John Holbo makes a discovery

And it’s gorgeous. Holbo has found a set of scans from a 1972 biology textbook (and an associated blog) that will blow your mind, baby. Here are some eukaryotic cells.


I think this is a very trippy metaphor for the synapse.


I like it. It’s got style. I’m going to have to cruise some used bookstores to see if I can find a copy of Biology Today. If nothing else, I can imagine using some of those illustrations for talks…I’m also going to have to get a polyester suit with very wide lapels and a paisley print shirt, let my hair grow out, and shave the beard, but keep the mustache. Oh, I remember the 60s and 70s!


  1. Benny the Icepick says

    //I’m also going to have to get a polyester suit with very wide lapels and a paisley print shirt, let my hair grow out, and shave the beard, but keep the mustache. Oh, I remember the 60s and 70s!//

    You should totally do it, but we’ll need photographic evidence, naturally.

  2. SpookyElectric says

    Paisley and mustaches are making a comeback in the “indie” crowd, so you would probably fit in rather nicely.

  3. Leukocyte says

    Santiago Ramon y Cajal (the founder of modern neuroscience and all around genius) called synapses “protoplasmic kisses”… makes you wonder what that metaphorical picture of the synapse faces would be doing if active.

  4. Fred the Hun says

    The Psychedelic Experience



    Give me a button of wild peyote
    To munch in my den at night,
    That I may set my id afloat
    In the country of queer delight.

    So ho! it’s off to the land of dreams
    With never a stop or stay,
    Where p
    ts meet with fairy queens
    To sing a foundelay.

    Give me a flagon of mescaline
    To wash o’er my mundane mind,
    That I may feel like a schizophrene
    Of the catatonic kind.

    So hey! let in the vision of light
    To banish banality,
    Then will I surely catch a sight
    Of the Real Reality.

    Give me a chalice of lysergic
    To quaff when day is done,
    That I may get a perceptual kick
    From my diencephalon.

    So ho! let all resistance down
    For a transcendental glance,
    Past the superego’s frosty frown
    At the cosmic underpants.

    Give me a pinch of psilocybin
    To sprinkle in my beer,
    That my psychopathic next-of-kin
    May not seem quite so queer.

    So hey! it’s off for the visions bizarre
    Past the ego boundary,
    For a snort at the psychedelic bar
    Of the new psychiatry.

    F. W. Hanley, M.D.

  5. Leanstrum says

    “Oh, I remember the 60s and 70s!”

    Then you didn’t live them. Apparently. I’m 21.

  6. bsa says

    Now I remember why I don’t remember the biology I learned back then.
    Dude, seriously, dendrites have faces?

  7. says

    “We were in the biology department, just outside the lecture hall, when the drugs began to take hold. . . .”

    I’m also going to have to get a polyester suit with very wide lapels and a paisley print shirt, let my hair grow out, and shave the beard, but keep the mustache.

    Speaking of which, does anybody know where I can get a safari suit like James Burke wore in Connections? (My Carl Sagan wardrobe is getting pretty respectable, so I can already rock it like it’s 1980. . . .)

  8. Sean Peters says

    Whoaah, dude – what’s the thing with the rainbow colored lightning bolts shooting out of it?

  9. blueelm says

    does anybody know where I can get a safari suit like James Burke wore in Connections

    You, sir, are awesome.


    I love this book! I have a collection of textbook art. I remember that onece in middle school I had a teacher that wasn’t allowed to talk about the E-word or the “supposed” age of the earth according to “science” so he made us a non-educational comic book which illustrated these lies. I still have the thing. He drew it all. I wish I could find that guy out there just to write him a letter to tell him he was a great teacher. But he left this awful State and has a very common name.

  10. Thrasher says

    While searching for copies of this textbook online, I found copies of the accompanying film guide. There’s a FILM of this!

  11. uncle frogy says

    Thanks for the link to a wonderful blog. I think I could spend way too much time with the book treasures he has displayed on those posts.
    if illustrations are for conveying information these convey far more than just physical appearance. wonderful! So many times illustrations are forgettable and are little more than decorations that only add expense to a book.

  12. Sven DiMilo says

    These are both Oughta Sight and Far Out.
    This one is particularly evocative of Yellow Submarine.

  13. says

    My stepfather has photographic evidence that he was at Woodstock. Unfortunately his memories of Woodstock are not nearly as clear.

    If you let your hair grow out, you will need to wear it in a hippy ponytail.

