Science Tattoos

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Melissa Schumacher’s tattoo of Cantor’s theorem written in Frege’s notation
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Tattoos are the defining fashion statement of the present generation. A few years ago, the writer Carl Zimmer was at a pool party and found that a young scientist friend of his, a neurobiologist, had a double helix printed on his back — a little strand of DNA.  

Zimmer blogged about it, and before he knew it, dozens of scientists, mathematicians, and other academics were sending him photos and stories about their tattoos. Not anchors, skulls, and hearts, but creative designs that represent lifelong passions. "When you really believe in what you do," says Bob Datta, the friend with the DNA tattoo, "it becomes a part of you."

Zimmer compiled a book called Science Ink. Studio 360’s Lu Olkowski spoke with two people who bare some skin in his book about what inspired them to go under the needle.

Do you have tattoos specifically related to your profession or area of study? Tell us about it and upload a photo here.

 

Slideshow: Tats from Science Ink

Music Playlist

  1. Morse

    Artist: Nightmares on Wax
    Album: Carboot Soul
    Label: Warp Records
  2. The Anti-Christ

    Artist: Slayer
    Album: Decade of Aggression (Live)
    Label: Sony Legacy
  3. Circling

    Artist: Four Tet
    Album: There Is Love in You
    Label: Domino
  4. Black Hole

    Artist: Kenseth Thibideau
    Album: Repetition
    Label: Temporary Residence

Bob Datta's tattoo of his wife's initials, EEE, encoded into an image of DNA. The code for the protein glutamate is “E.” Depending on how you read Datta's tattoo, it either says “Eliza Emond Edelsberg” or “glutatmate-glutamate-glutamate.” Datta is a neurobiologist at Harvard Medical School and a longtime friend of Carl Zimmer. His tattoo inspired Zimmer’s book Science Ink.

( Photo adapted from <em>Science Ink</em> by Carl Zimmer © 2011 Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. )

Melissa Schumacher’s tattoo of Cantor’s theorem written in Frege’s notation. Schumacher, a third-year grad student at MIT says, "When I look down on my arm, [there are] two lines of symbols, if I turn it over there’s a heart. What my tattoo says is if Cantor’s theorem, then love. It’s a necessary truth for me."

( Photo adapted from <em>Science Ink</em> by Carl Zimmer © 2011 Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. )

The flip side of Schumacher’s tattoo.

( Photo adapted from <em>Science Ink</em> by Carl Zimmer © 2011 Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. )

Daniel Schmoller’s tattoo of an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecule. One of the most biologically important molecules, ATP transports and stores chemical energy within cells. Schmoller is a pre-med student at the University of Wisconsin.

( Courtesy of Daniel Schmoller/Photo adapted from <em>Science Ink</em> by Carl Zimmer © 2011 Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. )

A tattoo of the skeleton of a Rana pipiens (northern leopard frog) on David Laurice, a grade school science teacher.

( Courtesy of David Laurice/Photo adapted from <em>Science Ink</em> by Carl Zimmer © 2011 Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. )

Milad Khongar’s tattoo of the numerical value of the golden ratio.

( Courtesy of Milad Khongar/Photo adapted from <em>Science Ink</em> by Carl Zimmer © 2011 Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. )

A tattoo of the full moon as seen from earth. The tattoo signifies the night this scientist's parents met — July 20th, 1969 — the night of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

( Photo adapted from <em>Science Ink</em> by Carl Zimmer © 2011 Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. )
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