Like Newton's Principia, D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson's On Growth and Form is a book more often name-checked than read. Both are hefty — Thompson's revised edition in 1942 weighed in at more than 1,000 pages, to the alarm of Cambridge University Press.
And both books stand apart from their age. Each contains ideas ahead of its time, yet seems rooted in earlier traditions. First published in 1917, with the modern synthesis of neo-Darwinian biology two or three decades away and genes still a nascent concept, On Growth and Form looked in some ways archaic by the time the second edition appeared — yet it continues to inspire.
In retrospect: On Growth and Form
Nature 494, 32–33 (07 February 2013)