IMA Lecture: Is it a bird? Is it a plane? D'Arcy Thompson on flight - Kate Hindle

Watson Building Lecture Theatre C (G24) - (R15 on campus map), Zoom - registration required
Tuesday 8 November 2022 (18:30-19:30)

Registration is required only for online access, please email the IMA. Further information on the IMA website.

For more information please email the organisers.

Image of mallard flying

D'Arcy Thompson (1860-1948) is most remembered for his influential book On Growth and Form (1917), which looked to maths to explain why biological creatures take the shapes that they take. In January 1917, a few months before this book was released, Thompson had a letter to the editor published in Nature titled "Stability in Flight".

This short paper featured a call for discussion from his fellow scientists, which was answered in February 1917, with a letter to Nature by Herbert Maxwell (1845-1937) under the same "Stability in Flight" title.

Using this exchange as a basis, this talk will investigate Thompson's relationship with mathematics, uncovering his ideas on an ideological hierarchy of subjects, where mathematics informs biology, but the reverse case is not true. It will also explore the ideas of flight Thompson discusses in the article, from the aeronautical physics paper which inspired Thompson, to the ideas on modern ornithology which agree with his work.