Blog | Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The scientists with the dragon tattoos

A surprising number of scientists have tattoos hidden under their lab coats and these tattoos are examples of their cool geekiness. Prof. Sandeep Robert Datta has a tattoo of a twisting ladder of DNA. The DNA message spells out the initials of his wife, Eliza Emond Edelsberg. True love manifested through amino acids that are the building blocks of protein!!!

Science journalist Carl Zimmer posted a blog at Discover Magazine and asked scientists if a tattoo like this was a trend. Without trying, he became the curator of tattoos and a scholar of science ink. He found out that many scientist sport tattoos of carbon atoms, DNA, ancient fish, embryos ... just about anything that interests them and is meaningful. He has published a book called Science Ink.

Body ink has been around for thousands of years. Two hikers climbing the Austrian Alps discovered the freeze-dried body of a 5,300-year-old hunter whose skin was preserved in the ice. He had tattoos made from fireplace ash rubbed into incisions on his skin. Ancient Greeks used tattoos as a method of secret identification and communication between spies. In ancient Asia, tattoos were used to signify rankings in life and tattooing has been among the Polynesian culture for over a thousand years.

Most people who get tattoos find designs that are meaningful or mark a certain passage in life. I often hear of mothers and daughters getting tattoos together and I find that really charming. I guess it is no surprise that scientists would use tattoos to signify their work and what is important to them also.

This post by Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, an ACP Internist editorial board member, originally appeared at her blog Everything Health.