What Words Can’t Convey: Illustrations Promote Scientific Understanding

Tomorrow's Ecology

cucumber skinHumankind has long used illustrations to represent complex ideas and concepts. When words just can’t quite convey our meaning images often becomes necessary. From cave paintings to modern-day microscopy our ability to understand and influence our environment has relied on our evolving ability to create read images.

To quote the National Science Foundation (NSF):

Some of science’s most powerful statements are not made in words. From the diagrams of DaVinci to Rosalind Franklin’s X-rays, visualization of research has a long and literally illustrious history. To illustrate is to enlighten.

How many people would have heard of fractal geometry or the double helix or solar flares if they had been described solely in words? In a world where science literacy is dismayingly rare, illustrations provide the most immediate and influential connection between scientists and other citizens, and the best hope for nurturing popular interest. Indeed, they are now a necessity for…

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