The seminal work by Dundee polymath D’Arcy Thompson “On Growth and Form” reaches its centenary year in 2017 and both the Universities of both St Andrews and Dundee where Thompson held important positions have been celebrating his life and work through a with a series of events this year.
The associated Centenary Conference was held in mid-October and explored many aspects of the his life and work and its ongoing influence in all manner of fields and expertise. I managed to attend most of Friday’s session of the conference and saw a wide range of work being presented that covered , for me almost every area of interest I have!
Mason Dean presented the work of his lab at Max Planck Institute in Potsdam, Germany on studying the structure of cartilage in sharks and ray skeletons. This was absolutely amazing work to see and something I plan on looking into in more depth. Mason Dean Lab.
Madeleine Shepherd presented the Botanica Mathematica project a fascinating experiment in mass participation, craft and the principals of growth.
Wallace Arthur of the University of Galway discussed the limits of D’Arcy Thompson’s transformations in studying and comparing species followed by a quite mindblowing discussion of the potential future for “astrobiology” and what life we may discover outside the solar system. This is the topic of his recently released Life Through Time and Space.
Caroline Erolin introduced gradual efforts to digitize artefacts from D’Arcy Thompson’s specimen collections, these are being made available for download, 3D printing and VR inspection via their Sketchfab page here; University of Dundee Museum Collections on SketchFab . I intend to be printing off some of these models as soon as possible!
There was also fascinating work presented by Mark Field and Philip Murray, separately on research within the university of Dundee to understand the underlying mechanisms which drive cell differentation and morphology in living organisms.
Certainly “On Growth and Form” has always been a key influence in my own work and has always encouraged me to think beyond a priori engineered solutions to more systems based thinking and biomimicry. It is my goal to develop designs which evolve to be more appropriate for their context, I would like to see my role as being more of a gardener tending designs than the ego-driven designer or engineer.
I was lucky enough to be invited to present some of my work and pproach in an exhibition launched as part of the centenary conference: “Harmonious Complexity” – 100 Years of On Growth and Form. It is a great honour to have work displayed in the same room as D’Arcy Thompson’s original notes, sketches and study models. I would certainly recommend to anyone with an interest in D’Arcy’s work or indeed biomimicry/ organicist ideas visit the exhibition!
“Harmonious Complexity” – 100 Years of On Growth and Form is open to the public from
October 13 (Friday) 9:30 am – December 15 (Friday) 7:00 pm
Mon-Fri 09.30-19.00 Sat 13.00-17.00