David Goodsell, a structural biologist at Scripps Research in San Diego, California, is also a watercolor painter. His theme of choice is viruses!
Goodsell depicts viruses in his paintings with scientific precision, thus making Ebola or HIV appear beautiful. In fact, his works have graced the cover of many scientific journals as well as books he has produced.
Goodsell’s work is so much more than just an image of a molecule or a virus. He brings those tiny particles to life and his artwork is actually quite informative for his fellow scientists as well as to a wider audience.
Science Magazine has a neat feature on Goodsell, the scientist painter who turned deadly viruses into gorgeous illustrations:
In addition to studying pictures of cells from high-powered microscopes, Goodsell relies on molecular structures from electron microscopy (EM), x-ray crystallography, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to make his paintings, which show the often crowded and complex world of cells and the microbes that infect them. He even uses the known weights of molecules if that’s all he has so that he can at least draw, say, a correctly sized circle. “I’m a scientist first,” he says. “I’m not making editorial images that are meant to sell magazines. I want to somehow inform the scientists and armchair scientists what the state of knowledge is now and hopefully give them an intuitive sense of how these things really look—or may look,” he says.
Image: Jon Cohen, Illustrations: David Goodsell