Notes from On Growth and Form. This piece is so enticing to read. Though I wish there were translations for the many Latin, French quotes scattered liberally in the book.

Here I have kept interesting observations, ideas and insights from the book separated in chapters and sections. I am following this version.

1 TODO Introduction

2 TODO On Magnitude

3 The Rate of Growth

3.1 TODO The rate of growth in man

3.2 TODO On rate of growth in man and woman

3.3 TODO On pre-natal and post-natal growth

3.4 TODO On variability, and on the curve of frequency or of error

3.5 TODO The curve of error

3.6 TODO A further note upon curves

3.7 TODO The growth of a population

3.8 TODO The rate of growth in other organisms

3.9 TODO On the growth of fishes, and the determination of their age

3.10 TODO The rate of growth of various parts or organs

3.11 TODO On the weight-length coefficient, or ponderal index

3.12 TODO Of surface and volume

3.13 TODO A further note on unequal growth, or heterogony

3.14 TODO On so-called dimorphism

3.15 TODO The effect of temperature

3.16 TODO On seasonal growth

3.17 TODO The growth of trees

3.18 TODO Osmotic factors in growth

3.19 TODO On growth and catalytic action

3.20 TODO The chemical aspect of growth

3.21 TODO Of regeneration, or growth and repair

4 DONE On The Internal Form and Structure of the Cell

CLOSED: [2019-07-07 Sun 14:40]

The things which we see in the cell are less important than the actions which we recognise in the cell..


There is a nice description of the process of cell division here. Not sure about the exactness of the understanding as per our current knowledge, but the way the idea was conveyed using abstractions of forces is beautiful. A point to note is that:

… it is not our purpose to assert that some one particular mode of action is at work, but merely to shew that there do exist physical forces, or distributions of force, which are capable of producing the required result …


A piece that I find interesting is of Hydrodynamic magnetism wherein particles in a fluid which are oscillating or pulsating create attractive and repulsive fields in the fluid similar to regular magnets. The general idea of permeability applies here and particles are attracted or repelled depending on their permeability with respect to the surrounding fluids.

I am not able to figure out the right sets of words to see what this phenomenon is known as at the present.

5 TODO The Forms of Cells

A nice way of looking at inorganic vs organic is mentioned here. Inorganic growths mostly happen through depositions, resulting in planes (and thus edges). Organic however, happens through imbibition, which makes things more roundish because of surface tension and other structural causes which result in spherical symmetries.


I like this line:

The principle of least action explains nothing, it tells us nothing of causation, yet it illuminates a host of things. Like Maxwell's equations and other such flashes of genius it clarifies our knowledge, adds weight to our observations, brings order into our stock-in-trade of facts.


… the world and all the parts thereof tend ever to pass from less to more probable configurations; in which the physicist recognises the principle of Clausius, … with which the biologist must somehow reconcile the whole "theory of evolution".

Every time the second law comes in context of evolution, it's always presented as a contradiction by stating life is order. The above line feels much better as you focus on a more important concern with probability of configurations.


An interesting footnote:

… The nodoid was represented upside down in the first edition of this book, a mistake into which others have fallen, including no less a person than Clerk Maxwell, in his article "Capillarity" in the Encycl. Brit. 9th ed.

Here is a web version of the article. See Figure 12.


In short, the naturalist admits no exception to the rule that "The fact that we are able to classify organisms at all in accordance with the structural characteristics which they present is due to the fact of their being related by descent."

This contrasts with the physicists' perspective:;

… regarding these "species" [referring to snowflakes] of his, the physicist makes no assumptions: he records them simpliciter; he notes, as best he can, the circumstances (such as temperature and humidity) under which each occurs, in the hope of elucidating the conditions which determine their formation; but above all, he does not introduce the element of time, and of succession, or discuss their origin and affiliation as an historical sequence of events.