P G Tait

Correspondence with Tait (Soap Bubbles)

D'Arcy Thompson matriculated at the University of Edinburgh in 1878 to study medicine, however only stayed there for two years before deciding to move to the University of Cambridge to study zoology.

His two years at Edinburgh still proved worthwhile however as it is here where he gained a lot of his science and maths knowledge. One particular influence was physicist Peter Guthrie Tait (1831-1901).

On the first page of On Growth and Form, D'Arcy mentions that Tait was one of the people who stressed the importance of the mathematical aspect of physics.

He is also later referenced in a discussion about cell-size :

In the case of a soap-bubble, by the way, if it divide into two bubbles the volume is actually diminished, while the surface-area is greatly increased.
(Tait 1866)

D'Arcy's test scripts from Tait's class at Edinburgh (ms47908, dated 1877) are in the Special Collections Library in St Andrews. His solutions clearly show his talent for science and several answers relate very closely to the ideas discussed in On Growth and Form. For example on soap-bubbles and grease:
drops of soap bubbles tend to assume a spherical form i.e to contract the surface as much as possible.

drops of grease are pulled out all over the surface of a liquid whose surface tension is greater than their own.

darcy PGTait
P G Tait
darcy testpaper1
Thompson's Test Paper (1877)

Back to the Forms of Cells

About Joseph Plateau and his experiment

Charles Robert Darling