Brief notes on origin and history of Botany

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Brief notes on origin and history of Botany

History of Botany:

Before botany become a discipline of science (about the middle of the seventeenth century), the collection, use and cultivation of plants had been going on for centuries. Primitive man used plants for

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(a) food

(b)Clothing

(a) Shelter and

(b) Medicine.

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Plants also played an important role in many primitive religions.

The foundation of botany arises from the multifarious use of plants and plants parts, so essential to man’s very existence. The science of botany arose from the basic human needs for foods, clothing, shelter and the preservation of health.

In its prescientific age, much of what is now known as botany was descriptive in nature. Early books described the forms and uses of plants for food and machine. Some important events in different aspect of botanical studies are given chronologically:

Aristotle (384-322 B.C),

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The Greek philosopher and a keen observer, writer-illustrator on plants and animals, grouped organisms basing on a single outstanding feature.

Theophratus (300 B.C.)-

Known as ‘ancient father of botany’, classified plants based on habit, described 480 kinds of plants in a book ‘Historia Plantarum’.

Parasara (10 A.D.)-

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The Indian herbalist wrote ‘Vikhayurveda’ basically a text book in botany describing plants and their distribution.

Dioscorides (60 A.D.)-

A Physician of the Roman Army compiled the ‘Meteria Medica’ dealing with 600 species of medicinal plants.

Pliny (70 A.D.)-

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The Italian naturalist wrote ‘Natural History’ describing about 1,000 species of medicinal plants.

During the period (200-1200 A.D.) there is no report wheather any enquiry was made about nature and life. This is called Dark Age.

Albert Magnus (1250 A.D.)-

Divided leafy plants to monocots and dicots.

Unknown Auther( 1400 A.D.)

Advent of printing press, the first herbal book published ‘Hortus Sanitatis’ which was a compilation of local medical folklore with crude illustrations.

Brunfels(1530); Bock(1539); Fuchs(1529)-

Wrote books creating new insight and schemes for viewing the plant kingdom; these three are called ‘German Fathers of Botany’. Recognized 567 species and give concise description.

Valerius(1561)-

Described 502 species of plants.

Andrea(1583)-

Described about 1520 species of plants.

17th Century:

Gaspar(= Caspar), Bauhin(1560 – 1624), a Swiss botanist.

John Ray (1627- 1705) an Englishman, Tournefort (1656- 1708) made noteworthy contributions in describing many plants.

Robert Hooke(1665)-

Discovered cells.

Leeuwenhoek(1632- 1723)-

With an improved microscope discovered bacteria.

18th Century:

The Swiss botanist Carlus Linnaeus (1707 -1775) devised the system of binomial nomenclature.

Jean Baptiste Lamarck (1744 – 1829) coined the word ‘biology’.

Biology expanded greatly in the 19th century and has continued this trend at an accelerated pace in the 20th century. This is due in part to the broader scope and more detailed knowledge available today and in part to the new approaches made possible by the discoveries and techiniques of physics and chemistry.

Our knowledge about botany has been enriched due to techniques of physics and chemistry and use of the following analytical instruments:

(i) Electron Microscope (EM):

By employing an electron beam this microscope can magnify upto 100,000 times which reveals the finer details of the various structures of the cell and its components.

(ii) Radio Isotopes:

Tracers or radioactive isotopes* of elements such as C14, N15, O18, H3, P32 etc. have helped to understand and unravel the pathways of chemical relations inside cells.

(iii) Fractionation:

A tissue or cell suspension is disrupted by a combination of fractionation procedures and the cell components (organells and macromolecules) are sorted out by centrifugation for further analysis.

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