Santiago Ramón y Cajal is known as the founder of contemporary neuroscience. His pictures of what he observed in his light microscope slides are the inspiration for the use of the metaphor Butterflies of the Soul.
“As the entomologist chasing butterflies of bright colours, my attention was seeking in the garden of gray matter, those cells of delicate and elegant forms, the mysterious butterflies of the soul, whose fluttering winds would someday, who knows? Enlighten the secret of mental life”. (Santiago Ramón y)
The Greek synonym for mind is “psyche”, which is as well the name of a genus of butterfly. Furthermore, Psyche was the name of the attractive girl affianced to Cupid, the divinity of love, who provided her the present of immortality. Iconography depicts Psyche with butterfly wings, which is an exemption to the bird wings of so many religious creatures in the art of dissimilar cultures. Metaphors are links between worlds but, nowadays, the lingo of science has moved to models as the solitary suitable metaphors competent to portray and envisage many categories of phenomena, our cerebral life, amid them. Therefore, we ought to attempt going further than the gorgeous legend of Psyche and the visionary apparition of Cajal. In his occupation, the immense neuron-anatomist was creating an opening to a methodical examination of neuronal expansion and flexibility. Actually, the growth cone at the tip of an axon moving in looking for a synapse reminds us of the flight of a butterfly. (www.rossinstitute.org)
I also believe by referring to synapse to a butterfly, Ramon tried to show the public that the study of the nervous system is not merely significant for the numerous apparent reasons associated with brain roles in both health and disease, but also for the unanticipated natural splendour that it regards. This splendour has been exposed gratitude to the methods employed to visualize the microscopic composition of the brain, a factual forest of bright and elaborate neural cells.
As demonstrated by his wonderful drawings, the examinations of Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934) without uncertainty added more to the expansion of contemporary neuroscience.
Ramón y Cajal, S. (1923). Recuerdos de mi vida: Historia de mi labor científica. Madrid: Alianza.