Jean-Baptiste Vérany (1800-1865) was a naturalist of wide interests, and the founder of the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Nice. His specialty was marine mollusks, especially cephalopods (e.g. octopuses, squids). Vérany’s major monograph was on cephalopods of the Mediterranean Sea published in 1851, "Mollusques méditeranéens; observés, décrits, figurés, et chromolithographiés d’après le vivant". It included descriptions of new species and 43 plates showing cephalopods ’in living color’. The monograph appears to be of relatively minor scientific importance. However, Vérany’s illustrations inspired depictions of cephalopods as both a beast and as beauties by important literary and artistic personalities. Here, first the life of Vérany will be sketched and examples of his striking illustrations of cephalopods ’in living color’ given. Then the use by Victor Hugo, the 19th century French novelist, of one of Vérany’s illustrations of an octopus to depict the ferocious beast in his 1866 novel Toilers of the Sea (Les Travailleurs de la mer) will be shown. The novel was a major contribution to the popular image of cephalopods as beasts. Not long after, in the 1870’s, Verany’s illustrations were used by the renowned Blaschka glass workers to produce beautiful glass models of cephalopods. Ernst Haeckel, in his famous Art Forms in Nature (Kunstformen der Natur 1899-1904), depicted Verany’s squids as beauties of nature. Although rarely acknowledged, Verany’s lasting legacy with regard to cephalopods may be his illustrations, rather than his descriptions of new species.
In his short story entitled "Tlön uqbar orbis Tertius" Borges imagines a world in which things exist because of the imagination of humans. He takes the example of a walk that would have disappeared because a beggar would have given up coming there to beg. He thus admits that the human imagination gives things their existence. If he were still of this world -but has he really left it- he would see in Science, which has progressed by challenging the invisible and the imperceptible, the discreet emergence of another world, the one beyond human perception, the one where the imaginary makes up for the insufficiencies of reality.
Since the 1980s, the scientific discipline called "molecular and physical gastronomy" has been responsible for upheavals in culinary practices, but the people who have contributed to the changes are scientists who have stepped out of their role to perform technological work. Technical openness due to these works has led some cooks to better assume the status of culinary artists, as opposed to what has long remained a craft or an art craft. The first trend born of technical transfers was called "molecular cuisine"; it was followed by various initiatives (abstract cuisine, culinary constructivism, etc.), but it is above all synthetic cooking, nicknamed "note-to-note cuisine", that is developing today throughout the world.