A journey into the unknown
Science Photo Library (SPL) was started in 1979 by Michael Marten, one of the authors of Worlds Within Worlds: A Journey into the Unknown, the first non-academic book to showcase the wealth of scientific imagery produced in the 1970s.
This was the era of moon landings, big bang cosmology, particle accelerators and electron microscopes. New instruments and techniques were expanding our vision across the electromagnetic spectrum and enabling us to view some of the smallest and largest objects in the universe. Diagnostic tools that have become standard in today’s medicine, such as CT, MRI, and ultrasound, were in their infancy.
One of the aims of SPL was to show that science images could be exciting, approachable, and artistic. We created vibrantly coloured electron micrographs and X-rays, collaborated with scientists to produce technical imagery with universal appeal, and wrote detailed captions to explain what you were seeing.
SPL keeps abreast of technological advances through its relationships with researchers, photographers, and illustrators in all fields of science and medicine. This expertise forms the basis of our unique collection.
In 2009 we launched a rapidly growing library of videos to complement our still pictures.
SPL imagery is distributed and used around the world in print and broadcast media, in the creative landscape, and across the web. It illustrates magazines, newspapers, books, television programs, advertising campaigns, and corporate literature.
Science imagery has become part of the visual landscape. SPL is at the forefront of making inspiring and hard to source scientific content available to diverse audiences. While the collection started with technical images, it has grown to encompass all aspects of science and health and their impact and role in everyday life.