Thompson saw that nature’s love affair with hexagons (bees’ honeycomb, skeletons of radiations, the Giant’s Causeway etc) was the result of nature following least stress, least material strategies in different contexts. In the case of the radiolarians it all derived from foams, with the minerals that formed the skeleton being deposited in the interstices of the foam. In the hands of scientists such as Geoffrey Ozin, this is now a recognised synthetic technique.
D’Arcy Thompson’s most influential passages don’t yet have any biomimetic applications but they are important in the science of biological form, evo devo, and nothing concerning form can be ruled out in biomimetics. Thompson showed how some body forms can be derived from others by systematic grid deformations. He showed for instance how a human skull can be morphed into a chimp’s or vice versa. The discovery of the hox genes in the 1980s provided a mechanism for Thompson’s transformations.
There is a strong link with Gordon in that Thomson analysed living structures in terms of stress, showing for instance the connection between the skeletons of large animals such as the bison and bridges. This proved an exciting inspiration for the London Eye architects Marks and Barfield, who in their early days conceived of a dinosaur bridge in which the span required only one anchor point, the bridge’s vertebral elements being held in tension and compression like a stegosaurus’ backbone. Reading D’Arcy Thompson you feel a world of possibility opening up. There is just one book, On Growth and Form, first published in 1917.My copy is the abridged edition, edited by John Tyler Bonner in 1961.