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On Growth and Form Paperback

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Abridged edition (July 31, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521437768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521437769
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #580,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

First published in 1917, On Growth and Form was at once revolutionary and conservative. Scottish embryologist D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860-1948) grew up in the newly cast shadow of Darwinism, and he took issue with some of the orthodoxies of the day--not because they were necessarily wrong, he said, but because they violated the spirit of Occam's razor, in which simple explanations are preferable to complex ones. In the case of such subjects as the growth of eggs, skeletons, and crystals, Thompson cited mathematical authority: these were matters of "economy and transformation," and they could be explained by laws governing surface tension and the like. (He doubtless would have enjoyed the study of fractals, which came after his time.) In On Growth and Form, he examines such matters as the curve of frequency or bell curve (which explains variations in height among 10-year-old schoolboys, the florets of a daisy, the distribution of darts on a cork board, the thickness of stripes along a zebra's flanks, the shape of mountain ranges and sand dunes) and spirals (which turn up everywhere in nature you look: in the curve of a seashell, the swirl of water boiling in a saucepan, the sweep of faraway nebulae, the twist of a strand of DNA, the turns of the labyrinth in which the legendary Minotaur lived out its days). The result is an astonishingly varied book that repays skimming and close reading alike. English biologist Sir Peter Medawar called Thompson's tome "beyond comparison the finest work of literature in all the annals of science that have been recorded in the English tongue." --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Why do living things and physical phenomena take the forms they do? Analyzing the mathematical and physical aspects of biological processes, this historic work, first published in 1917, has become renowned as well for the poetry of is descriptions.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

189 of 192 people found the following review helpful By Golan Levin on June 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Don't get me wrong -- "On Growth and Form" is one of my absolute top favorite books of all time. Possibly my favorite book, in fact. This review is a warning to make sure you get the right imprint.

Unfortunately some publishers think that they know better than D'Arcy Thompson, and cut out more than half of the original material. After all, nobody these days actually looks at equations, right? Well I do, and the pathetic edition by Canto (368 pages) weighs with less than 33% of the material in the modern unexpurgated reprint by Dover (1116 pages).

Amazingly enough, the redacted Canto version costs nearly the same as the Dover complete. If you care about this material, take care to get all of it.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By chelsea girl on May 6, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I ordered the book, I didn't even realize the edition was abridged. The book arrived suspiciously smaller than I expected it, almost half size. I thought maybe my memory deceived me, but apparently no.

In the introduction of the editor, Mr. John Tyler Bonner, is so kind as to explain that he mistook a classic book on organism and form, for a scientific one. In order to make the book accessible to general public (who said it was not?) and to "correct" Mr. D'Arcy's writing, Mr. Bonner removed the "dangerous" chapters with "vague" (always according to him) arguments, and the "out-of-date" material, and finally to turned D'Arcy's book into his own.

What I want to clarify is that I am not giving two stars to Mr. D'Arcy's book, for this book I did not read. Instead I am giving 2 stars to Mr. Bonner, to Cambridge University Press, to Canto and to Amazon (for not noting this is an abridged piece of work) for destroying a classic.

REMINDER: THE BOOK IS ABRIDGED EDITION, and the editor not so great
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Fiona Webster on April 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
I, too, am a longtime fan of D'Arcy Thompson's endearing (enduring) classic. I've read the discussion. I appreciate very much that Golan Levin, in "Canto: An unfortunate redaction of a timeless classic," and others as well, have made it clear to Amazon customers that the Canto (Cambridge University Press) version of this book is radically abridged, as compared to Dover's (apparently) unabridged edition. This kind of comparative information--about a book's being published under different editions, and what those editions contain--is the kind of crucial info which, as things stand, we customers have to contribute.

It's unfortunate, if understandable, that the bulk of the laudatory reviews here don't specify which edition these people read. Some of them appear to be from scientists and/or mathematicians: they are, perhaps, readers of the unabridged version. Viktor Blasjo's 5-star review *does* specify: he reports from the Dover unabridged, and a great report it is, too. He convinced me to pick up a copy.

Other reviewers seem to have come to D'Arcy Thompson from a more varied background, for their words remind me of my own experience: I first read this book at the age of 19, breathlessly turning the pages, filled to the brim with a sense of growing wonder about what science could do. In Thompson's hands, science opened up the secrets of Nature, right before my eyes. I'd read a fair amount of literature for my age, so from a more sophisticated angle, I relished the many passages of elegant writing--charmingly earnest, sometimes almost passionate. (Thompson's literary excellence comes in spurts, folks, so be patient.) "On Growth and Form" came, in time, to have a big influence on me: I'd been on the fence about science vs.
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