One can grind a diamond or a piece of quartz to powder: though it has lost its specific crystalline shape, the particles will retain all their chemical properties and most of their physical ones: they will still at least be carbon or silicon dioxide. But the organism that is crushed out of shape is no longer an organism: not merely are its specific properties of growth, renewal, reproduction absent, but the very chemical constitution of its parts undergoes a change. Not even the loosest form of organism, the classic amoeba, can be called a shapeless mass. The technical importance of shape was unappreciated throughout the paleotechnic phase: but for the great mechanical craftsmen, like Maudslay, interest in the esthetic refinement of the machine was non-existent, or, when it came in, it entered as an intrusion, as in the addition of Doric or Gothic ornament, between 1830 and 1860. Except for improvements in specifically eotechnic apparatus, like the clipper sailing ship, shape was looked upon as unimportant. As far back as 1874, for example, the stream-lined locomotive was designed: but the writer in Knight’s Dictionary of the Mechanical Arts who described it cited the improvement only to dismiss it. “There is nothing in it,” he said with cool contempt. Against possible gains in efficiency by merely altering the shape of a machine, the paleotect put his faith in more power-consumption and greater size. (Mumford 1934:252)
MUMFORD, Lewis. 1934. Technique and civilization. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.