Santiago Ramón y Cajal: Artist of the Brain

With an artist’s eye and a scientist’s mind, anatomist Santiago Ramón y Cajal was the first to see—and illustrate—what neurons really do. His exquisitely detailed drawings changed our understanding of the brain and nervous system.

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Spanish anatomist Santiago Ramón y Cajal began to study histology because it was cheap. Cajal was a man of poor health and modest means and examining stained specimens required little more than a microscope and patience. The fact that he had no access to the fancy tools of bacteriologists, the scientific rock stars of their time, turned him toward the study of animal tissues and cells. These “captivating scenes in the life of the infinitely small,” as he called them in his aut...
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