You may associate nature and medical illustration with dusty old tomes, but it's more relevant and beautiful than ever. In a world that's getting more complicated and where technical knowledge can make or break careers, precise and informative illustration is more critical than ever.
Illustration can show the unseen and explain the unclear. Think about a photograph of internal human anatomy. Even if it is a high resolution, super sharp image, it may still be difficult to decipher. A science or medical illustration, on the other hand, can show each anatomical part in a different color, label it, and indicate its function. Unimportant details can be left out and critical information highlighted.
In many cases, a photograph can't display the same level of detail as a well-designed illustration. Volcanos are spectacular on the outside but their inner workings are hidden from view without a well placed cross-section. Illustrations can also represent processes such as DNA sequencing and distinctions between organisms that are similar in appearance, such as bacteria and viruses.
To this day scientific illustrations play an important role in the education of doctors, geologists, paleontologists, physicists and many other careers.
With the advancement of 2D and 3D software and the continued efforts of talented scientific artists, illustration will continue to play an important role in the future of science education.