Pioneers of Plant Study

Pioneers of Plant Study

Pioneers of Plant Study

Pioneers of Plant Study

Excerpt

This book makes no attempt to be a complete history of plant study. Had this been its object, we should have had to deal with a vast amount of detail that can be of little interest except to the advanced student. The treatment of the subject is necessarily episodic, and there are not a few interesting episodes that we have been compelled, by exigencies of space, to pass by. We should like to have spoken of the Tradescants and Ashmole and of the first museum in England; of the Sherards and Bobarts and the history of the Oxford Garden; of Goethe and his poetical suggestion of serial metamorphosis; of the plant-breeding Abbot Mendel and his far-reaching experiments; of Darwin's contributions to our knowledge of insect-pollination, and to the physiology of climbing and of insectivorous plants; and of the manner in which our knowledge of fossil plants has grown of late, and how it has thrown light on the structure of living forms.

Great as have been the victories of the human intelligence over the forces of the vegetable world, the problems solved seem only to point the way to further questions that yet await solution. As in all other sciences, the more we learn, the wider does the path open out, so that we see ever more before us. How far we yet are from a complete knowledge even of the Flowering Plants of the world may be gauged from the fact that within thirty years of the issue of the earlier volumes of the Flora of Tropical Africa, about the year 1870, an increase of more than 80 per cent. in the number of species had been described in genera that had been revised. While this is probably typical of all Tropical African groups, our knowledge of Tropical South American species is probably at least equally imperfect.

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