The 100-year-old challenge to Darwin that is still making waves in research
On Growth and Form showed how physical and mathematical forces affect natural selection.
12 April 2017
Source/Fonte: Wild Horizons/UIG via Getty
The shape of this chambered nautilus is one of many biological features that D’Arcy Thompson used maths to explain.
This year marks the centenary of what seems now to be an extraordinary event in publishing: the time when a UK local newspaper reviewed a dense, nearly 800-page treatise on mathematical biology that sought to place physical constraints on the processes of Darwinism.
And what’s more, the Dundee Advertiser loved the book and recommended it to readers. When the author, it noted, wrote of maths, “he never fails to translate his mathematics into English; and he is one of the relatively few men of science who can write in flawless English and who never grudge the effort to make every sentence balanced and good.”
The Dundee Advertiser is still going, although it has changed identity: a decade after the review was published, it merged with The Courier, and that is how most people refer to it today. The book is still going, too. If anything, its title — alongside its balanced and good sentences — has become more iconic and recognized as the years have ticked by.
The book is On Growth and Form by D’Arcy Thompson. This week, Nature offers its own appreciation, with a series of articles in print and online that celebrate the book’s impact, ideas and lasting legacy.
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