A sketch of the universe – the visual influences of D’Arcy Thompson’s On Growth and Form | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 2, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2052-0204
  • E-ISSN:



D’Arcy Thompson’s groundbreaking book On Growth and Form (1917) pioneered the science of mathematical biology. Its literary qualities have been frequently commented upon but arguably more influential have been its illustrations, particularly the famous transformation diagrams. This article discusses the origins and context of these iconic images, exploring D’Arcy Thompson’s own artistic and scientific interests, the long development of his controversial theories and the other collaborators involved, including illustrators Doris MacKinnon and Helen Ogilvie. It explores the various influences that the images have had in science, geography and particularly in art. Many notable artists have been drawn to the images and visual analogies of D’Arcy Thompson’s work, and the article concludes by describing examples ranging from the early graphic work of Henry Moore to the illustrative exercises created by Richard Hamilton and Victor Pasmore for their pioneering Basic Design Course, and on to current artists including Lindsay Sekulowicz and Gemma Anderson.


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