Is there a global theory for the shapes of fishes? It’s the kind of thing I might feel encouraged to ask as a result of my explorations of simple programs and the forms they produce. But for most of the history of biology, it’s not the kind of thing anyone would ever have asked. With one notable exception: D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson.
And it’s now 100 years since D’Arcy Thompson published the first edition of his magnum opus
On Growth and Form—and tried to use ideas from mathematics and physics to discuss global questions of biological growth and form. Probably the most famous pages of his book are the ones about fish shapes:
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For help with facts and materials, I thank Matthew Jarron, Maia Sheridan, Isabella Scott, Special Collections at the University of St. Andrews Library and the “On Growth and Form 100” Conference in Dundee/St. Andrews.