Fact Check: Image of Cell IS NOT A Microscopic Photo But A Digital Illustration

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: Image of Cell IS NOT A Microscopic Photo But A Digital Illustration Digital Art

Is this the most detailed representation of a human cell to date, obtained by radiography, nuclear magnetic resonance and cryoelectronic microscopy? No, that's not true: This digital illustration by Russell Kightley is titled "Animal Cell." Kightley used a "Fractal Design Painter" digital art program to create the image for a biology wall chart company about 20 years ago. While humans are animals, the illustration's title does not specify that it is a human cell as many social media posts imply.

The viral climb of this 20-year-old digital illustration may have started when it was shared on April 12, 2021, by Valerie de Bourdeilles. Many copies of the post mysteriously offer credit to de Bourdeilles, who shared the image with a misleading caption that offered no credit to the artist who created it. One example was posted to Facebook on April 13, 2021, with this caption:

The most detailed representation of a human cell to date, obtained by radiography, nuclear magnetic resonance and cryoelectronic microscopy.
~ Valerie DeBourdeilles

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Apr 19 19:02:45 2021 UTC)

The artist, Russell Kightley has his own website and a store where reproductions of this image are available. The description of the artwork on that page reads:

Animal cell cutaway illustration showing major ultrastructures and organelles (cell membrane, nucleus, nucleolus, nuclear envelope, nuclear pore, centrioles, microtubule, smooth endoplasmic reticulum (SER), rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER), ribosomes, polysomes, lysosomes, peroxisomes, mitochondria, and Golgi apparatus). Delimited by a plasma membrane (bi-lipid cell membrane). A centrally placed nucleus houses the genetic material (DNA). Jewel like colours and very fine detail make this image ideal to illustrate complexity at the cellular level. Originally created for BioCam. This image features as a full page colour plate in Richard Dawkins' latest best seller "The Greatest Show on Earth".

Kightley posted a tweet on April 17, 2021. In the comments of the tweet he replied to a compliment, and named the digital art program he used to create the image:

Painted in Fractal Design Painter 20 years ago. Thanks!!


  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Southeastern Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


 

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