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The comeback of hand drawing in modern life sciences



Scientific manuscripts are full of images. Since the birth of the life sciences, these images were in a form of hand drawings, with great examples from da Vinci, Hooke, van Leeuwenhoek, Remak, Buffon, Bovery, Darwin, Huxley, Haeckel and Gray's Anatomy to name a few. However, in the course of the past century, photographs and simplified schematics have gradually taken over as a way of illustrating scientific data and concepts, assuming that these are 'accurate' representations of the truth. Here, we argue for the importance of reviving the art of scientific drawings as a way of effectively communicating complex scientific ideas to both specialists and the general public.

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Figure 1: Three different presentations of a bladder carcinoma.


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This work has received support under the program “Investissements d'Avenir” launched by the French Government and implemented by Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) with the references ANR-10-LBX-0038, ANR-10-IDEX-0001-02 PSL. We are grateful to B. Baum (University College London, UK) and M. Piel (Institut Curie, Paris, France) for instructive discussions and suggestions for the manuscript. We would like to thank Y. Allory and F. Radvanyi (Institut Curie, Paris, France) for kindly sharing images.

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Correspondence to Renaud Chabrier or Carsten Janke.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Chabrier, R., Janke, C. The comeback of hand drawing in modern life sciences. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 19, 137–138 (2018).

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