  14. Felix says

    One word, PZ:


    Oh, and a brown leather jacket with lightblue pants.

  15. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    Oh, and a brown leather jacket with lightblue pants.

    Don’t forget the bellbottoms on the pants.

  16. Helioprogenus says

    Duuuude, my hands are huge, they can touch anything but themselves….oh wait.

    I know biologists must have dropped some acid to try and visualize the intimate workings of the cell.

    I once ate some shrooms and I could swear I could see the individual cells that composed all the trees, flowers, people, and even inanimate objects. But alas, the 60’s and 70’s must have been a continuous mind altering experience.

  17. Sili says

    The second one looks familiar. A lecturer musta used it once.

    Given that I never paid attention in biology (and only got through with a passing grade), I don’t recall who.

  18. says

    I swear I had that textbook back in high school. And I am absolutely sure that the second illustration is used somewhere else, because those smily axons and dendrites are familiar…maybe they were used to illustrate something in Psychology Today? Or in a Time-Life book?

  19. eddie says

    Some thoughts;

    I think the middle one of the collection needs anchovies.
    I prefer my insky fresh, not kan’d.
    The bottom image reminds me of a D&D book on traps and pitfalls, this one with many tentacles

  20. Epikt says

    Blake Stacey:

    My Carl Sagan wardrobe is getting pretty respectable, so I can already rock it like it’s 1980. . . .

    Think carefully about the image you want to project. According to classical musician brother, conductors wear turtlenecks to hide the foreskin.

  21. Keanus says

    Nerd of Redhead beat me to it, but you can’t be authentic to the early ’70’s without bellbottoms, preferably knit polyester. Also white leather shoes look nice, with elevator heels if you’re short, with them. And don’t forget the tinted glasses.

  22. LightningRose says

    PZ, I think I found a copy for you online. Email me and I’ll reply with the url.

    I don’t want to post it here for fear some wanker will grab it.

  23. dguy says

    Eukaryotic cells would seem to bear a striking resemblance to geological maps.

  24. pray11342 says

    Recently Joe Bageant posted a short remembrance of his early experiences with psychedelics.
    Joe doesn’t write on science all that much, Joe is more into Class War and his astounding first hand knowledge and respect for the denizen’s of redneck Jesusland, where he grew up and has returned in his old age. But I enjoyed his description of the tech job he had many years ago.

    From Skinny dipping in Reality – – “A coot’s account of the great hippy LSD enlightenment search party”

    Hard as it is to imagine today, LSD was perfectly legal at the time. Legal and apparently not dangerous. In fact, it never even interfered with my job at a microbiological laboratory in the local Shraft’s frozen food plant, but seemed to improve work. Often I arrived there still under the influence of the previous night’s psychotropics and still managed to impress the hell out of the lab boss, Ray Trotta, for my ability to note extremely subtle differences in cultured bacterial colonies. Of course, when we put our eye to the same lens of the dark field colony counter, we were by no means looking at the same colony, as I skimmed across and through the colorful landscapes and towers of teeming metropoli of bacterial civilizations.

  25. says

    This is SO unfair!!!!! I love this art. I want to make a quilt out of it… Now if I could just get me hands on a copy of the bloody thing!!!! Anyone got any clues? My googling skills sucketh apparently…

  26. hje says

    I have a copy of this text I scored from our department library before the old textbooks were destroyed. I’d be happy to lend it for scanning. I was such a freaking awesome book in terms of the graphics (fold out figures too!). It was my first college level biology text.

  27. Watchman says

    These remind me of the oil-and-water light shows they used to have at the Fillmore. Very liquid.

  28. Notagod says

    Some additional information about CRM, apparently the company that published Biology Today, I think.


    Thursday, December 4, 2003… 1970s California Filmculture: A Tribute to CRM Films

    Lately, I’ve been reviewing a selection of films made by CRM, which made a number of outstanding psychological and science films in the 1970s. Screening a succession of films from the same company affords the researcher the luxury of becoming immersed in the culture of the company, and has the effect of turning the reviewer into a predictor of sorts. “CRM would do this, at this juncture of the film I’m watching”, I’ll muse, or “If I know my EB, we’ll wrap the sequence in 30 seconds, and return to Kip Fadiman’s on-screen narration”. Somehow, I didn’t get to CRM until this year. Over the years, I’ve catalogued perhaps a dozen CRM titles, but tangents are the stuff of your ciné16 host, and last month, CRM caught my eye (and my fancy). Their films merit an evening or so unto themselves, and a brief history of the company will help, I think, to put them in better perspective.

