Plate XIX from the first volume of Pettigrew’s Design in Nature (1908), illustrating the resemblance between spiral shell formations and bony portions of the inner ear — Source.

Why do helical seashells resemble spiralling galaxies and the human heart? Kevin Dann leads us into the gyre of James Bell Pettigrew’s Design in Nature (1908), a provocative and forgotten exploration of the world’s archetypal whorl.

The ornithopter covered a distance of about twenty meters during its maiden flight before crashing, breaking both the contraption’s spiral whalebone wings and its pilot’s own spiral hip. Convalescence gave Dr. Pettigrew the opportunity to begin work on Design in Nature: Illustrated by Spiral and Other Arrangements in the Inorganic and Organic Kingdoms as Exemplified in Matter, Force, Life, Growth, Rhythms, &c., Especially in Crystals, Plants, and Animals. In January 1908, as he was nearing its completion, Pettigrew looped back at the work’s end to reiterate what he had stated so vociferously at the beginning — the absolute primacy of design by a “Great First Cause” and “Omni–Present Framer and Upholder of the Universe”. After a lengthy essay considering the antiquity of man — and once again stressing that the human physical form had altered not at all for at least some ten thousand years — he concluded:

The ornithopter covered a distance of about twenty meters during its maiden flight before crashing, breaking both the contraption’s spiral whalebone wings and its pilot’s own spiral hip. Convalescence gave Dr. Pettigrew the opportunity to begin work on Design in Nature: Illustrated by Spiral and Other Arrangements in the Inorganic and Organic Kingdoms as Exemplified in Matter, Force, Life, Growth, Rhythms, &c., Especially in Crystals, Plants, and Animals. In January 1908, as he was nearing its completion, Pettigrew looped back at the work’s end to reiterate what he had stated so vociferously at the beginning — the absolute primacy of design by a “Great First Cause” and “Omni–Present Framer and Upholder of the Universe”. After a lengthy essay considering the antiquity of man — and once again stressing that the human physical form had altered not at all for at least some ten thousand years — he concluded:

Man is not in any sense the product of evolution. He is not compounded of an endless number of lower animal forms which merge into each other by inseparable gradations and modifications from the monera up to man. . .

He is the highest of all living forms. The world was made for him and he for it. . . Everything was made to fit and dovetail into every other thing. . . There was moreover no accident or chance. On the contrary, there was forethought, prescience, and design.1

Plate CLXXX from the third volume of Pettigrew’s Design in Nature (1908), illustrating, via classical and modern sculpture, “diagonal screwing movements” that occur during “walking, swimming, and flying”. In numerical order: a life study by Gérome; Venus of Ostia; the Greek boxer Damoxenus by Canova; and Discobolus in bronze — Source.

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