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Botany

Botany Collection

History Archive - Botany Collection

Botany. The science which deals with plants. It should be understood in the outset that botany is one division of biology, and that it simply means a study of biology with plants as illustrative material. The history of botany is a very long one, but the real development of the science has taken place during the last century.

Naturally, the first attention given to plants was to discover those which are useful to man for food, in the arts or in medicine. In fact, the medicinal use of plants was for centuries the only representative of a botanical science. A true science of botany, however, began with attempts to classify plants. Aristotle and Theophrastus had classified all plants as trees, shrubs and herbs, and there was no further attempt to develop a scientific knowledge of plants until the 16th century. It was then that students again began to arrange plants into groups, but these groups were very artificial.

These attempts finally culminated in the famous artificial system of Linnæus, which was published in the middle of the 18th century and was in use to the middle of the 19th century. Since that time a great advance has been made in constructing what are known as natural systems of classification, which attempt to put those plants together which are really related. As a consequence, the subject of classification or taxonomy, as it is called, is upon a very substantial basis. Taxonomy is the oldest phase of botany, but it continues to represent to many the whole subject. It is not unusual to meet people who think of botany as the analysis of flowers. Of course, taxonomy includes the classification of flowering plants, but it includes a classification of all other plants as well.

During the last part of the 18th century a new phase of botany began to be developed, which deals with the structure and development of plants and their organs. This became possible through the invention and gradual improvement of the microscope, so that the minute structures of plants could be investigated. At first botanists interested themselves merely in the structure of mature plant bodies, and as the knowledge of the cell gradually developed the field of anatomy came into view, which has to do with the various cell aggregates known as tissues which enter into the plant body.

Later, however, botanists began to be more interested in the way in which the tissues are related to one another to form the plant body and its organs, and the science of morphology began to exist. This last subject for a time contented itself with the study of the forms of plants and their organs, but presently passed into the more important phase of studying the gradual development of plants and of their organs, subjects which are often called embryology and organography. Morphology not merely studies the development of structures, but it studies the relationships of plants which are thus revealed, and hence is interested in what is known as phylogeny, that is, the ancestral history of plant groups.

During the time morphology was growing another view of plants was being developed, namely, that which deals with their life processes, or the plants at work. A good many botanists cared not so much for the structures of plants as for the activities of plants, and plant physiology began to assume importance. This subject developed with exceeding rapidity during the 19th century, and is certainly one of the most important views which can be taken of plants.

During recent years still another field of botany has come prominently forward, which deals with plants in relation to their environment, and is known as ecology. Under this phase the necessary relations of plants and their organs to light, heat, soil, temperature, etc. are studied, and also those exceedingly interesting communities which are known as plant-societies.

These may be taken to represent the principal fields of botanical activity today, but there are other botanical subjects which are of more special development. For example, pathology deals with the diseases of plants, paleobotany with fossil plants, economic botany with plants in relation to the interests of man, forestry with the problems of the proper cultivation and use of forests. Still further subdivisions of the general subject are common. For example, a bacteriologist is one whose attention is devoted to the bacteria; the phycologist studies the algæ; the mycologist studies the fungi; the bryologist is a student of mosses, etc.

Any elementary knowledge of botany should include something from all the principal divisions of the subject. For example, a beginning student should know how plants must relate themselves to their surroundings in order to live (ecology). He should know how plants make food and use it, how they are irritable and respond to stimuli, and how they reproduce (physiology). He should also learn something of the essential structures of the great groups, so that he may know the make-up of a toadstool, moss, fern, flowering plant, etc. (morphology). He should also have some general knowledge as to how plants are put into great natural groups or families, and he should be able to discover the names of the important plants of his vicinity (taxonomy).

References:

The New Student's Reference Work (1914) pp. 249-250.

Available Books

Images

Image Name
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The Palace, Schonbrunn
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Title Page
The Storks
A Bulb-Grower's Garden
The Palace, Peterhof
An Iris Garden
Wistaria, Nagaoka
The Palace, Christiania
The Park, Fredensborg Castle
Hepatica in the Woods at Bex, in the Rhone Valley
Looking up the Thames
In Queen's Cottage Gardens
The Sundial, Woodside, Chenies
Title Page
The Pagoda
Rhododendrons
The Open Door, Villa Hvidore
A Gay Garden
Title Page
Apple Trees
Rhododendrons, Upper Pleasure Ground, Moor Park
The Villa d'Este, Rome
Thistles, the Apollo Butterfly, and the Aiguille du Tour
Entrance to the Gardens, Ayscough Fee Hall
Title Page
Rose Garden, Eton College
A Drinking Fountain
The Royal Palace, Athens
Quinta do Til
The Queen's Cottage
The Sulphur Anemone at the Col de la Forclaz
The Tsar's Church, Peterhof
Cherry-tree at Kyomidzu
The Herbaceous Ground
Back Cover
Aloes and Daisy Tree
A Dutch Garden
Tiger Lilies
A Kentish Garden in Autumn
Lilies on the Rocks, Atami
The Garden by the Sea, Villa Hvidore
A Tokyo Garden
Drottningholm Castle
A Bulb House
Title Page
Front Cover
Fredensborg Castle, from the Marble Garden
A Walled Garden
The Dutch Garden, Kensington Palace
Wistaria in a Kyoto Garden
Irises, Horikiri
A Quaint Garden
The Covered Way to the Chapel, Laeken
August at Holyrood House, Spalding
Daffodils, Waxwell Farm, Pinner
Hyacinths scattered on the Sand like sapphire, pearl, and rich embroidery
Miramar
Azaleas, Awata
"They spring, they bud, they blossome fresh and faire, and decke the world with their rich pompous showes"
Back Cover
The Mill, Sans Souci
Lotus at Kodaiji
Cherry Blossom, Chion-in Temple
The Poppy Beds
The Scarlet Bougainvillea
Herbaceous Borders, Dingley Park
Spanish Irises
Back Cover
Wild Flowers in the Beech Woods
Torch Lily and Hollyhocks
In an Old Garden
The Gloriette, Schonbrunn
Title Page
The Pink Cherry
A Paeony Garden
Alpine Garden (the Thomasia) at Pont de Nant
The Pagoda, Kyomidzu
Tulips in "The Garden of Peace"
"In emerald tufts, flowers purple, blue, and white,"
The Terrace Garden, Hoar Cross House
Front Cover
Azalea and Pine-tree
"Whose leaves with their crimson glow Hide the heart that lies burning and black below"
The Orangery, Laeken
The Rhododendron Walk
The Azaleas
The North Wing of the Palace, from the Parterre d'Eau, Versailles
The Garden of Cyrus
The Rhododendron Dell
Spalding Parish Church, from the Lake Garden, Ayscough Fee Hall
Chrysanthemums
Here are tulips for you white, for the bridal or the burial
On the Torrinhas Road
The South Border

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