Alan Turing’s Biology Paper

From Wired, by Brandon Keim

Near the end of his life, the great mathematician Alan Turing wrote his first and last paper on biology and chemistry, about how a certain type of chemical reaction ought to produce many patterns seen in nature.

Called “The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis,” it was an entirely theoretical work. But in following decades, long after Turing tragically took his own life in 1954, scientists found his speculations to be reality.

First found in chemicals in dishes, then in the stripes and spirals and whorls of animals, so-called Turing patterns abounded. Some think that Turing patterns may actually extend to ecosystems, even to galaxies. That’s still speculation — but a proof published Feb. 11 in Science of Turing patterns in a controlled three-dimensional chemical system are even more suggestion of just how complex the patterns can be.

On the following pages, Wired.com takes you on a Turing pattern tour.

Top images: Left: Alan Turing. (Ohio State University) Right: Patterns generated by a computer simulation of the Turing model. each is made by the same basic equation, with its parameters slightly tweaked (Shigeru Kondo & Takashi Miura/Science). Below: Turing pattern of cells in Dictyostelium, or a slime mold. Image: National Institutes of Health.

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