Article ID: CBB001420395

Problematic “Idiosyncrasies”: Rediscovering the Historical Context of D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson's Science of Form (2014)


D'Arcy Thompson has often been portrayed as a loner. His science of form has frequently been labeled anachronistic, idiosyncratic, and unconnected to his contemporary biology. This article aims to challenge this interpretation. Thompson's representation as a loner did not lie in the idiosyncrasies of his science, but in our own historiography. Through the use of unedited archival sources, this study shows that Thompson's biology was well-connected to an international research program -- a program mainly shared by developmental biologists, physiologists, and morphologists. In addition, this article also aims to propose a new interpretation of Thompson's On Growth and Form. Drawing on his private correspondence and published sources, the paper re-contextualizes the contents and conclusions of Thompson's seminal work. We will see that Thompson defended a particular kind of organismal biology. The bio-science he supported stemmed not only from Aristotle's zoology or Pythagorean mathematics, but had many allies among twentieth-century naturalists.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Article Matthew Holmes; (2019)
Imitating nature: Analogy and experiment in D'Arcy Thompson's Science of Form (/isis/citation/CBB812197601/)

Book Juler, Edward; (2015)
Grown but Not Made: British Modernist Sculpture and the New Biology (/isis/citation/CBB001551962/)

Article Losano, Gianni; Pinotti, Oreste; (2000)
Physiology at the University of Turin from the Unification of Italy to the End of the Twentieth Century (/isis/citation/CBB000932397/)

Chapter Gould, Stephen Jay; (1976)
D'Arcy Thompson and the science of form (/isis/citation/CBB000012709/)

Article Geison, Gerald L.; Laubichler, Manfred D.; (2001)
The varied lives of organisms: Variation in the historiography of the biological sciences (/isis/citation/CBB000100742/)

Article D'Hombres, Emmanuel; (2012)
The “Division of Physiological Labour”: The Birth, Life and Death of a Concept (/isis/citation/CBB001220996/)

Article Vittoria Feola; (2019)
Agnes Arber, Historian of Botany and Darwinian Sceptic (/isis/citation/CBB822213559/)

Article Gabriel Finkelstein; (2023)
Paris or Berlin? Claude Bernard’s rivalry with Emil du Bois-Reymond (/isis/citation/CBB757894127/)

Article Nicholas Popper; (2016)
Archives and the Boundaries of Early Modern Science (/isis/citation/CBB949959104/)

Chapter Mario Quaranta; (2016)
Dialogo e confronto fra lo scienziato Giorgio Piccardi e l'epistemologo Ludovico Geymonat (/isis/citation/CBB105768336/)

Article Christine Aicardi; Miguel García-Sancho; (2016)
Towards future archives and historiographies of ‘big biology’ (/isis/citation/CBB453218052/)

Article Weishampel, David B.; Reif, Wolf-Ernst; (2013)
An Untimely Nexus of German Biomechanics, Evolution and Ornithology: Dominik von Kripp and Evolutionary Functional Morphology (/isis/citation/CBB001211909/)

Authors & Contributors
Tamborini, Marco
Juler, Edward
Gavinelli, Simona
Dresow, Max
Holmes, Matthew
Weishampel, David B.
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Journal of the History of Biology
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung
University of Pittsburgh Press
Manchester University Press
L'Erma di Bretschneider
Duke University
Correspondence and corresponding
Thompson, D'arcy Wentworth
Viganò, Carlo
Francé, Raoul Heinrich
Williamson, Joseph (1828-1902)
Hepworth, Barbara
Nash, Paul
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
20th century, early
Early modern
21st century
Great Britain
Berlin (Germany)
Paris (France)
School of Milan
Turin. Università

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment