Skip to main content

Gorgeous glass sculptures let you see into the world's most deadly viruses

Gallery Photo:
Gallery Photo:

Viruses are usually depicted as ugly, scary, almost weapon-like blobs just waiting to meddle inside of your body, but Luke Jerram sees them as something different. There isn't really a color to viruses after all — they're smaller than the wavelength of visible light — and as mere smears when viewed under a microscope, there's plenty of room left open when deciding how to illustrate them.

Since 2004, Jerram has been turning viruses and other pathogens into stunning glass sculptures that are just as eerie as they are beautiful as part of an ongoing series titled "Glass Microbiology." He chooses some of the most feared and deadly subjects out there too, making chilling portraits of everything from HIV to malaria.

Though his sculptures can appear exaggerated, with weapon-like barbs and eerie bulges, they're actually all made entirely to scale. Of course, they're vastly larger than their original forms: his virus sculptures are around 1 million times their actual size.

While Jerram creates plans for the sculptures, they're sent off to one of several professional glassblowers to build them. Five models are made of each design, and as he's added more, the sculptures have toured the world through museums and galleries. You can see some of Jerram's most intricate sculptures below, in a series of photographs taken by the artist himself.

Above: "Salmonella"

Luke Jerram 'Glass Microbiology' photos


Ev.71 — Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

All images used with permission of Luke Jerram.

Update: removed details from a New York Times profile on Jerram saying his sculptures include a degree of interpretation. They do not. His sculptures are actually made to scale.