Diatoms are tiny single-cell algae encased in jewel-like shells that are among the smallest organisms on Earth of which there are an estimated 100,000 extant species.
The first diatom arrangements date back to the early 1800s, but the art form reached its peak in the latter part of the century. It was a period of intense interest in the natural world and also a time when the arts and sciences were more closely aligned. Diatom arrangements are a stunning example of that particularly Victorian desire to bring order to the world, to display nature in a rational way.
Diatoms range in size from 5 microns to 200 microns. A micron is one-thousandth of a millimeter. A diatom arrangement of 100 forms would fit inside a punctuation mark of average-size text.
"I love seeing the hand of man display the work of nature so beautifully,"
"Endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."