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On Growth and Form Paperback – July 31, 1992
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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.
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 Bonner removed the "dangerous" chapters with "vague" (always according to him) arguments, and the "out-of-date" material, and finally to turned D'Arcy's book into his own.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
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.Read more ›
D'Arcy Thompson was not opposed to the idea of natural selection, and recognized that it was part of the explanation of evolution. However, he was writing at the beginning of the 20th century at a time when he felt that natural selection was regarded as the complete and only explanation of evolution, and he wanted to show that it wasn't as simple as that. In a modern book, Richard Dawkins's "The Ancestor's Tale", we can read that "Animal shapes are malleable like plasticine. A fish can change in evolutionary time to whatever unfishy shape is required for its way of life." This is the point of view that D'Arcy Thompson considered exaggerated, because he argued that there are many physical constraints that limit this infinite malleability (less, perhaps, for animals that live in the water than for land animals that must take account of gravity, but real nonetheless). He shows that many features of animals must and do obey the same rules as those followed by engineers in designing bridges.
D'Arcy Thompson's style is quite unlike any other -- "scholarly" would be an understatement -- and much of the book can be read for the pleasure of the language.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is a classic. Truly classic in every way. That it has not gone out of print says something that says it all. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Roxie G. Powell
Sir D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860-1948) was a Scottish mathematical biologist, and classics scholar. Read morePublished on June 24, 2014 by Steven H Propp