Wellcome Image Awards

Because of a gap in 2013, I had forgotten about the Wellcome Image Awards. This SEM image of a kidney stone by Kevin Mackenzie was one of the winning entries for 2014:

So was this strangely beautiful SEM image of sludge from an industrial farming process by Eberhardt Josué Friedrich Kernahan and Enrique Rodríguez Cañas:

This SEM image of a Purkinje cell by Michael Häusser, Sarah Rieubland, and Arnd Roth was one of this year’s winners:

So was this micro-computed tomography scan of the skull and front legs of a tuatara (a New Zealand reptile) by Sophie Regnault:

And this illustration of pollen grains being released from the anther of a flower by Maurizio De Angelis:

All images used under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND). Click images to zoom and/or read more about the pictures. They’re lovely, don’t you think?

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Three lovely scanning electron microscope (SEM) images


A wonderful image of pollen from sunflower, morning glory, hollyhock, lily, primrose, and castor bean plants (Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility 2011, colourised by William Crochot).


Image of a strawberry by Annie Cavanagh and David McCarthy of the School of Pharmacy, University of London. This beautifully detailed image was created in 2010 by stitching several different SEM images together. I have mentioned this image before. It comes via via Wellcome Images, and more of the story is here.


A human human T-lymphocyte (white blood cell), colourised blue (NIAID 2010).

The Lion of Microscopy

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek has been called the “father of microbiology.” This Dutch scientist manufactured several powerful microscopes with small, near-spherical, lenses, and made numerous microbiological and other observations. He discovered, among other things, red blood cells, spermatozoa, and micro-organisms.



Top: Replica of a van Leeuwenhoek microscope (photo: Jeroen Rouwkema). Bottom left: van Leeuwenhoek’s drawings of sand grains (in red chalk, from a letter to the Royal Society, 4th December 1703). Bottom right: section through one-year-old ash wood (click images to zoom).

It is interesting to compare van Leeuwenhoek’s drawings with the modern electron-microscope image of sand grains below. The technology has gotten better, but scientists are still treading down the path blazed by van Leeuwenhoek and his contemporary Robert Hooke.

And where would medicine be without microscopy? The microbiologists who followed this great pioneer have saved countless lives, and the world is in van Leeuwenhoek’s debt as a result.

Science as Art

The Materials Research Society hosts a regular Science as Art competition. My personal favourite from the Spring 2013 competition was this strategically coloured scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of a thin-sheet doped aniline oligomer network (one of four first-place images). The image, titled “Tetraaniline in Full Bloom,” was produced by Yue (Jessica) Wang of the University of California, Los Angeles. Check out the other images at the site above, or at Wired.

Wellcome Image Awards

The 2012 Wellcome Image Awards included some fantastic science photographs. My personal favourite was this false-coloured scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of a lavender leaf, by Annie Cavanagh and David McCarthy from the School of Pharmacy, University of London. The stomata and the glandular trichomes secreting the essential oils are clearly visible:

Annie has some fascinating things to say about the Art of Science here, including the recipe for one successful image of a strawberry: “5 attempts, 4 failures, 3 weeks, 2 supermarket trips, 1 image.” See wellcomeimages.org for more fantastic photographs.