Through the years science has inspired many artists and some scientists have been driven to create art by the beauty they have witnessed during their work in the lab.
An example of the latter is Ed Munn, now retired from a career at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, UK, who worked on mitochondria, anaerobic fungi and the structure of serum proteins. In his work Ed used electron microscopy to investigate cellular structure, discovering two new proteins along the way.
He was struck by what he saw within cells, leading him to devise his own artistic style, which he calls “OneLinerImages”.
As the name suggests, each of Ed’s works is based on a single continuous line, inspired by the structure that makes it possible for cells to exist within the environment while remaining separate from it, the plasma membrane.
Ed says the invaginations that fill out the subjects of his drawings represent infoldings in the cell membrane, the complex protein-mediated interactions between the cell and the environment, and the internal membranes found in mitochondria, chloroplasts, the Golgi apparatus and the endoplasmic reticulum.
When his drawings consist of more than one animal, they are linked by the single continuous line. This, says Ed, is to emphasise “the co-ordinated activity of the myriads of individual cells of which multicellular organisms are composed and the beneficial interactions between individuals that are essential for the survival of populations”.
Ed’s intention is to highlight the hidden beauty of cellular structure to those with no experience of science. And what better way to do that than by using it as a basis for drawing cats? Everyone loves cats.
It’s hard to appreciate the level of detail in some of Ed's larger drawings from the small image reproduced here, so I’d recommend visiting his website where some close-up pictures, and a wide selection of images (many of which are not cats) will give you a better idea of the work's intricacy.
The image reproduced above is OneLinerImage: Kazan cat II, based on an 18th Century Russian satirical woodcut.