centenary of a Darwin-challenging classic

5616Steven Rose at The Guardian:

Asked to name the most significant book about biology ever written in English, most biologists would opt for Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. How about the second most significant book? After 1917, when it was published, the answer would unhesitatingly have been D’Arcy Thompson’s On Growth and Form. Eclipsed since the 1950s by the domination of DNA, its time may have come round once more. This year’s centenary was celebrated in editorials, a clutch of abridged versions and now a facsimile edition of the original.

Thompson, born in 1860, was a professor of natural history, first at Dundee and then at St Andrews, for an astonishing 63 years. But he was also a distinguished classicist and a powerful mathematician. The Nobel prize-winning immunologist Peter Medawar, himself no mean stylist, described him as “an aristocrat of learning whose intellectual endowments are not likely ever again to be combined within one man”. On Growth and Form, Medawar believed, is “beyond comparison the finest work of literature in all the annals of science that have been recorded in the English tongue”.