anatomical architecture

D’Arcy Thompson a biology teacher in the nineteenth century, as well as a world class mathematician argued that the secret of life isn’t heredity: it’s engineering. Maths and physics. He compared the living skeleton and the working of the whole nervous system with arch of bridges, levers and buildings.

“A living skeleton is a marvel of mechanical efficiency”.

As D’Arcy observed, “ligament and membrane, muscle and tendon, run between bone and bone; and the beauty and strength of the mechanical construction lie not in one part or in another, but in the harmonious concatenation which all parts, soft and hard, rigid and flexible, tension bearing and pressure bearing make up together”.

Another visionary mathematician Alan Turing, understood that as “cells divide, they differentiate, organising themselves into complex structures – tissues – which coordinate with other structures to form organs and, ultimately, biological systems. Life was an endless process of one thing developing – morphing – into another”.

Life was math

“Mechanical body”

“Think of the internet, the first man-made structure to approach the complexity of the human brain.”

page from my visual diary

page from my visual diary

“D’Arcy Thompson observed, that bone is an architects dream, a building material so malleable that it can be hammered into any shape, so versatile that when it’s assembled into a light and durable framework it can execute and withstand complex mechanical movements, and so strong that it gives shape to and stiffens the whole human form without buckling. Not extremely exquisite, as all great architecture must be, the edifice of the human skeleton is a perfect diagram of the lines of stress, tension, and compression involved in bearing he loaded structure – us – through a century or more of activity”.

‘Nervous system as an ultra-high-speed communications network’

“The brain, the masterpiece of creation, is almost unknown to us”

Quotes taken from the wonderful book “The architecture and design of man and woman; the marvel of the human body, revealed” Author Alexander Tsiaras (New York: Doubleday 2004)


One response to “anatomical architecture

  1. It would fascinating to experiment further with your anatomical images and use D’Arcy Thompson’s idea of mathematical functions (Growth and Form) that could be applied to pictures, in order to grid your images and then play with the x and y values and thickness of the line work…Illustrator would be great for this.


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