Under the cellular hood

I have been a fan of David Goodsell’s biology illustrations ever since I came across an article of his in American Scientist a few years ago. Drawings in molecular biology tend to be schematic and reductionist in the extreme, simple diagrams depicting only a few things. But there’s nothing clean and schematic inside a real cell. Goodsell is almost alone in his efforts to depict the inside of a cell as the crazy jumble it is. He’s just posted a new illustration to his website, a big new triptych watercolor called Macrophage and Bacterium. We don’t yet know what it truly “looks like” inside a living cell, but this is an inspired (and beautiful) attempt.

Goodsell has written a couple of books, both of which I highly recommend. Our Molecular Nature: The Body’s Motors, Machines and Messages and The Machinery of Life. The hallmark of his writing is a lucid, high level approach that avoids jargon and gets at first principles. I also appreciate minor touches like explaining that the amino acid asparagine was actually named after asparagus.

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