Darwin and Modern Science: Essays in Commemoration of the Centenary of the Birth of Charles Darwin and of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Publication of the Origin of Species

By A. C. Seward | Go to book overview

XIII
THE INFLUENCE OF ENVIRONMENT ON THE FORMS OF PLANTS

BY GEORG KLEBS PH.D.

Professor of Botany in the University of Heidelberg.

THE dependence of plants on their environment became the object of scientific research when the phenomena of life were first investigated and physiology took its place as a special branch of science. This occurred in the course of the eighteenth century as the result of the pioneer work of Hales, Duhamel, Ingenhousz, Senebier and others. In the nineteenth century, particularly in the second half, physiology experienced an unprecedented development in that it began to concern itself with the experimental study of nutrition and growth, and with the phenomena associated with stimulus and movement; on the other hand, physiology neglected phenomena connected with the production of form, a department of knowledge which was the province of morphology, a purely descriptive science. It was in the middle of the last century that the growth of comparative morphology and the study of phases of development reached their highest point.

The forms of plants appeared to be the expression of their inscrutable inner nature; the stages passed through in the development of the individual were regarded as the outcome of purely internal and hidden laws. The feasibility of experimental inquiry seemed therefore remote. Meanwhile, the recognition of the great importance of such a causal morphology emerged from the researches of the physiologists of that time, more especially from those of Hofmeister1, and afterwards from the work of Sachs2. Hofmeister, in speaking of this line of inquiry, described it as "the most pressing and immediate aim of the investigator to discover to what extent external forces acting on the organism are of importance in determining its form." This advance was the outcome of the influence of

____________________
1
Hofmeister, Allgemeine Morphologie, Leipzig, 1868, p. 579.
2
Sachs, Stoff und Form der Pflanzenorgane, Vol. I. 1880; Vol. II. 1882. Gesammelte Abhandlungen über Pflanzen-Physiologie, II. Leipzig, 1893.

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