A Short History of the Plant Sciences

A Short History of the Plant Sciences

A Short History of the Plant Sciences

A Short History of the Plant Sciences

Excerpt

Work on the history of a subject is inevitably a reflection of the interest of the writer. This is especially true in writing a book which deals with historical matters. I am not only aware of many great omissions in the writing of this book, but also of my own inability to treat certain of the subjects. I have preferred to deal with subjects on which I felt some competency, rather than to cover a large number of subjects so briefly that the account would scarcely be readable. I will take this opportunity to note that there has been adequate treatment in various recent books of subjects such as systematic botany, phylogeny, and paleobotany, to which the reader may go. The new field of genetics, with its cosmic subject of plant breeding and evolution, has been discussed recently by several competent writers. In similar fashion, the new work on growth, tropisms, and hormones has been discussed by WENT, THIMANN, and others. I have discussed the subject of plant geography to the end of the nineteenth century, preferring to refrain from discussion of recent work in ecology, sociology, etc., in which it seems that the concepts are so lacking in precise definition that discussion of them can wait for the pen of another writer.

The account of work in the plant sciences given in this book is intended for the average graduate student in our universities, rather than for the specialist in science or in history. The former class of readers has had in the past few treatises on the development of the plant sciences which were suited to his mental level. The latter class has had more treatises than they could read, regardless of the adjustment to their mental levels. A résumé of the subject is not a history unless it portrays to some extent the evolution of the plant sciences; how the beginning was made and how each grew out of some previous stage. It is important to know how we arrived at our present station on the road from Then to Now, as well as to know where we are now. Since science owes much of its development to man's natural curiosity about his environment as well as to his elemental need for food, clothing and shelter, I have started with the development of botany in a very early era and spent perhaps too much time in discussing the achievements of races at the dawn of history and subsequently. Those hairy and unkempt ancestors who devoted most of their lives to securing the material for the daily ration learned much about plants which has been handed on to us. Their biological skill has never been properly appraised. Men of the Stone Age . . .

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