Saturday 29 January 2011

On Growth & Form

D'Arcy Thompson's classic On Growth and Form looks at the way things grow and the shapes that they take.  Peter Medawar, the 1960 Nobel Laureate in Medicine, called it "the finest work of literature in all the annals of science that have been recorded in the English tongue".

Thompson argues that biological structures not only reflect evolution but must also of necessity reflect the influence of physical laws. 

On the concept of allometry he wrote:

"An organism is so complex a thing, and growth so complex a phenomenon, that for growth to be so uniform and constant in all the parts as to keep the whole shape unchanged would indeed be an unlikely and an unusual circumstance. Rates vary, proportions change, and the whole configuration alters accordingly."