Darren McFarlane, Scarus, Pomacanthus, 2012, oil on canvas. (University of Dundee Museum Services © the artist)
Even as geneticists like Ernst Mayr and Theodosius Dobzhansky were revealing the genetic mechanisms that constrain how living things evolve, Thompson was revealing the constraints and opportunities afforded to living things by physics and chemistry. Crudely put, genetics explains why dogs, say, look like other dogs. Thompson did something different: he glimpsed why dogs look the way they do.