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Spirals in Nature and Art

Nature volume 68, page 221 (09 July 1903) | Download Citation



THAT spiral curves, or, more strictly, helices, and screw motions should play an important part both in the natural world and in structures constructed by human hands is a fact for which a mathematician can easily suggest an explanation on general grounds. Without professing to bring any extensive scientific or technical knowledge to bear on the subject, Mr. Cook has made a most interesting study of the resem-blances between the spiral forms occurring in nature and in art, and has produced a book the study of which will be a delightful recreation to any class of reader. Apart from the mere spiral form, Mr. Cook finds remarkable resemblances between the structure and sculpturing of certain staircases in France and those of the shells of certain mollusca. It is certain that Leonardo da Vinci studied shells, and that he was in France about the time when these staircases were built, and an obvious connection suggests itself. While the author's study of the works of Leonardo da Vinci—illustrated by copies of his drawings—is interesting, the connection of Leonardo's studies of the flight of birds with spiral curves strikes a reader as somewhat doubtful. Even Pettigrew's figure-of-eight-shaped curve, and the oval curve familiar to readers of Marey's “Vol des Oiseaux,” which represent, according to modern views, the relative paths of points on the wtings of a wasp and a bird, can hardly be said to produce a spiral curve when compounded with the forward motion of the animal.

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