If, like me, you’ve had the pleasure of visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, you know it is a stunning achievement. For more than 300 years, it has awed, and served, the people of that city. Its design, and that of dozens of other structures in London, established Christopher Wren as an architect of renown.
Wren may have been among the vanguard of architects who understood what “good bones” brought to architecture. He excelled at structural innovation, including the mathematically precise application of slope, curve, and arch to produce soaring space, like the dome of St. Paul’s.
Wren brought this same insight to anatomical illustration years before his success as an architect. His drawings of the human brain were executed with such precision and beauty that they remain at the bedrock of neuroscience. As an illustrator of anatomy, he understood how integral vessels, membranes, tendons, and, yes, bones, are to human form and function. Those of us in clinical and research medicine understand this, too.
In this issue of Harvard Medicine, we explore how architecture—structure and design—informs medicine. We investigate the role that protein structures play in our health and well-being, the value that flexible laboratory spaces bring to scientific collaborations, and how the details of hospital design can help patients heal. In addition, we present a playful take on what can result when researchers and engineers create one-of-a-kind research tools, and we cast an artful eye on the wayfinding details that appear in our affiliate hospitals. Looking beyond the tangible, and into a structure fundamental to our work as physicians, we celebrate the bonds formed in relationships, those forged during medical school and nurtured through four decades by a group of alumnae and those that led an alumnus to transform one state’s system of health care and medical education.
I hope that this issue’s discussion of the good bones that support research, medical care, and physicians will provide you a new perspective on each. I hope, too, that it provides you with some good reading.
Image: John Soares