    CRM was a southern California film company specializing in films on sociological, psychological, and scientific subjects, and eventually evolved its marketing model to include mediated corporate training as well. CRM, which stands for Communications/Research/Machines, was founded in 1970 as the film division of Charles Tillinghast III’s Psychology Today group, which encompassed the popular magazine, and a textbook division. In 1970, Preston Holdner (b. September 25, 1940, St. Louis, MO), who had been at McGraw-Hill films since graduating from college in 1963, was brought in to become general manager, and Paul Lazarus was hired as the executive producer. Located in the sunny, surf-washed town of Del Mar, CRM was the quintessential laisser-faire California company of the early 1970s. “Friday afternoon, the whole staff would sit around and drink wine and smoke pot”, recalls Holdner. “Because of this laid-back atmosphere, it was not uncommon for people to work 60 hours a week instead of 40”. The staff photographs on pages 28 and 29 of CRM’s 1975 catalogue chronicle an era in style, dress, and demeanor, the women wearing sundresses and bell-bottomed pants, with many of the men sporting long hair, reflective of halcyon times before erstwhile sex partners sued each other for peccadilloes, and smoking a joint would run the individual afoul of draconian racketeering laws. A particularly memorable photograph documents director Steve Katten and producer Larry Logan kneeling behind an Arriflex, shooting in a field of poppies.

    In 1973, Tillinghast sold the film division to Boise-Cascade, which, after several public relations snafus, was looking to appear to be a kinder, gentler corporation. Buying an educational film company seemed, at the time, to be the right step. The move resulted in a cultural disconnect for both parties. “The Boise folks would arrive on a corporate jet, and run into staff members leaving in bathing suits and surfboards”, recalled Holdner, “they wore three piece suits, and we wore bathing suits.” The uncomfortable relationship lasted a little over one year, at which time CRM was acquired by Ziff-Davis. Holdner remembers Bill Ziff as a “tough guy”, who was probably more interested in the Magazine than the film company, which was sold to McGraw-Hill in 1975. Holdner left that year to form the Media Guild film company. During his tenure, CRM produced approximately 50 films.

    Brian Sellstrum ran the CRM division of McGraw Hill after Holdner’s departure, and after the mid-1980s, eventually became the editor of several magazines in the surfing/skateboarding genre. CRM’s notable filmmakers included Steve Katten (director of the exceptional ‘Biology Today’ film series) and Richard Miner. CRM today exists as CRM Learning, producer of industrial training films. Sadly, few of CRM’s finest titles from the 1970s era are still in distribution.

    Tonight, we’ll see several of the films that made CRM notable. They are timeless in content, and reflective of an era gone by.

    On tonight’s show:

    ‘Perception’ (1979) 28m, dir, Richard A. Miner. This fine industrial psych film explores observations vs. opinions as they relate to workplace conflict. Included are sequences on perception tricks, and there is an insightful vignette featuring political cartoonist Paul Conrad.

    ‘Group Dynamics: Groupthink’ (1973) 20m, dir. Steve Katten. An industrial psych classic, the film, based on the work of Psychologist Irving Janis, describes how the tendency to agree interferes with critical thinking. Here we have dramatized examples of concepts such as the Illusion of Invulnerability (which led to the disaster at Pearl Harbor), the Illusion of Morality, Self-censorship, the Illusion of Unanimity (the Bay of Pigs was one result).

    ‘Fruit Fly: a Look at Behavior Biology’ (1974) 21m, dir. Steve Katten. This fascinating film features wonderful cinematography by Larry Logan and Isidore Mankofsky, and includes shots form the electron microscope. On the way, we learn about homosexuality in the fruit fly world, mutations, etc. Dr Seymour Benzer of the California Institute of Technology is our host.

    ‘Cell Division: Mitosis and Meiosis’ (1974) 24m, prod. Steve Katten. This remarkable film utilizes cinemicroscopy and the scanning electron microscope to climb inside of cells as they evolve and divide, and was probably one of the first academic films to feature computer animation. The animated sequences involving DNA are exceptional.

  29. says

    PZ, you should definitely get a copy of the book. The evolution-related images are really interesting (the A Journey Round My Skull blogger hasn’t scanned many of them). Here’s the title image for the chapter on “Life and the Origin of Species”:

    The “Noah’s Ark” painting, with the people and all the animals copulating, is also cool (and, apparently, one of the reasons why they had to completely change the book for the second edition).