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On Growth and Form: The Complete Revised Edition (Dover Books on Biology) Paperback – June 23, 1992


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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Books on Biology
  • Paperback: 1116 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Revised, Complete edition (June 23, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486671356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486671352
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 2.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,144 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

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Customer Reviews

This is about this edition not the book itself.
Tron
If you want to get the full extent of the text and you are not up to speed on the subjects mentioned you'll find it hard to read this book.
Joe Zika
I ordered a book; instead you sent me an experience of frustration and dismay.
Dan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Frank Bierbrauer on March 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
I heard about this marvellous book as I was reading in the typical popular science literature years ago now but its almost impossible to avoid contact with this tome of the archetypal polymath D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson. A remarkable man with a wonderful open view of science and the, what's now called, interdisciplinarian approach to the world. Refreshingly full of new ideas especially for his day and even now where conservatism as usual is the norm in scientific circles. I hope many scientists read this book and see not just a curiosity but a representation of a whole approach to the world of nature. I will never forget the first time I read the chapter on coordinate transformations in animal shapes, today's schools simply do not inspire in this way and its time this changed. The prescence of this book, well read, on any person's bookshelf is a must.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Jones on September 12, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have had a copy of this book since I was 16. I have given it as gifts, and believe it to be one of the fundamental books that has changed science and the way we think of the world. As you can tell I love this book. However, the Kindle version is almost useless. The tables are not reproduced in any readable way, and there are none of the pictures that are needed to understand the text. eBooks like this do a tremendous disservice to the Kindle. This could be a wonderful resource to have on the Kindle, but no care was taken in the transcription, and to charge for this is an outrage. There is absolutely no way that I could recommend the Kindle version of this wonderful book.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 16, 1998
Format: Paperback
It's about so much more than the limits our minds create from standard reviews & categorizations. Shows how to organize your thinking to tackle something new. On the surface, it's a turn of the century survey & application of physical scientific knowledge. On a higher level it communicates how to effectively organize knowledge as a tool & pathway to inner understanding as only the CLASSICS can do. I was required to read it for my Brandeis Ph.D. in Biophysics, but have recommended it to home schoolers as the best single book to inform a teenager about physics, chemistry, biology, & practical thinking. The Latin roots of the title words, Form & Function, are utilized, rather than specialized contemporary jargon.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sarah on July 31, 2011
Format: Paperback
I wish I had read the reviews to this edition before I bought it because I would not have wasted my money. However, my complaint is different from that of the others I have read. The book I received? I literally can't read it. Imagine using a copier to copy the pages of a book, with the "darkness" factor set high. That's what I got. A grey background to every page. There is such poor contrast between the type and the page that it's all just a big wash of grey. What a disappointment. btw there was no publisher listed anywhere on this edition - nor any mention that it was abridged. I suspect it is an Amazonian "on-demand" printing, apparently overseen by a broken robot. I shall search out the unabridged edition elsewhere.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By E at C on April 24, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This wonderful book contains in its original form more than a thousand clearly written pages, and over five hundred illustrations. The poor excuse of a book, facsimile copy I got for ~12$ contains less than three hundred pages, and in its black and white printed form (opposed the full color online view) is barely readable. Check the number of pages in the book version offered before you buy !

Amazon should do a better job at separating this inadequate version from the original.

Having paid only <12$, it would be more expensive to return the book than keep it, so I just ordered a different version. I hope this time it would be the appropriate one.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Edmund Paley on February 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is a classic, no two ways about it. It is really the first credible attempt to start taking a quantitative approach to biology, and despite the developments of the past century (molecular biology, etc), the problems raised in this book are just as pressing as they were when thompson wrote it. Anyone working in cell biology nowadays will immediately see applications of the ideas in this book, for example to organelle morphogenesis. The genius and erudition of thompson shine through on every page, making the book inspiring to read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Andrea Perna on February 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
I wonder if the Amazon editorial review is correct: it is stated that the book examines such matters as

"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".

I do not find these elements in the book. D'Arcy Thompson is not interested to the shape of mountains and sand dunes nor to the physics examples of spirals.
As for the twist of a strand of DNA, D'Arcy Thompson died in 1948...

Dear Gregory McNamee, "On growth and form" is a beautiful book that maybe in your case "repaid skimming", but repays much more a close reading. It is full with wonderful (and still actual) ideas mostly from biology that are sometimes hidden in a huge number of examples.
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