The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 50: 367 - 368 (2006)

Vol 50, Issue 2-3

Special Issue: Developmental Morphodynamics

A review of Stuart Pivar´s book Lifecode: The Theory of Biological Self Organization

Open Access | Published: 15 February 2006

Richard Gordon

Departments of Radiology, Computer Science and Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Manitoba, Health Sciences Centre, Winnipeg, Canada


The beauty of the form of organisms has captured our imagination ever since our ancestors created cave paintings, petroglyphs and petroforms. The capture of nature in art, in pressed flowers and in stuffed animals in museums, sometimes to the point of extinction, accelerated as Europeans colonized the world and collected all manner of beasts, usually dead. The preserved, fixed points in the life cycle of organisms would sometimes be arranged in presumed sequences, but the dynamic, four dimensional nature of life was effectively collapsed by pressing or dessication into two or three dimensions. Only a few of us have had the privilege of studying the unfolding of embryos in vivo, via time-lapse microscopy. This viewpoint reveals the pulsing explosion of an organism from the humble, simple-looking one celled egg.

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