In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS Growth, Development and Pattern. By N. J. Berrill. San Francisco and London: W. H. Freeman and Co., 1961. Pp. x+555. $10.00. The splintering ofcontemporary biology into ever more lines ofintense specialization promotes penetration in depth at the expense ofperspective and cohesion. Coincidentally, it leads to a growing remoteness betweenthe investigators inthe various specialties and the real central object ofbiologicalresearch toward which their speciahst approaches ought to converge—theliving organism. This intense concentration on isolated aspects ofthe living system has been rewarded by spectacular, though compartmentalized, progress in those channels. But it has also led in many instancesto adangerousloss ofcoherence, so much so that we often encounter as many disparate versions ofa single biological phenomenon as there have been methods used to describe and analyze it. As one teases apart the complex fabric oflife processes into component threads, singled out for the simplicity with which they lend themselves to experimental manipulation, one easily succumbs to the delusion that the total fabric is equally simple and can be wholly resolved with the tools ofthat particular one-sided approach. Yet, looking thus on but one or another facet ofthe living system, he is apt to miss the crucial problems presented by the staggering complexity and unitary order oflife. As a result, some ofthe fundamental problems ofliving systems are gradually being lost sight of. Moreover, as firsthand acquaintance and familiarity with the living organism decline, generalizations derived from the limited experience ofnarrow specialties become more and more tenuous. In the face ofthis trend, any countermove to restore totalperspective bypresenting the living system in full view—in its full diversity, in realistic light, and without obscuring the perplexity ofthe unsolvedproblems itpresents—is asalutaryundertaking. It is in this spirit that Berrill's book should be rated. He tries to let the organism itselfset the problems ofits growthpatterns into theproper focus and perspective, aiming at a unifiedpicture to which the many simplified versions ofgrowth advanced in the past from limited, hence individually unrepresentative, considerations would be mere tributaries. Discussions of growth and growth patterns have often been preoccupied with changes ofdimensions and geometry , or nutrition, or hormonal control, or mechanical strains and stresses, or electric potentials, or cellular proliferation, and so forth. The reader ofthis book is made to sense the need for integrating all such features under a common principle. The book achieves this effect neither by preaching nor by persuasion, but simply by displaying in full view a selection ofquite diverse samples from the wide range ofgrowth phenomena, thus staking out, as it were, the minimum territory which a unified theory and explanation ofgrowth patterns must encompass ifit is to have general validity. The 377 samples range from subcellular structures to cell patterns in protozoans; from plant morphogenesis to animal development; from slime mold aggregations to reconstitution, regeneration, and metamorphosis in animals; from classical morphology to modern experimental analysis—all conclusions culminating in the principle that the interactions of individual units in collective groupings impose ordered patterns ofbehavior on the constituentmembers ofthe group, whichbecome manifest tothe observer as ordered growth, eventuating in ordered form. The subject matter of the text is rather loosely arranged, without pedantry or systematic seriation. In other words, the reader is taken rather on a sort offield trip than on a visit to a well-organized museum. Ifanything, the selection and breadth oftreatment of different examples seem to have been deliberately weighted in inverse proportion to their popularity in standard texts and treatises, forming an invaluable complement to the conventional picture given by the current literature. Almost as a matter ofcourse, therefore, one finds the treatment of morphogenesis of invertebrates dominating the text, which, since it coincides with the domain ofthe author's greatestpersonal experience, is all to the good. By contrast, the treatment ofvertebrate embryology, which can be found in many other books, is given relatively cursory attention. In general, one has the refreshing sensation ofsomeone who has been driving for long on crowded highways and then made to stop and take a walk cross-country through beautiful but unfamiliar landscape, most ofit unexplored. Such sidetrips widen the horizon and open the mind to contemplation ofthe enormous range ofquestions barely asked, let alone answered, with which...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 377-378
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.