Centenary Conference


13-15 October 2017

University of Dundee and University of St Andrews

detail of Growth and Form digital prints by Gavin Rutherford

2017 marks 100 years since the publication of D’Arcy Thompson’s landmark book On Growth and Form – “the greatest work of prose in twentieth century science” (Stephen Jay Gould), written by the man that Richard Dawkins recently nominated as possibly “the most learned polymath of all time”.

One of the key works at the intersection of science and the imagination, it is a book that has inspired scientists, artists and thinkers as diverse as Alan Turing, C H Waddington, Claude Lévi Strauss, Norbert Wiener, Henry Moore and Mies van der Rohe. It pioneered the science of biomathematics, and has had a profound influence in art, architecture, anthropology, geography, cybernetics and many other fields.

To mark the occasion, a three-day interdisciplinary conference is being organised at the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews, where D’Arcy spent most of his career and where his surviving collections are held. It will feature a range of presentations covering every aspect of D’Arcy’s own work and the various fields that it has influenced. The conference will also include visits to the D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum and the Bell Pettigrew Museum of Natural History and there will be a special preview of a new exhibition exploring On Growth and Form and its legacy.

The venues will be as follows:

Friday 13 October – University of Dundee
Saturday 14 October – University of St Andrews
Sunday 15 October – University of Dundee

Buses between Dundee and St Andrews run every 10-15 minutes and take less than half an hour.

You can find information on travel and accommodation here thanks to the Dundee & Angus Convention Bureau. For any further enquiries, please contact Matthew Jarron on museum@dundee.ac.uk


Booking for the conference is now open. The costs are as follows:

Total fee (including lunch and refreshments for all three days) = £100
Early bird rate (for bookings before 31 August) = £85
Student rate (all three days) = £75
Friday only = £50
Saturday only = £50
Sunday only = £40
Friday only (student rate) = £30
Saturday only (student rate) = £30
Sunday only (student rate) = £20

Tickets can be purchased via Eventbrite.


Friday 13 October (D’Arcy Thompson Lecture Theatre, Tower Building, University of Dundee)

08.45-09.15 Registration

09.15-09.30 Welcome

09.30-11.10 Session 1

09.30-09.50 Matthew Jarron (University of Dundee)
D’Arcy Thompson and the Mystery of Life – On Growth and Form in Context

09.50-10.10 Sarah Bonnemaison (Dalhousie University, Halifax)
D’Arcy Thompson and Organicism

10.10-10.20 Mason Dean (Max Planck Institute, Potsdam)
To Build a Shark – 3D tiling laws of the tessellated cartilage of sharks and rays

10.20-10.30 Madeleine Shepherd (Textile Artist, Edinburgh)
Botanica Mathematica

10.30-10.40 Mark Field (University of Dundee)
How to Build a Eukaryotic Cell – Lego bricks and bent membranes

10.40-11.05 Questions

11.05-11.35 Break

11.35-12.55 Session 2

11.35-11.55 Fordyce Davidson (University of Dundee)
From Bacteria to Birds: Understanding Space and Time in Biology

11.55-12.15 Kelly Freeman (University College London)
Growing Bones – D’Arcy Thompson and the formation of the skeleton concept

12.25-12.25 Caroline Erolin (University of Dundee)
Zoology 3D – Creating a Digital Collection of Specimens from the D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum

12.25-12.55 Questions

13.00-14.00 Lunch (including visit to the D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum)

14.00-15.30 Session 3

14.00-14.30 Wallace Arthur (National University of Ireland, Galway)
D’Arcy Thompson’s influence on evo-devo and astrobiology

14.30-14.50 Philip Murray (for Kim Dale & Philip Murray) (University of Dundee)
Working out what makes the segmentation clock tick

14.50-15.05 Peter Burt (University of Greenwich)
D’Arcy Thompson knew my (Grand)fathers

15.05-15.30 Questions

15.30-16.05 Break

16.05-17.20 Session 4

16.05-16.25 Polly Gould (Newcastle University)
“But things have turned out otherwise…” – feminist critique of parametricism in architectural design

16.25-16.35 Caroline Brown (University of Dundee)
D’Arcy in Dundee

16.35-16.45 Tracy Mackenna & Edwin Janssen (University of Dundee)
Between Clocks and Clouds – Life, Death & Beauty

16.45-16.55 Rita Hardiman & John Clement (University of Melbourne)
D’Arcy Thompson, the Human Femur, and Melbourne, Australia – growth, form and human function

16.55-17.20 Questions

17.20-18.30 Reception in Lamb Gallery and opening of On Growth and Form 100 exhibition

18.30-19.30 Keynote – Stephen Wolfram (Wolfram Research)
D’Arcy Thompson and the Growth of Computational Form

