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Santiago Saw Things Differently: Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Artist, Doctor, Father of Neuroscience

Santiago Saw Things Differently: Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Artist, Doctor, Father of Neuroscience
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
November 14, 2023
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In an exquisitely illustrated nonfiction picture book about the childhood and discoveries of the “father of neuroscience,” science and art—together—work wonders.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s father, the village doctor, wants Santiago to be a doctor. He discourages his willful son’s love and aptitude for art. But drawing and painting are as necessary to Santiago as breathing, so when his father confiscates his art supplies, the boy finds a way to draw in secret. He draws on doors, gates, and walls, and to the neighbors, his drawings are a nuisance. But Santiago sees things differently. He’s an artist and always will be, even after he grows up and becomes a doctor. And art helps him discover what no one else could: branching connections within the nervous system. Debut author Christine Iverson’s vivid text evokes Santiago’s pioneering nature, while Luciano Lozano’s stunning visual narrative incorporates Santiago’s actual art, including remarkable drawings of neural pathways. A self-portrait, facts about neurons, and the science behind Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s 1906 Nobel Prize for Medicine round out this brilliant account of a boy who shaped his scientific fate as an artist.

Editor review

1 review
Eye for Art and a Mind for Science
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
Santiago Ramón y Cajal was born in the late 1800s. He had a passion for art that was not supported by his father who was a doctor. With no formal training and often facing punishments and practicing in secret, he continued to develop his artistic ability. In his studies to become a doctor he was able to apply his artistic eye to develop an understanding of the brain that turned into the beginnings of Neuroscience.
This biography does a nice job of exploring how his passion for art mingled with his father’s expectations to become a doctor. He often used pencil drawings and the illustrations are reminiscent of that style and give an old-world feel to the book. It was apparent by the illustrations that Santiago was from the past, but I did have to look in the backmatter to try to find a date to understand the period we were in. I do think that would have been beneficial to be mentioned in the story are well.
Overall, this is a good biography for Upper Elementary in understanding the accomplishments Santiago made in the field of science and medicine. This would go well with a unit on cells, anatomy, or biographies of historical figures.
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