Microbes as glass sculptures: in a word, beautiful.

Dear Luke,

I just saw a photo of your glass sculpture of HIV.
I can’t stop looking at it. Knowing that millions of those guys are in me, and will be a part of me for the rest of my life. Your sculpture, even as a photo, has made HIV much more real for me than any photo or illustration I’ve ever seen. It’s a very odd feeling seeing my enemy, and the eventual likely cause of my death, and finding it so beautiful.


The above is letter inspired by some glass sculptures delicately created by Luke Jerram. They are spectacular, and I’m pretty sure you don’t need to be a science junkie to appreciate the prettiness of what you see. The letter, in many ways, demonstrates that there is utility in exploring the boundaries of science and art. Here is the one for HIV.


This artistic project actually has a fairly academic perspective behind it, as described on Luke’s website:

These transparent glass sculptures were created to contemplate the global impact of each disease and to consider how the artificial colouring of scientific imagery affects our understanding of phenomena. Jerram is exploring the tension between the artworks’ beauty and what they represent, their impact on humanity.

The question of pseudo-colouring in biomedicine and its use for science communicative purposes, is a vast and complex subject. If some images are coloured for scientific purposes, and others altered simply for aesthetic reasons, how can a viewer tell the difference? How many people believe viruses are brightly coloured? Are there any colour conventions and what kind of ‘presence’ do pseudocoloured images have that ‘naturally’ coloured specimens don’t? How does the choice of different colours affect their reception?

Anyway, certain worth exploring further. Below are some more images of these marvelous sculptures, and you can even see youtube video of Luke preparing one at his site.

This is e.coli;






Swine Flu;


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David (@ng_dave) is Faculty at the Michael Smith Labs. His writing has appeared in places such as McSweeney's, The Walrus, and boingboing.net. He plans on using Terry as another place to highlight the mostly science-y links he appreciates. In fact, if you liked this one, you might also like his main site generally - this can be found at popperfont.net.