insects related to stoneflies, termites, and earwigs. Now ninety-three years old, Edward Ross continues to publish his lifelong study in comparative anatomy of embiids.

Lifetime Expedition
As a young boy, Edward Ross collected numerous insects–over 50,000 by the time he graduated high school. However, due to the influence of his father, an artist specializing in pen and ink illustration, Ross initially planned to become an illustrator. When he realized that illustrators spend most of their times indoors, he took a quick turn to entomology and eventually earned a Ph.D. at U.C. Berkeley for the study of Embiidina in 1941.

During World War II, while serving as a 1st Lt-Major, Ross worked on mosquito identification and malaria surveys in New Guinea and Philippines. It was during this time that he met and took interest in tribal cultures. This interest continues and over the next few decades he would photograph people of all ethnicities on his travels.

After the war, Ross returned to the California Academy of Sciences where he previous worked for a brief period. For his studies, he traveled to Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia while publishing numerous works. Upon his return from the Andes in the early 1950s, he took up insect photography and wrote the book “Insects Close Up” based on his photographs. The majority of the 50s and 60s were spent outdoors. From 1970 to 1975, Ross taught insect biology at U.C. Berkeley.

Ross now has approximately 350,000 embiids in his collection and works in the home that he began to build following World War II. He continues to build additions to the house (with some help from others) to house his works. Until the past few years, the majority of embiid drawings were made by Ross himself. With the help of many illustrators in recent years, new illustrations of unpublished species are being made and his illustrations are being archived into digital format.

Ross is in the process of writing a book on insect-flower relationship. He also plans to write a book on people of the world. He still publishes journal papers and holds exhibits for his photography works.

The next post will cover my recent visit with Edward Ross, including images of his illustrations and a recent publication. Here is a list of links on Dr. Ross:

Publication list:
Interview by Bay Nature, 2005:
Entomologist David Rentz’s blog entry:
Some insect photography work:
An Article by Ross in California Wild:

Posted in interviews, photography/imaging, zoological | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

What’s Next?

Posted by Janet on April 20, 2008

So, I thought it would be fun if you guys tell me what you want to see more of on the blog. Then I can go and attempt to collect some interesting info in what little spare time there is. Please e-mail what you want to see to or post in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you!

Posted in discussion | 2 Comments »

GMC = Genetically Modified Comics

Posted by Janet on April 18, 2008

There’s something about this comic that just appeals to my inner science nerd. I guess this is what happens when you hybridize science and art 😀

Posted in miscellaneous | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Physician’s Art

Posted by Janet on April 18, 2008


In 1999, the Duke University Museum of Art (DUMA) presented an exhibit on the art of medicine. Along with that exhibit came a catalog titled “The Physician’s Art,” composed with high quality prints and descriptions of works that were part of the exhibit. The catalog focuses on Western medicine, covering works from as early as the 1500s to the 1900s. The range of works include anatomical illustrations, scientific illustrations of medicinal plants, surgical tools, and anatomical mannequins (as shown on the cover). This is definitely worth a look if you are interested in historical medical illustration.

“The Physician’s Art” by Julie V. Hansen and Suzanne Porter, from the collections of Duke University, East Carolina University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Wake Forest University, is available used on or check your local library. Also check out the book reviews from PubMed and the NYU Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database.

Posted in anatomy, books, reference | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Summer Events

Posted by Janet on April 16, 2008

Mark your calendars with these exciting events!

Now through April 28: The exhibit “Jungles” at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, featuring photography by wildlife photographer Frans Lanting

May 3-June 8: Students at the UCSC Science Illustration program hold their 19th annual exhibit “Illustrating Nature” at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History. Can someone volunteer to take pictures at the exhibit for me?
By the way, UCSC offers science illustration courses in the summer. They are open to anyone who is interested but registration is required and space is limited. To inquire, email

June 15-28: GNSI summer workshop at Hastings, MI. Application is accepted until April 30. For more information, contact Gail Guth at

July 16-20: Annual AMI meeting in Indianapolis, IN. I don’t have information yet but will post it as soon as it becomes available.

July 20-26: Annual GNSI meeting in Ithaca, NY. Check out the conference schedule here. Last day of registration is June 15 before you have to pay a late fee. Click here to download registration form and to find out more about registration fees. Additional fees apply to workshops, field trips, room and board, and internet access.

Posted in announcements | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Interesting Links

Posted by Janet on April 13, 2008

A few interesting links…

Home page of Harvard Botany Libraries
The site links to many good botany resources. Also check out the Amanita phalloides gallery page:
Explore the four links on the bottom of this page. The second link takes you to a gallery, and clicking on images in this gallery brings you larger images.

Image of a stained multi-limb frog

The annual CPSA (Colored Pencil Society of America) exhibition award winners galleries–amazing work.

Posted in botanical, miscellaneous | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Nick Veasey: X-ray Photography

Posted by Janet on April 8, 2008

A bus full of people in New York City. This bus wrap was one of many x-ray projects by Nick Veasey, who has been capturing a wide range of both living and non-living things through x-ray since 1996. His works are beautifully simple, often containing a purpose–to reveal a side never seen before, to evoke emotional response.

According to this article, Nick Veasey’s new book X-Ray: See Through the World Around You is coming out in Britain this month. The images are divided into several categories including humans/animals, objects, nature, abstract, and fashion. This book can be bought through Carlton Books website.

Also check out Nick Veasey’s website at

Posted in books, fine art | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Science Illustrator’s Bible

Posted by Janet on April 7, 2008

Recently I spoke to a few people who are looking into scientific illustration, either as a hobby or as a future career. The biggest problem is getting started–“where can I find more information about being a science illustrator? how would I know if this is really what I want to do? I don’t have the time and money to go back to school–can I teach myself the techniques?” “The Guild Handbook of Scientific Illustrations” is a good place to start. Most science illustrators I know own this book. Put together by the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, it consists of articles written by experts of the field on various topics, including techniques, details about various subject matters, and business aspects of scientific illustration (sneak a peek on Google Book Search). It also occurred to me that the handbook is less popular among the medical illustrator’s community. Although the subject matter is slightly different, much of the techniques and business aspects are very similar. If you are a medical illustrator who hasn’t checked out this book yet, I encourage you to do so as well. The Guild Handbook of Scientific Illustration, edited by Elaine R. S. Hodges, is available on for $140.

Posted in books | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Janet on April 3, 2008

The latest issue (Issue 28 ) of “Cabinet,” a quarterly magazine of art and culture, is focused around the theme of “bones.” The main section contains thirteen diverse articles, starting with Robert Harbison’s “The Museum of the Dead.” The short article “Bone Play” about the historical practice of anatomy might interest many of you. Not available online includes a page of skeleton drawings of cartoon characters, an article called “Unnatural Selection: An Interview with the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory,” a bookmark with a picture of a tower made of chicken bones by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, and a postcard with a photo of a bone-setting mannequin.

In this issue, you will find some interesting photographs and historical images related to scientific and medical illustrations. The articles embrace art, history, culture, and philosophy more so than science, but are nevertheless interesting reads. The table of contents can be accessed here. To learn more about the magazine, visit their home page at

Posted in anatomy, books, fine art | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »