Local Heroes Exhibition (Dundee)

Saturday 22nd August, 2015 to Sunday 1st November, 2015

The London Mathematical Society (LMS) has invited museums across the UK to become involved in a Local Heroes Scheme, with the Society providing funds towards exhibitions celebrating mathematicians born or raised within a given museum’s local region. Through this project, the Society aims to bring mathematics and mathematicians into the local community, and celebrate the origins of famous mathematical researchers. 

The LMS Local Hero for Dundee is Sir D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, CB FRS, FRSE. Born in Dundee on 2 May 1860, Thompson was a biologist, mathematician and classics scholar. He was a pioneer of mathematical biology. He went on collecting expeditions to the Bering Straits and held the position of Professor of Natural History at St Andrews for 31 years.

Thompson is mainly remembered as the author of the distinctive 1917 book On Growth and Form, written largely in Dundee in 1915. Peter Medawar, the 1960 Nobel Laureate in Medicine, called it "the finest work of literature in all the annals of science that have been recorded in the English tongue". The book led the way for the scientific explanation of morphogenesis, the process by which patterns are formed in plants and animals. Thompson recognised, however, that the book was descriptive, and did not present experimental hypotheses.

Thompson's description of the mathematical beauty of nature stimulated thinkers as diverse as Alan Turing and Claude Levi-Strauss; and artists including Henry Moore, Salvador Dali and Jackson Pollock. The Zoology Museum in Dundee, named for Thompson, displays a collection of artworks inspired by his ideas. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, was knighted, and received the Darwin Medal and the Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal.