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Did Darwin miss something? The 100-year-old book that rivalled “The Origin of Species”—and still shapes science today

In “On Growth and Form,” D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson argued that organisms are shaped less by adaptive evolutionary function and more by deep mathematical laws. To understand his argument, you need only look at the combs made by bees

By Philip Ball  

A pattern in the comb of the Australian stingless honey-producing bee. Photo: Tim Heard, The Australian Native Bee Book

A book published 100 years ago by a Scottish zoologist named D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson is one of the most remarkable scientific works of the 20th century. Called On Growth and Form, it was and remains sui generis. A blend of natural history, mathematics, physics and engineering, it offered a very different take on life from the Darwinian viewpoint favoured by Thompson’s contemporaries. Instead of explaining all shape and form in biological organisms…

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