In the PBS series, It’s Okay to Be Smart, host Dr. Joe Hanson explains how legendary mathematician and WW II codebreaker Alan Turing discovered the code behind the most complex patterns found in nature in his 1952 paper “The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis”. In this paper, Turing uses math to explain why certain animals look a certain way. Since its publication, biologists have been studying Turing’s work and have determined that several of his formulas were are proving to be true.
Turing’s mathematics simply and elegantly model reality, but to truly prove Turing right, biologists needed to find actual morphogens: chemicals or proteins inside cells that do what Turing’s model predicts. And just recently, after decades of searching, biologists have finally begun to find molecules that fit the math.