20.00-22.00 Dinner at D’Arcy Thompson Restaurant

Saturday 14 October (Parliament Hall, University of St Andrews)

09.00-09.30 Registration

09.30-11.05 Session 5

09.30-10.00 Tim Ingold (University of Aberdeen)
Making, Growing and the Genesis of Form

10.00-10.20 Joseph Klein (University of North Texas College of Music)
Practical Applications of D’Arcy Thompson’s On Growth and Form on Musical Materials and Structures

10.20-10.40 Meic Pierce Owen (University of Dundee)
D’Arcy – his polymath pursuits, life and times as revealed through his correspondence

10.40-11.05 Questions

11.05-11.35 Break

11.35-13.00 Session 6

11.35-11.55 Marie-Claire Beaulieu & Jennifer Burton (Tufts University)
Exploring the Intersection of Classics and Biology in D’Arcy Thompson’s Glossary of Greek Birds

11.55-12.15 Stephen Marsland (Massey University)
Thompson’s Theory of Transformations and Multi-Registration of Images

12.15-12.25 Maia Sheridan (University of St Andrews)
D’Arcy on Paper – an introduction to the archives of DWT held at St Andrews University Special Collections

12.25-12.35 Marija Matejcic (Max Planck Institute, Dresden)
Deconstructing tissue growth and its limits in the developing retinal neuroepithelium

12.35-13.00 Questions

13.00-14.00 Lunch (including visit to University of St Andrews Library Special Collections)

14.00-15.35 Session 7

14.00-14.30 Alan Werritty (University of Dundee)
Shaping Geographic Enquiry – D’Arcy Thompson’s On Growth and Form

14.30-14.50 Valerie Bentivegna (University of Dundee)
The Physics of Cancer

14.50-15.10 Brandon Taylor (University of Southampton)
D’Arcy Thompson and Surrealism

15.10-15.35 Questions

15.35-16.05 Break

16.05-17.20 Session 8

16.05-16.25 Artemis Yagou (Deutsches Museum, Munich)
Where Biology Meets Construction and Play – D’Arcy Thompson and the Continuum of Knowledge

16.25-16.35 Doug McKenna (Mathemaesthetics Inc)
Evidence of a Combinatorial Basis for Spiral Tendril Growth

William E N Austin (University of Edinburgh & Scottish Association for Marine Science)
Molecules and Morphology

16.45-16.55 Harry Matthews (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne)
Studying Growth Using 3D Photographs for Surgical Assessment

16.55-17.20 Questions

17.20-18.30 Reception in Bell Pettigrew Museum of Natural History

18.30-19.30 Keynote – Evelyn Fox Keller (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Mathematics in Biology – Has D’Arcy Thompson been vindicated?
(The Fauvel Lecture, supported by the British Society for the History of Mathematics)

20.00-22.00 Dinner at the Byre Theatre

Sunday 15 October (Large Lecture Theatre, Carnelley Building, University of Dundee)

09.30-10.00 Registration

10.00-11.35 Session 9

10.00-10.30 Armand Leroi (Imperial College London)
D’Arcy Thompson and the School of Athens

10.30-10.50 Ann Warde (Composer and Independent Scholar, Ithaca, New York)
On Growth and Form in Experimental Music Composition and Analysis

10.50-11.10 Andy Hahn (Oregon State University)
The Botanical Work of D’Arcy Thompson and Its Appearance in On Growth and Form

11.10-11.35 Questions

11.35-12.05 Break

12.05-13.30 Session 10

12.05-12.25 Charissa Terranova (University of Texas, Dallas)
Space, Time, Visualization – D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, Joseph Plateau, and the History of Art-Sci Imaging

12.25-12.45 Marjorie Senechal (Smith College)
D’Arcy Thompson and Dorothy Wrinch

12.45-12.55 Fabian Rost (Technische Universität Dresden)
Cellular behaviours driving growth in the regenerating axolotl spinal cord

12.55-13.05 Andy Lomas (Digital Artist, London)
Constrained Forms – Influencing Morphogenesis

13.05-13.30 Questions

13.30-14.30 Lunch

14.30-17.00 Visits (D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum and OG&F exhibitions in LifeSpace, CentreSpace)

17.30-19.00 Dark Dundee walking tour (please note – this event is bookable on https://www.darkdundee.co.uk/tours/dead-centre-sunday-15th-october-5-30pm/ )

A detailed version of the programme including abstracts can be downloaded as a pdf here: OG&F100_programme_detailed


The conference will be followed by a Newton Institute workshop hosted by the University of Dundee 16-20 October 2017 on Growth, Form and Self-Organisation in Living Systems – see https://www.newton.ac.uk/event/gfsw02