Taxonomy and Vesalius

Learning about taxonomy and order now, I see how classification systems underlie all branches of science that I have learned in the past. In lecture, an illustration of a branch of flowers was juxtaposed with last week’s photographs of Dorothy Hodgkin’s crystallography. Before, plants were classified by their patterns and colors, and things people could see with their eyes only. As technology advanced, it moved to the level of the cellular and molecular, allowing beings to better classify and understand themselves in the world. Taxonomy has transcended centuries of scientific discoveries including biological systems categorizing the organs and processes of the body.

Something beautiful that arose from the orderly and seemingly mundane task of naming came art that continues to be an important resource doctors of today still utilize. The anatomist and physician, Andreas Vesalius, founded modern human anatomy, initially creating drawings of the human body. According to Information Art, Wilson describes some researchers’ beliefs on aesthetic in research.  Through his work, I believe Vesalius embodies the art of anatomy so purely in his detailed sketches of the human body poised in physical introspection.  Using a human cadaver he stole from executioners and the opportunity of experimentation, he took what he knew of our structure and transformed it into concrete knowledge.  Opposing Wilson’s idea that scientists use art to form what they know of science, like Watson and Crick with the double helix structure of DNA, Vesalius formed art in his passion for anatomy and creating the system of bones, muscles, and much more. His masterpieces are prime examples of Renaissance art that have been saved over time to produce the information and technology we have today.

Now, because we know exactly what structure belongs to each system of the human body, each new thing discovered about the body can be added to our already large library of data. With new technology, researchers have seen neurons communicating through electric impulses and have mapped them into computers. One particularly interesting topic of study is by a speech pathologist Donald York, who studies EEG patterns and hopes to one day develop a helpful tool for the speech impaired to speak directly through thoughts (Wilson, 67). Without the basis of biology, the system of taxonomy, and people like Linnaeus and Vesalius, doctors would not be able to describe their findings as easily to other doctors, creating a mess of confusion for communication.

Kristen Chan

-signed up to present about week 7, so week 8

Wilson, Stephen. Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2002. Print.


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