Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Thompson, D'Arcy Wentworth (Scotland 1860-1948)
zoology, classics

Photo courtesy Department of Special Collections, University of St Andrews Library

Thompson, though never an experimentalist and only infrequently committed to fieldwork, had considerable overall success in natural history studies and as a teacher. His lasting fame rests almost entirely on his book On Growth and Form, one of the most celebrated literary works ever produced by a scientist. Departing from the more usual specialized endeavors of his day, Thompson's masterwork investigates the commonalities that one can identify in biological form, and how these observe basic principles of mathematics and physics; it had a profound influence on twentieth century studies in fields ranging as widely as architecture, biology, engineering, and art. Thompson's father was a teacher of classics, and Thompson engaged the same interest in many of his own associations and writings as well--for example, in his compiled glossaries of Greek birds and fishes, and translations of Aristotle.

Life Chronology

--born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 2 May 1860.
--1880: enters Trinity College, Cambridge, after changing over from medicine (at Edinburgh University)
--1884-1948: professor of biology (then natural history), University College, Dundee (later St. Andrews)
--1885: elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
--1896, 1897: visits the Pribilof Islands to investigate the fur seal fishery there
--1898: made Companion of the Order of Bath for his work on the seal fishery
--1898-1939: member of the fishery board in Scotland
--1902-1947: serves on the council of the Conseil Permanent International pour l'Exploration de la Mer
--1902-1947: editor, Bulletin Statistique
--1916: made a fellow of the Royal Society of London
--1917: publishes his On Growth and Form
--1928: president, Classical Association
--1931-1933: vice-president, Royal Society of London
--1934-1939: president, Royal Society of Edinburgh
--1936: president, Scottish Classical Association
--1937: knighted
--1938: awarded the Linnean Society's gold medal
--1942: made president of the Scottish Royal Geographical Society
--dies at St. Andrews, Scotland, on 21 June 1948.

For Additional Information, See:

--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 13 (1976).
--Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 54 (2004).
--Contemporary Authors, Vol. 164 (1998).
--Isis, Vol. 41(1) (1950): 3-8.
--American Scientist, Vol. 36(4) (1948): 577-581, 600, 602, 604, 606.
--Topics in the Philosophy of Biology (1976): 66-97.
--New Literary History, Vol. 2(2) (1971): 229-258.
--Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, No. 18 (1949).

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Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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