I finally got around to reading my backed-up RSS feeds, and had the chance to peruse these, well, demented 1970s biology textbook illustrations uncovered by Crooked Timber. I mean, what? No – what??! Crooked Timber calls it a “Groovy Prog Rock Wannabe Biology Text.” I don’t know what to say, except that I went to Artomatic yesterday, which had something like a thousand artists, and this psychedelica is far trippier than anything I saw there. Whoa, man.

For the record, if I had, as a child, learned to associate biology with angry disembodied leopard heads flying towards me on Frisbees of fire, over roiling Hokusai waves, I would definitely have chosen a different career.

Update: more context on the textbook of terror here, thanks to @TheDarkEngine


  1. #1 Lab Rat
    May 31, 2009

    Woah…that is trippy. i don’t know whether it would have put me off science though. As a kid, I’d probably have been quite excited at the thought of a subject that involved tigers, fire, volcanoes and giant robot-style sci-fi heads 🙂

  2. #2 techne
    May 31, 2009

    zomg. Was this supposed to illustrate anything specific? Like meiosis or something? Or, god forbid, evolution?

  3. #3 Coturnix
    May 31, 2009

    If that was how my textbook was illustrated when I was a kid, you bet that would have been the only textbook I actually opened, and regularly so, thus ensuring even better that I would become a biologist.

  4. #4 Jessica Palmer
    May 31, 2009

    LOL. I totally believe it Bora.

    As to what this represents, the flickr post gives it the title “human possibilities”. How vague can you get. Possible themes for substance-induced hallucinations, maybe?

  5. #5 SmartDogs
    May 31, 2009

    It looks like those illustrators took more drugs than I did in the 70’s!

    Speaking of strange, booky art – today I found some weird but wonderful book art at Brian Dettmer’s site – Book Autopsies. I think you’d enjoy them:

  6. #6 Sage Ross
    June 1, 2009

    That images is the title image for chapter 44, “Human Possibilities”, which is basically the eugenics chapter (although I don’t think the e-word appears anywhere). It discusses human genetic change, efforts at zero population growth, protecting humans from mutagens, and “the distant future” of humanity (i.e., selective breeding and genetic engineering).

  7. #7 Lynn
    June 2, 2009

    I think they’re cool. Trippy? I wouldn’t know. I never did any “tripping”. I don’t associate certain kinds of art with the drug culture the way most people seem to. To me it’s just interesting and colorful art.

  8. #8 Jessica Palmer
    June 2, 2009

    Well, the drug culture of the 70s DID have a really unique “look” so it’s almost impossible for me not to make that connection. 🙂

  9. #9 Rogue Epidemiologist
    June 3, 2009

    omg … it looks like an Ed Hardy T-shirt.

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