Sir D’Arcy networks from beyond the grave

Facebook friends flock to a 150-year-old Scottish polymath, reports Sarah Cunnane

April 4, 2010

A Scottish academic has seen his popularity on the social networking site Facebook grow by leaps and bounds – more than 60 years after his death.

A Facebook profile of biologist, mathematician and classicist Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, who died in 1948, was set up by Matthew Jarron, curator of museum services at the University of Dundee. The aim of the initiative was to highlight a year of events organised by Dundee and the University of St Andrews to celebrate the 150th year of the scholar’s birth.

Mr Jarron said: “We were trying to think of innovative ways of promoting our D’Arcy events. We wanted to do something that would get students interested, and which would also reach people internationally, as D’Arcy is known worldwide.”

Sir D’Arcy’s profile lists his interests as “zoology, classics and biomathematics” and adds: “I’m 150 years old this year.”

The scholar was the first chair of biology at University College Dundee, now the University of Dundee, and he also spent many years working at St Andrews.

As an experiment in how social networking can be used, Mr Jarron said, Sir D’Arcy’s tally of more than 100 Facebook friends shows the initiative has been a success.

“It’s not bad considering he’s been dead all this time,” he said, adding that Sir D’Arcy was “not going to start tweeting” any time soon.

Mr Jarron said that Sir D’Arcy was not the only late Dundee alumnus on Facebook.

Patrick Geddes, a biologist and a friend of Sir D’Arcy who died in 1932, also has a Facebook profile. Sadly, it appears that their friendship may not have endured beyond the grave.

“We tried to make D’Arcy friends with Geddes, but he hasn’t accepted our friend request yet,” Mr Jarron said.

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