Evolution of an Icon

The “Nervous Icon” has mesmerized me for nearly three years (see Parts I, II and III). I first spotted the image in the early textbooks of George W. Hunter, including A Civic Biology (1914), famous as the central exhibit in the Scopes trial. It stood out because it gave off such a curiously anachronistic aura…

The Nervous Icon – Part I

It is classical in pose and commands its stage. A black silhouette shot through with delicate white lines on a page dressed only with a pedestal-like caption that reads, “The central cerebro-spinal nervous system.” This iconic image appeared in what may fairly be considered the first modern biology textbook, George W. Hunter’s Elements of Biology,…