P G Tait

Correspondence with Tait (Soap Bubbles)

D’Arcy Thompson matriculated at the University of Edinburgh in 1878 to study medicine, however only stayed there for two years before deciding to move to the University of Cambridge to study zoology.

His two years at Edinburgh still proved worthwhile however as it is here where he gained a lot of his science and maths knowledge. One particular influence was physicist Peter Guthrie Tait (1831-1901).

On the first page of On Growth and Form, D’Arcy mentions that Tait was one of the people who stressed the importance of the mathematical aspect of physics. He is also later referenced in a discussion about cell-size :
In the case of a soap-bubble, by the way, if it divide into two bubbles the volume is actually diminished, while the surface-area is greatly increased. (Tait 1866)

D’Arcy’s test scripts from Tait’s class at Edinburgh (ms47908, dated 1877) are in the Special Collections Library in St Andrews. His solutions clearly show his talent for science and several answers relate very closely to the ideas discussed in On Growth and Form. For example on soap-bubbles and grease: drops of soap bubbles tend to assume a spherical form i.e to contract the surface as much as possible. ; drops of grease are pulled out all over the surface of a liquid whose surface tension is greater than their own.

P G Tait
P G Tait
Thompson's Test Paper (1877)
Thompson's Test Paper (1877)

Back to the Forms of Cells

About Joseph Plateau and his experiment

Charles Robert Darling

D'Arcy's test script for Tait's class



Overview & D'Arcy's Life


On Growth and Form


Heilmann & Shufeldt


Maths of Transformations




D'Arcy and Mathematics


Coordinate Transformations


Logarithmic Spirals


Forms of Cells


Forms and Mechanical Efficiency




Wartime and D'Arcy


The Leg as a Pendulum


Recreational Maths


Fibonacci Sequence




All Correspondence Links

Claxton Fidler


Eric Harold Neville


John Marshall


Alfred North Whitehead


Charles Robert Darling


Peter Guthrie Tait


William Peddie


Geoffrey Thomas Bennett


Dorothy Wrinch


Main Index Biographies Index

The support of The Strathmartine Trust towards this website is gratefully acknowledged    

Alice Gowenlock & Indre Tuminauskaite © June 2018
Copyright information
School of Mathematics and Statistics
University of St Andrews, Scotland

The URL of this page is: