Plants and Plant Science in Latin America

By Frans Verdoorn | Go to book overview

Introductory Essay
1
The Plant Scientist in the World's Turmoils

It is unnatural to be without a special love of the country of one's birth, just as a man has more affection for his family than for other families. But let our allegiance extend to the whole globe on which we travel through the universe, and let us try to serve mankind rather than our country right or wrong. ( LUMHOLTZ, Unknown Mexico 2:483).

I should like to preface this volume with a discussion of certain aspects of the plant scientist's rôle and place in the world. In doing so I will have to deal with matters of a controversial nature; to deal fairly with them I will endeavour to take solely the point of view of the student of international relations.

During the last months of the First World War, a period which -- from many points of view -- may be compared with the present, the plant scientists and zoologists of the world were less involved in the war effort than they are today. Nevertheless, as such addresses and papers as LYMAN'S "Contributions of American Botanists for More Active Prosecution of War Work" ( 1918) and STEVENS'S "American Botanists and the War" ( 1918) show, some of the foremost plant scientists of the United States were prevailing upon their colleagues to engage in activities which might help the war effort. At the time much consideration was given to the war from a biological point of view, as such publications as NICOLAI'S "Biology of War" ( 1919) and PEARL'S "Biology and War" ( 1918) testify. Just before the end of the war many interesting papers on the rôle of botany and biology in the post-war world were published. These included "Botany as a National Asset" ( COULTER, 1917) and "Botany after the War" ( DAVIS, 1918), and were followed by an unusual number of inspired discussions by men, most of whom are no longer with us, like LYMAN, PEIRCE, and GAGER. Though far be it from me to deny that during those years a number of biologists did accomplish useful things in such fields as pioneering in dehydration, raising the agricultural output, and discovering substitutes of vegetable origin, the foremost trend of thought, especially in the Allied countries, was concerned with biology in the post-war world, in human relations as well as in agriculture.

The Germans of that time were, comparatively, much more concerned with problems directly relating to the war effort than were their colleagues in the Allied countries. DIELS wrote an entire volume on botanical substitutes; HABER and other chemists revolutionized the gunpowder and fertilizer situation . . . .

In the discussions in Allied countries the educational and humanizing value of biology was stressed much more than it is today. Many believed that a better knowledge of, and better training in, biology might well revolutionize the citizen's attitude towards essential problems of life and human relationships. This hope has not materialized -- and that, without doubt, is a reason for the sceptical and negative attitude of many of us today.

In one field, however, enthusiasm, understanding, and leadership on the part of the biologists of the Allied countries were hardly progressive. That in those Wilsonian years little was said in either British or American discussions about international work and relations in biology, and the re-establishment of international relations seems very strange to the historian. There was a much more patriotic (though not a soundly patriotic) tone in the discussions then than there is today, when it looks as though groups of men of science (not necessarily natural scientists) in Great Britain and the United States are at least as much interested in post-war international relations as are the large political groups. It was in 1919 that LOTSY'S generous offer to combine the "Botanisches Centralblatt" (at that time -- in spite of its name -- a purely international journal and the official organ of the now defunct International Association of Botanists) with the planned "Botanical Abstracts" was turned down. This rejection killed that association and much that it stood for, and postponed for years a resumption of international relations work in botany, so enthusiastically started before the First World War by men like SCOTT, GOEBEL, FARLOW, VON WETTSTEIN, TRELEASE and many others. Before 1914 great and busy scientists in our field felt that they could afford to spend a few hours, from time to time, to international relations work.

When the Second World War broke out in 1939, scientific international relations had not yet fully recovered; in fact, they had by no means reached even their status of 1914 -- this in spite of the many congresses, meetings and commissions in our field about which I have reported in great detail, in an effort to stimulate interest in them, in special sections of CHRONICA BOTANICA, Volumes 1-5. Reading those reports of the

____________________
1
Parts of this introduction have been published in Nature (Vol. 154:595-599, 1944: Future of Biology in World's Affairs), and the essentials have been read at a symposium on "Biologists and Rehabilitation", held by the Botanical Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Cleveland, Ohio, Sept. 13, 1944.

-xv-

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Plants and Plant Science in Latin America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Foreword vii
  • Summar of Contents ix
  • Introductory Essay - The Plant Scientist in the World's Turmoils xv
  • Pars I *
  • Part II 259
  • Complete and Detailed - Table of Contents 350
  • Index of Personal Names 375
  • List of Plates 382
  • List of Illustrations in the Text 383
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