The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal

April 10, 2018

On view May 3, 2018 through December 31, 2018

CAMBRIDGE, MA, April 10, 2018 – The MIT Museum will present The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal (May 3, 2018 – December 31, 2018). This traveling exhibition is the first major presentation of Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s pioneering drawings of the brain and brain cells, and also features contemporary visualizations that illuminate the impact of Cajal’s early work on modern day neuroscience.

A significant number of contemporary visualizations from MIT laboratories will be added to the exhibition while at the MIT Museum, bringing to view new understandings of the brain, enabled by developing technologies in the field of brain and cognitive science. Included are expansion microscopy, optogenetics, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In a dedicated observation and drawing workstation, visitors will have the opportunity to sketch the brain and nervous system, enabling a deeper appreciation of Cajal’s works.

Through his astonishing observations and illustrations, Cajal helped to create the modern field of neuroscience. Eighty of Cajal’s rarely seen, original drawings will be on view, selected by a curatorial team of University of Minnesota neuroscientists and an art historian from the Weisman Art Museum, based on both scientific importance and aesthetic value.

“We are excited to host The Beautiful Brain at the MIT Museum. Cajal’s exquisite drawings laid the foundations of modern neuroscience by confirming that the brain is composed of discrete cells, or neurons,” said John Durant, The Mark R. Epstein (Class of 1963) Director of the MIT Museum. “We look forward to placing Cajal’s historic work alongside some of the latest brain images produced by MIT neuroscientists during the exhibition’s stop in Cambridge.”

About Santiago Ramón y Cajal

Considered the founder of modern neuroscience, Cajal (1852-1934) attended an art academy in his early years and was an accomplished artist. He combined scientific and artistic skills to produce exceedingly detailed drawings to prove his theory that the brain is composed of individual cells rather than a single tangled web, which is the basis of neuroscience today. His theory was vindicated many years later, in the 1950s, with the help of electron microscopy.

Cajal was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1906, together with the Italian scientist Camillo Golgi "in recognition of their work on the structure of the nervous system." He developed his views mainly by examining thin slices of the brain under a light microscope. His drawings are still in use for educational and training purposes today.

Exhibition Organizers

The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramon y Cajal was developed by the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota with the CSIC's Cajal Institute, Madrid, Spain.






The MIT Museum exhibition was organized in collaboration with the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT.

Exhibition Supporters

Major exhibition support provided by Ramón Areces, Rafael del Pino, and “la Caixa” Foundation.

Sustaining exhibition support provided by Cantabria Labs.

Contributing exhibition support provided by the Embassy of Spain, Washington D.C.,
the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at Broad Institute.

Additional exhibition support is provided by the Associate Provost for the Arts, and the Council for the Arts at MIT.


The MIT Museum's mission is to engage the wider community with MIT's science, technology and other areas of scholarship in ways that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century. The Museum features two floors filled with ongoing and changing exhibitions. The Museum presents a wide range of programs that appeal to audiences ranging from middle school students to adults, including the annual Cambridge Science Festival in late April. For more information, visit

Visitor Information
MIT Museum
265 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139 USA
Phone: 617-253-5927
Open daily 10 a.m.– 5 p.m.
Closed major holidays.
General admission to the Museum only: $10.00 for adults; $5.00 for youth under 18, students, seniors; free admission for MIT cardholders and alumni. Discounts are listed online. Some special exhibitions may have different pricing.
Parking: Metered street parking and area lots
Public Transportation: Red Line "T" to Central Square or #1 bus

Media Contact:

Martha Davis, MIT Museum, 617.253.4422,