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‘On Growth and Form’

9 November 2013

D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, 'On Growth and Form' (1917) was critical of Darwin and thought that biologists of the day over emphasized evolution as the fundamental determinant of form and structure of living organisms – and also over emphasized the roles of physical laws and mechanics. He advocated structuralism as an alternative to survival of the fittest in governing the form of species. Thompson did not reject natural selection but regarded it as a secondary to the origin of biological form (quoting from Wikipedia).

Thompson pointed out correlations between biological forms and mechanical phenomena. For example, the similarity between a jelly fish and the forms of drops of liquid falling into a viscuous fluid, the numerical relationship between spiral structures in plants and the Fibonacci sequences. On page 663 he turns his attention to liesegang rings – but this has been deleted from the 1961 abridged version of the book. In fact, over 700 pages are omitted from the modern version – which must imply modern biologists are not very interested in the greater part of the original work, suggesting it might be regarded as heretical (or might sully the minds of student biologists). The original version can actually be read online – go to http://malagabay.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/on-growth-and-form-1984-edition/ .. where Tim Cullen provides the link.

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