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HHMI Purchases Geis Archives

Summary

The Institute has bought paintings and other work by Irving Geis, a pioneer in molecular art who helped reveal the beauty of nature.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has purchased the Geis Archives, a collection of work by Irving Geis, a scientific artist whose paintings, sketches and drawings enabled generations of scientists to visualize many of biology's most important macromolecules. Also included in the purchase are related scientific correspondence, a science library of Geis's published work, and his private journals.

Geis (1908-1997) was one of the greatest scientific artists of the 20th century. His innovations, particularly in depicting the structures of biological macromolecules such as DNA, earned him an international reputation. Many of his illustrations appeared in Scientific American, including a painting of the first protein crystal structure, of myoglobin, published in 1961.

"We are honored to take responsibility for this archive," said Thomas R. Cech, the Institute's president. "Irving Geis was a pioneer in molecular art who worked closely with scientists to reveal the beauty of nature. He took great care to ensure accuracy and had a gift for depicting the three-dimensionality and movement of molecules. Even today, many of his images compare favorably with those produced by high-tech computer graphics."

Geis illustrated numerous scientific textbooks, was a guest lecturer at universities and medical schools and exhibited his work at scientific institutions throughout the United States.

The Institute, the nation's largest medical research philanthropy, will display many of the works at its headquarters and conference center in Chevy Chase, Md. It also plans to create an online exhibit and to make the images and collection available to other institutions.

Cytochrome (1988)
The hydrophobic side chains are shown in red.

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Cytochrome
Myoglobin Fold

Myoglobin Fold (1987)
The eight alpha helices form a watertight pocket for the heme (red disc), where oxygen is reversibly bound to the central iron atom.

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Tomato Bushy
Stunt Virus (1984)

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Tomato Bushy
DNA

DNA (1984)

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Irving Geis

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Photo: Sandy Geis

Irving Geis

For More Information

Jim Keeley
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