List of Physical Visualizations
and Related Artifacts
With tag “science”

1660 – Galileo Thermometer

A Galileo thermometer consists of a set of floaters immersed in a clear liquid (typically ethanol) inside a sealed glass tube. Today a floater is typically a glass sphere containing a colored liquid and to which is attached a metallic temperature tag. The composition of a floater is irrelevant, its overall density just needs to be calibrated to a certain value and remain stable. Floaters being made of glass and metal, their volume – […]

Added by Pierre Dragicevic. Category: Measuring instrument. Tags: , ,
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1750 – George Adams’ Solid Geometry Models

During the 18th century, instrument maker George Adams built and sold solid 3D geometric models as educational complements to the 2D images found in Euclid's Elements of Geometry. As argued by a 18th-century author: It is almost as necessary as in mechanics, to exhibit the objects, whose qualities are to be taught; and to call in the joint assistance of the hands and eyes. According to […]

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1820 – Papier-Mâché Anatomical Models

Left image: As part of its 2014 exhibition entitled Mind Maps: Stories from Psychology, the London Science Museum showcased this very accurate and intricate papier-mâché brain model from 1900 that shows path of nerve fibers. French physician Louis Thomas Jerôme Auzoux developed this technique around 1820 due to the shortage of human cadavers and wax models to study human anatomy. He was inspired by papier-mâché dolls that were […]

Added by Pierre Dragicevic, sent by Tobias Isenberg. Category: Physical model. Tags: , , , , ,
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1865 – Hofmann’s Croquet Ball Models

August Wilhelm Hofmann was the first to introduce physical representations of molecules into lectures during his Friday Evening Discourses presentation "On the Combining Power of Atoms" at London's Royal Institution of Great Britain in . He introduced a colored set of four croquet balls to represent atoms (hydrogen, oxygen, chlorine and nitrogen), implanted with a fixed number of sticks corresponding to each atom's valence.  Thus we distinguish the chlorine atom as univalent, […]

Added by Fanny Chevalier. Category: Uncertain / disputed. Tags: , , , ,
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1866 – Dewar’s Brass Strip Models

Mechanical arrangement adapted to illustrate structure in the non-saturated hydrocarbons by the chemist James Dewar. The model is made of bars, clamped together so as to allow free motion. In order to make the combination look like an atom, a thin round disc of blackened brass can be placed under the central nut. At the ends of the arms are holes to connect […]

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1875 – Van’t Hoff’s Molecular Paper Models

Van’t Hoff disseminated his stereochemical ideas to leading chemists of the day by sending them 3-D paper models of tetrahedral molecules, like these now housed in the Leiden Museum. There might be some difficulty in following my reasoning. I felt this myself, and I have made use of cardboard figures to facilitate the representation. Not wanting to require too much of the reader I will […]

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1880 – Winogradsky Columns

The Winogradsky column, invented by Sergei Winogradsky, consists in a transparent cylinder for analyzing microbial life by observing how the metabolism of micro-organisms evolve over time in stratified layers. By producing a small closed ecosystem, the column enables observing how bacteria can survive by providing a temporal and spatial visualization of layers such as in ecology, microbiology. Sources: The Microbiome of Your Gut Winogradsky Column—Microbial Evolution in […]

Added by Jean Vanderdonckt. Category: Uncertain / disputed. Tags: , , , ,
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1900 – Crum Brown’s Mathematical Surface

Model by Alexander Crum Brown (1838-1922) of a half-twist mathematical surface, featuring a non-Euclidean so-called Klein bottle, c. 1900. Sources: Photo from the Science Museum, London, textual description courtesy of Klaus Hentschel. For more, see Klaus Hentschel (2014): Visual Cultures in Science, Technology and Medicine, pp. 96ff. and pl. XIV.  

Added by Pierre Dragicevic, sent by Klaus Hentschel. Category: Physical model. Tags: ,
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1945 – Electron Density Map and Molecular Model of Penicillin

Electron density map and model of Penicillin created by Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin in 1945 based on her work on X-ray crystallography. The Penicillin molecule was the first molecule whose structure was derived entirely from X-ray data. Dorothy Hodgkin later received the Nobel price for applying the same technique to determine the structure of the B12 molecule. Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-94) was awarded the prestigious and exclusive […]

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1953 – Watson and Crick’s 3D Model of DNA

In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick suggested what is now accepted as the first correct double-helix model of DNA structure in the journal Nature. Their double-helix, molecular model of DNA was then based on a single X-ray diffraction image taken by Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling in May 1952, as well as the information that the DNA bases are paired. Experimental evidence supporting the […]

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1970 – Byron’s Bender

In the early 1970's, crystallographer Byron Rubin invented a tool that bends wires to make proteins models. The tool was popular until the 1990s. Byron Rubin became an artist who builds large-scale molecular sculptures. Eric Martz and Eric Francoeur explain how such physical models yielded important scientific insights: An example illustrating the importance of models from Byron's Bender occurred at a scientific meeting in the mid 1970's. At this time, less than two […]

Added by Pierre Dragicevic. Category: Enabling technology. Tags: , , , ,
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1995 – San Diego TeleManufacturing Facility

