D'Arcy - On Growth and Form

D’Arcy Thompson’s most famous work is undoubtedly On Growth and Form, first published during the First World War in 1917. It was his attempt to introduce maths into biology. He believed that more emphasis should be placed on physical laws and mechanics, and less on evolution, when describing the form of a living object. Interestingly, although D'Arcy believed in evolution, he did not agree with Darwin's ideas of natural selection, believing that random variation did not give a good enough explanation. The book stands out as one of the greats largely thanks to the way D’Arcy skilfully combined his knowledge of Biology, Maths, Literature and Languages. Indeed, he made around 1,000 references in languages including Latin, Greek, French, Italian and German.

One hundred years since its release, D’Arcy’s work is still inspiring others. In fact, new branches of both maths and biology have been inspired by his work, including systems biology and mathematical biology. Since the invention of the computer it has become easier for scientists to test D’Arcy’s theories. Arguably the most famous chapter of On Growth and Form is chapter XVII named On the Theory of Transformations, Or the Comparison of Related Forms. In this chapter, D’Arcy explores to what extent related forms can be compared through simple mathematical transformations.

On Growth and Form
On Growth and Form


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

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HD & BC © July 2017
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School of Mathematics and Statistics
University of St Andrews, Scotland

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