When science journalist Carl Zimmer wondered aloud whether scientists got tattoos related to their field of research, much like musicians often sport music-related tattoos, he was immediately flooded in pictures. Scientists and researchers from around the world started sending pictures of their tattoos, and eventually Zimmer decided to house them on the Science Tattoo Emporium. For every inked-up geek and nerd out there, here’s some inspiration for your next piece of scientific body art.
Scientific tattoos often have a very deep and personal meaning for their owners. Some researchers tattoo a depiction of an atom or molecule they admire, some depict a more abstract image of the work they do, and others search for a more emotional connection. The tattoo above on the bottom left is called “Pandora’s Viruses” and belongs to a viral immunologist. He got it to represent what, for him, was a difficult and life-changing career choice.
Not all scientific tattoos are work-related, though. Some people simply love science and want a permanent reminder of a part of science that moves them. The periodic table of elements tattoos, above, show two very different ways to suggest a love of chemistry. The tattoo on the top right, above, is a replica of the Pioneer Plaque, a constant reminder of our quest for intelligent extraterrestrial life.
It’s interesting to note just how many science-related tattoos are out there. Tattoos were once in the realm of outlaws and renegades, but today they’re positively mainstream. The scientific tattoos here are a far cry from the sailor tattoos of a few hundred years ago.
One of the biggest benefits (and arguably, the biggest curse) for bearers of scientific tattoos is having to explain the tattoo constantly. By tattooing a scientific sketch, a mathematical equation, or a portrait of a favorite scientist on their body, the owner of the art can spread the word about their pet cause.
Whatever the inspiration behind scientific tattoos, most scientists (and science fans) seem to put a great deal of thought into their geek ink. Provided the mathematical theory inked onto their forearm isn’t discredited at some point in the future, owners of science tattoos can always be proud of their super-nerdy tats.