Foundations of Morphometrics

  • Bookstein F
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Whether broadly (58, 60) or narrowly (10, 11, 14, 33, 34, 63) construed, morphometrics clearly has something to do with the assignment of quantities to biologic shapes. In most fields, the advent of quantification is followed a few years later by a systematization of the exploratory quantitative styles. At that time one encounters studies of the nature of information captured and discarded by the various conventions, general families of mathematical or statistical models mimicking relevant behaviors of the natural phenomena under study, and so forth: in short, the contemplation of foundations. In morphometrics this passage to introspection has not occurred. There is one classic in the field, D’Arcy Thompson’s On Growth and Form (80), which argues that form should be modelled as the expression of physical laws. This stance, now badly dated, has not been replaced by any other consistent point of view. The only more recent paper I have encountered that speaks of a discipline for information captured in the course of morphometric investigation is Green’s critique of methods for studying axial growth in plants (36). Otherwise, the morphometric literature is entirely application-oriented rather than methodological. In this essay I attempt a preliminary remedy: a framework into which specific morphometric methods can be fitted (with more or less difficulty, as will become clear from my section headings). The rationale for that framework lies in a duality underlying comparisons among biologic forms.

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  • F L Bookstein

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