In 1995, Mike Bailey from the San Diego Supercomputer Center created the SDSC TeleManufacturing Facility to help scientists visualize their data in physical form. In 1997, the facility produced one of the first digitally-fabricated molecular models using laminated object manufacturing. The biochemists involved in the project got insights that they were not able to get from the on-screen 3D models, and concluded that: modern physical models are important tools that significantly […]

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2002 – Bathsheba Grossman’s Crystal Engravings

Artist Bathsheba Grossman has been 3D printing mathematical surfaces as early as 1997. In 2002 she started to use subsurface laser engraving to produce 3D physical visualizations of data from astronomy, biology, and physics. Left image: a piece of DNA molecule. Right image: a 3D map of our nearby stars. The artist explains to us: This medium excels at imaging less structural data such as disconnected volumes, non-compact point clouds, […]

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2004 – Full-Color 3D-Printed Scientific Visualizations

In 2004, the Visualization Research Lab from Brown University printed full-color 3D models of scientific visualizations. They published a poster on the topic where they discuss the technical challenges they faced. The printer used was a Zcorp Z406. Also see our entry 1995 – SDSC TeleManufacturing Facility. Source: http://vis.cs.brown.edu/areas/projects/rapid.html

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2004 – Scripps’ Molecule Models

Since 2004 the Molecular Graphics Laboratory at the Scripps Research Institute has been making heavy use of 3D-printed full-color physical molecule models, some of which are articulated (left image), flexible (middle image), and even self-assembling (right image, see video). They also publish augmented reality systems that use those physical models. Also see our entry 1995 – SDSC TeleManufacturing Facility. Sources: Web Page: http://mgl.scripps.edu/projects/tangible_models Tommy Toy (2011) How Arthur […]

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2008 – Scientific Visualization in Crystal

Paul Bourke proposes to use sub-surface laser engraving for communicating about scientific findings at conferences. He also has seminar slides and a poster discussing the use of 3D-printed models. Source: Paul Bourke (2008) Presenting Scientific Visualisation Results as 3D Crystal Engravings.

Added by Pierre Dragicevic, sent by Yvonne Jansen. Category: Passive physical visualization. Tags: , ,
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2008 – Rearrangeable Wooden Model of Brain Scan

A selection of MRI data glued on 60 wooden blocks which allow to physically dig into cross sections, by Neil Fraser. More details on infosthetics. Source: infosthetics.com.

Added by Yvonne Jansen. Category: Passive physical visualization. Tags: , , ,
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2010 – Limbique: Brain Slices

A neuroscientific physical visualization made by an artist and a neuroscientist. Exhibited at the at the VisWeek 2011 art show. Source: David Paulsen and Pinar Yoldas. Photo by Samuel Huron.

Added by Pierre Dragicevic. Category: Passive physical visualization. Tags: ,
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2011 – Manually Animated Graph of Scientific Data

Philadelphia-based multi-discipline artist Bradley Litwin built this physical chart that can be animated by turning a crank. It is the only manually-animated physical visualization we know of so far. It was commissionned by a pharmaceutical company, intended as an educational device for distributing to doctors. Bradley was kind enough to send us an image of the insides of the original prototype, "not quite as pretty as the final product", […]

Added by Yvonne Jansen and Pierre Dragicevic. Category: Passive physical visualization. Tags: ,
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2012 – All Possible Photons: Steel Feynman Diagrams

These are stainless steel sculptures of Feynman diagrams created by Edward Tufte. They are currently (opening Sep 12, 2012) exhibited at Edward Tufte's gallery in Chelsea. Source: Edward Tufte. All possible photons – The conceptual and cognitive art of feynman diagrams.

Added by Yvonne Jansen. Category: Uncertain / disputed. Tags:
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2013 – Data Sculpture of Chicken Inbreeding

Ryo Sakai and Jan Aerts from the Bioinformatics/Data Visualization Lab at KULeuven created a data-driven sculpture representing inbreeding in a particular chicken. Each loop in the sculpture represents a chromosome. On the outside is a histogram of the heterozygosity of the DNA; the inside a histogram of the homozygosity in that region. These sculptures are part of the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project, and have been presented at the Art […]

Added by Pierre Dragicevic, sent by Jan Aerts. Category: Passive physical visualization. Tags: , , , ,
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2013 – Flip Books Rather Than Movies

Cell biologist Jessica Polka discusses the benefits of making flip books to bring to scientific conferences: With the advent of smartphones and tablets, bringing movies to poster sessions is becoming more common than ever before. Even so, a low-tech flip book is still a lot more fun for visitors to use, and it's easier to pass around a large group. When the session's over, a […]

Added by Pierre Dragicevic, sent by Benjamin Bach. Category: Other. Tags: , ,
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2015 – Solid Model of Stellar Winds

Scientists keep using solid models to help them better understand complex 3D data (here, an astrophysical simulation): They say this provides even more insight into what’s going on. “The ability to hold and inspect the 3-D printed models provides a new perspective on the WWIR’s geometry and an improved sense of the scale of the different structures,” they say. In particular, they say the model allows […]

Added by Pierre Dragicevic, sent by Jean-Daniel Fekete. Category: Physical model. Tags: , , , ,
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