Vistas in Botany

Vistas in Botany

Vistas in Botany

Vistas in Botany

Excerpt

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, since their foundation two centuries ago, have been closely linked with advances in many fields of botany. It is true that a major part of the researches carried out by members of the staff has been in plant taxonomy and in phytogeography, but these in themselves are exceedingly wide subjects overlapping all other branches of botany and, in their modern synthetic aspects especially, they utilize data of many other subjects both within and outside the realm of botany sensu stricto. Economic botany, although only incidentally considered in some of the articles in this volume, has also been to the fore at Kew. In addition, the varied investigations that have been carried out at the Jodrell Laboratory range over plant anatomy, plant cytology, plant physiology, and palaeobotany, while plant breeding has been a subject of research in the Herbarium Experimental Ground and at the Potterne Biological Station, Wilts. An important aspect of the service of Kew to botanical science that is often overlooked, or is unknown, is the supplying, through the Director, of materials to institutions and to research workers for observational and experimental purposes. Plants and plant parts of many kinds, vegetative propagules, and seeds are sent annually to many parts of the world in reply to requests, which often state that the material required cannot be obtained elsewhere. It is thus clearly appropriate that a volume published in commemoration of the bicentenary of Kew as a botanical institution should cover a wide range of subjects. The editor has had the somewhat difficult task of determining actual boundaries for such subjects and of suggesting vistas for specialist contributors.

In the large Oxford Dictionary the word "vista" is given several definitions. The simple concrete one of "a view or prospect, especially long narrow one through trees, etc.," applies to parts of Kew Gardens. More appropriate to this volume is the meaning of "a view or vision, in prospect or retrospect, of an extensive period of time or series of events, experiences, etc." We are here dealing with vistas in botany, "the science which treats of plants." A synonym of "botany" is "phytology," both words originating from Greek. The earliest references to the use of "phytology" given in the Oxford Dictionary are prior to the use of "botany" in English or, at least, in English works: "phytologia" 1647, "phytology" 1658; "botanie" 1697, "botanny" 1706. It might be an interesting study in psychology to investigate why "Phytology" has almost entirely succumbed to "botany," although the former is more in accord with, for example, the names applied to such other sciences as "zoology" and "geology" as well as with "biology" and many of its subdivisions such as morphology, physiology, and palaeontology.

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