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Best Science Art Books of 2012: A Holiday Wish List

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Photo Credits: Perrin Ireland

by Julia Rothman

Finally, the book that catalogs my life's ambition: great art illustrating scientific answers to vast questions about the way things work. The self described "science book like no other" promises to pick you up at the front cover, delight and fascinate you in a flurry of eye poppers, and drop you off better informed 168 pages later.

(See selected artwork from this book here.)

Photo Credits: Perrin Ireland

by R. Klantern

This has been a bible and a reference to inform how I arrange space and use images in designing my work this past year.

Photo Credits: Perrin Ireland

by Draught Associates

This crew is pumping out the lovechildren of science education charts and graphic design—small, very helpful pocket references for when you're in a pinch for the perfect symbol or playful visual storytelling device. Visual mnemonics, science-style.

Photo Credits: Perrin Ireland

edited by Michael R. Canfield

Like a daydream: following scientists who draw as they explore, in depth, creatures and crevices in the natural world. An inside peek into how visual scientists think, this book is a total treat.

Photo Credits: Perrin Ireland

by Felice Frankel and Angela DePace

I have a major intellectual crush on Felice Frankel, and have for years. She’s a master of the science of image production, an authority on designing the perfect visual. Visual Strategies, complete with a companion digital extension via website, takes scientists step by step through the creative process on the visuals they produce, including questions about audience, goals, and the proper image to go with it.

My other favorite book of hers, Envisioning Science: The Design and Craft of the Science Image, is a technical how-to for scientists to re-think research image making as an opportunity to grow an artistic eye. 

Photo Credits: Perrin Ireland

by Rose-Lynn Fisher

Any book that's composed of scanning electron micrographs is my kind of book—my research was based on SEMs, and it's a magical world to dip into. The process is magnificent, the perfect blend of science and art: who can resist spraying a tiny surface with a coat of gold? The images in Bee are the kind of machine-made line work Durer himself would've envied, infusing tiny creatures and surfaces with the depth, insight and majesty they deserve.

Photo Credits: Perrin Ireland

by Katrina van Grouw

Haunting, stunning, a schooling for any other scientific illustrator out there. Illustrations that go beneath the feathered surface of birds and explore how their internal anatomy functions in different settings—one impressively underwater—is a scientific feat in itself. Truly challenges the idea that art is separate from scientific inquiry.

Photo Credits: Perrin Ireland

by Michael Hearst

Art is an outsider's medium, and from the sidelines science artists have the freedom to poke fun at life on earth. Some of the creatures we share this planet with are pretty darn freaky (ourselves are top of the list), and this book introduces them with whimsical, irresistible drawings by a team of illustrators. A quirky toast to the fascinating, impressively well-adapted freaks among us.

Photo Credits: Perrin Ireland

by David Liitschwagger

A classic restriction art project: using the lens of a green cube, David Liitschwagger worked with scientists to understand and then image what would crawl, fly and ooze through the space of a cube in a given ecosystem. The contents of the cube unveiled in this book show how nature can pack a punch, with E.O. Wilson adding a forward for a bit of ecological star clout.

Photo Credits: Perrin Ireland

by Michael Sappol

The National Library of Medicine's History of Medicine webpage, featuring images, posters, manuscripts and more dating from the 11th century, is a regular in my browser history, and it was a positive geek thrill for me to learn that Michael Sappol had curated a collection of some of the rarest, and most buried, NLM images. I'm really hoping this one shows up in my stocking. "Grotesque and glowing," Amazon says.

Photo Credits: Perrin Ireland

by DK

Enough said. Visual science geeks, this is a library necessity—and come on, it’s DK.

Photo Credits: University of Chicago Press

by Julie Anderson, Emm Barnes and Emma Shackleton

More history of medicine fun, a shoutout to the way surgeons and scientists used to learn: by drawing what they saw. Historical anatomy sketchbooks have been a huge inspiration in my work. The conversation about medicine in painting’s history is a moving and important one. (This cover art's not mine—it's such a great cover, thought I'd let the masters handle this one!)

Photo Credits: Perrin Ireland

edited by Tom Baione

A friend posted this to my Facebook page the other day, via BrainPickings, and I positively drooled: visual access to the rarest selections from the AMNH? Behave.

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