“Study mathematics like a house on fire” – Charles Darwin
“We all stand on the shoulders of giants” – Isaac Newton
The two famous quotes by the founding fathers of biology and physics illustrates the crux of scientific inquiry. The first one was Darwin’s advice to young Francis Galton, a British polymath, geneticist and statistician, who later gave us some very useful statistical concepts such as correlation. The second quote is by Isaac Newton, who refers to the fact that science should not be a circular or lateral journey, but rather a cumulative progress: every scientist does not have to re-invent the scientific toolbox with each new question. Instead, science builds on the work and discoveries of those who went before us, while also constantly abstracting, refining and reordering of the components of the scientific framework.
But the lack of mathematics, or inability for biologists to stand on the shoulders of the mathematicians before them, and the resultant slow progress are precisely the characteristics that have become the bane of modern biology.